Building a Unified Multigenerational Church

2000 years ago, God sent his Son to be the light of hope in a broken world, and that light is meant to be shared; passed it down from generation to generation. But too often we hold on to it, afraid that we aren't called or equipped to pass it on. We've misunderstood the light as an environment to experience instead of a relationship to share. But what if we who have received this light of hope, decided to share the light with the next generation?

God designed the church to be a light that shows every generation the hope of Jesus. He designed the family to nurture the hearts of the next generation to love God. As God's church, we were all meant to work together. Our God is the God of all generations, of all time, of every age and the age to come. So, to accomplish our mission as the church to pass on faith, it requires us working together.

And we get to carry this on. This is evident all throughout Scripture. There's a lot of beauty because we see faith in God, passed on from generation to generation. He is a God of generations. He is the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, the God of Jacob. God's character is consistent through all generations and so are His purposes. His purpose: that faith would move from generation to generation. From glory to glory. From people to people. It was meant to be passed on relationally.

Sometimes we make assumptions about people and then sometimes those assumptions can lead to judgment. We're all guilty of this. Sometimes we don't understand people. Maybe it is because we are not very good at listening. We need to ask more questions and listen to people.
For those of us that are older, sometimes it can come out like this. "Well back in my day, we did things X, Y or Z or we knew the value of X, Y or Z.” It can also come across as, "I don't know why this generation is leaving the church." Maybe we have a listening problem. Because when we listen to why younger generations are leaving the church, we're then more equipped to partner together multi-generationally to pass on our faith.

Generational silos work against us. It's not our natural tendency to stay united. But here's the thing, God is not surprised by this. He's not surprised that we have trouble staying united. It's why, recorded in John 17, Jesus prayed for the unity of the church.

God’s creative plan includes diversity in people. We are diverse in the way we see the world, the way we think, feel and react. Maybe when we stop focusing on our differences, we start focusing on God the way that He - Father, Son and Spirit - is unified, we gain that unity that Jesus prayed for. Christianity is the great equalizer of age, of race, of class. Maybe those differences were on purpose and so we have to work through those generational silos.
Our perception of the church has often been formed by a service on Sunday morning, and when we confine it to that, it creates an environment where we don't have to work together.
Here are three misconceptions to help us avoid this trap. These ideas are borrowed from a pastor in New York City, Rich Villodas. Here are three things he says that the church is not.

The church is not a mall. It's not a place where a crowd goes - a bunch of consumers who go to consume something. The church is not a place for a crowd to come get spiritual goodies and go home. The church was meant to be a community. To know one another. To partner with one another.

The church is also not a stadium.  We have a lot of good stadiums here, in the North Dallas area but the church is not a stadium with a whole bunch of spectators where only a few people know the plays and are doing the work. It's not just a few players on the field with the rest being spectators. The Bible teaches that the church is like a physical body where every one of us has a part to play. When one of us does not play our part, the church is limping along.

The church is not a subway car. Like a subway car that is full of diverse people, where they only care about getting to their destination but they don’t really care if another person makes it to their destination. Faith is not just about you. That's not the church. The church was meant to function as a "we". When Jesus Christ died on the cross, he died for a new family, a new people group, a spiritual family that was actually meant to be closer than our biological families.

We are called to be a multi generational community. It was meant to be diverse. We were not given faith to keep it to ourselves. God didn't change your life to keep it to yourself. He gave us faith to make sure it got passed on. To make sure there is a legacy after we are gone someday. A legacy that lasts. A legacy that gets passed on. We were called to pass it on. This is a calling that exists for every follower of Jesus. If you've said “yes” to Jesus and whether you're nine or you're 99, this is for you. This is our responsibility to make sure faith gets passed on.

We need a village. We cannot assume this is on any one person because this responsibility is for all of us - to be disciples that make disciples. And in order for that to happen, we have to break down some generational silos. We have to re-imagine what the church is meant to be.
Pay attention to the intergenerational relationship in 1 Samuel 3:1-10.

Samuel, the young boy, had both parents and leaders pouring into him. His mom, Hannah. When she couldn't conceive a child, she prayed for a child and God answered her prayers. Samuel had parents pouring into him. He also had leaders like Eli. He probably had 10,000 expert hours in his field. He was a priest and had been doing it a long time. He had both pouring into him and that's the secret sauce.

God used Eli to help Samuel lean in to where God was working. Because Eli is the one who had been following God for a long time. And so, when he started to realize, okay, like Samuel keeps waking up in the middle of the night thinking that I'm calling him. Someone's trying to get a hold of him. Eli was the one that was like, Okay, God, I see you. I know this is what's going on. And he's the one that gave him the words to speak.

Whenever we have someone in our lives, that's been there, whether they're older in age or even just spiritually older, someone that's "been there", can help us lean in to what God is doing differently. They can help us catch things. They can help us know what to pray, know what tools to use. We need people that have "been there" to pour into our lives. And you know what happened, because Eli was there? Samuel would become one of the most influential prophets in all of historic Israel. He gets to be the prophet and the priest to King David. The most important king in Israel’s history - a man after God's own heart.

And that heart started because Eli leaned in. But here's the thing. It's not just about how those of us that are older can pour into those of us that are younger. God used Samuel, the boy, to redeem Eli's story. If you read Chapter Two, you’ll note that Eli was part of a priestly lineage. His family had served his community for many years. But his sons messed it up. And so it was taken away from his family. You could imagine, he was disheartened, wondering if God still had a purpose for his life. And he did. So because Eli leaned in, Eli was also blessed and he was reminded that God is a redeemer. Both generations needed one another. God used both.

God's mission requires all generations because we all have something to offer and something to receive.

To younger people. Your parents need you. Your parent's friends need you. Your grandparents need you. Your church needs you. Young people, lean in. And for those of us that are a little further along, this generation needs you. They need your wisdom. They need your history, your experiences but they don't need a perfect version of it, which is good news. They need your raw version, your wrestling, your doubts, your questions.

We need each other. That's what happens when we partner together because the world wants to highlight our differences but God wants to highlight his eternal sameness, his eternal purpose and He wants to do that through His church.

The enemy is working overtime to dismantle the church's effectiveness because we focus more on our differences than we do our unity. And maybe the antidote to disunity is listening.
God has promised to build his church. He just needs us to say yes to his design. He's promised to build it because Scripture says that He keeps his covenant of love, not just to one generation, not just a two generations, but to a thousand generations, for those who love Him and keep His commands. That is what He has promised. Every generation needs a generation.
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