Generations, Part 7

After I led a workshop on the subject of inter-generational ministry at the annual meeting of the Wisconsin Fellowship of Baptist Churches, another pastor approached me and said that while he appreciated the discussion and points I raised, my presentation might have been stronger if I had supported my recommendations from the Bible. I agreed with him completely, but I pointed out that my recommendations were taken almost directly from Haydn Shaw’s book Sticking Points, and I didn’t want to simply “tack on” a few Bible verses to baptize Shaw’s advice for an audience of pastors. I have made the same recommendations in my previous posts on this issue.

You may have read them and wondered why I would use a book written primarily for business professionals by a managing consultant as a resource for Christian living in the church. You might even have asked yourself why I have not used the Bible as my primary source on this issue. Has my view of the church changed? Am I advocating for a business model instead of a Scriptural one? No. The answer is much simpler than that. I believe that the recommendations offered by Shaw in his book are the outworking of principles found in God’s word. In my first post on this subject I wrote:

Paul taught us in Ephesians 4:1-3 that we, as the church, are to “walk worthy of the calling with which you were called, with all lowliness and gentleness, with longsuffering, bearing with one another in love, endeavoring to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.” These basic principles are what undergird Shaw’s approach to dealing with sticking points between the generations.

What does Paul mean when he says that the members of the church at Ephesus were to “walk worthy” of their calling? It starts with a right attitude and leads to right behavior. Paul explains in the phrases which follow:

  • With all lowliness This is the resolution to make yourself subject to others and be more concerned about their welfare than your own.

  • [With all] gentleness – This means not being war-like or violent, and it is often coupled with the quality of lowliness, especially in the case of Christ who is “gentle and lowly in heart” (Matt. 11:29).

  • Bearing with one another in love with longsuffering – This is the practice of patiently restraining oneself in the face of antagonistic persons or trying circumstances. It has for its motivation the love that the Holy Spirit has produced in the heart of the believer. In other words, when misunderstandings arise or we are hurt by unkind words and actions, we ought to patiently endure them and calmly express love for those who do us harm.

  • Endeavoring to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peaceTo practice such self-control with other members of one’s church requires a determined effort to guard the bond which the Holy Spirit has created by bringing Jew and Gentile, slave and free, man and woman into that one, new body.

When we seek to understand the perspective of others in the church, especially those who have a different generational perspective from our own, we demonstrate this kind of determined effort to guard the unity that God has given his people. Often all it takes to introduce conflict and division in the church is a misunderstood look, a poorly timed joke, or a careless dismissal of another person’s viewpoint. Since each generation is so heavily influenced by the events and circumstances which prevailed during their upbringing, we cannot hope to maintain our unity unless we commit ourselves to a spirit of humility and meekness and determine to hold tightly to one another in love, extending grace and forgiveness any time our peace is threatened.

There is certainly much more that could be said on this subject. We could consider passages such as Philippians 2:1-4 and 2 Corinthians 13:11 where Paul tells us to be of one mind in Christ Jesus, or James 4:1-6 where he exhorts us to humble ourselves because pride produces only conflicts and strife, or 1 John 4:20-21 where the apostle explains that our treatment of one another is evidence of our love for God or lack thereof. But this one passage is sufficient to demonstrate that the principles Haydn Shaw advocates in Sticking Points are not business strategies applied to the church, but are biblical relationship principles that may be applied in any number of arenas where human beings interact. Let’s labor to maintain the spiritual unity of the church by understanding, appreciating, accommodating, and ultimately giving way to one another. This is how we walk worthy of our calling as members of the inter-generational body of Christ that is the local church.

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