“Much that once was, is lost for none now live who remember it.”
“If we’re not pouring into the next generation, we’re wasting our time.”
– Keri Jones
Paul (1Cor 9:24) and the writer to the Hebrews (12:1) encourage us to run the race set before us, chasing hard after Christ and His kingdom and I’ve previously pictured us all running at the same time but I’m starting to think this is more of a relay. I used to run track in school but it doesn’t take an athlete to know that in order to be part of a relay, you have to accept your role and position in the team. You have an essential part to play but it’s never the only part and it’s never more or less important than someone else’s part. In a relay, most of your leg of the race you run alone but there’s a brief period where you run with a member of your team. When it’s your turn to run, you give it everything you’ve got but you have to remember that there will be a crucial time when you have to pass the baton.
A poor change-over can kill a team’s dreams.
The baton change-over is the most important moment for each runner and a lot of time and training actually goes into it. If you’re the one handing over the baton, you have to be preparing to do it and it must take place before you finish running. You should still be running as fast as you can when you pass it on to the next runner. If you’re receiving the baton, you have to be prepared and concentrating on the moment but you should also be looking ahead and have already begun running. You can be the fastest runners on the track but if your change-over sucks, you can lose the race. You can be the fastest runner in your leg of the race but if your change-over is unsuccessful, all of your work is in vain. A poor change-over can kill a team’s dreams.
In the Old Testament we see God repeatedly charging the Israelites to tell their children about Him. To tell them of His mighty deeds and steadfast love, to build monuments to remind them of His acts so that they can explain them to their children. They tend not to do it and all hell breaks loose in the next generation! I think we see this pattern in Church culture today. A generation has a powerful encounter with God and receives a revelation of who He is and what He’s like. This revelation gives birth to a value in the heart of the leaders and the community. This value will then often produce a practice in the church. Here’s an example: God reveals His heart for the poor to a church community and this produces a value for generosity among them. The leaders and the congregation may then decide to take up a monthly gathering of clothes to distribute to the poor in their city. Revelation –> Value –> Practice.
What tends to happen in the next generation however is that they only receive the practice. Although they’ve grown up with the practice, they haven’t had the revelation of God’s heart and so they don’t share the value. When this new generation receives the reins they either continue the practice out of ritualistic, lifeless tradition and it eventually becomes a burden or they ditch it altogether and lose the revelation of God’s heart and the value along with it! In our zeal to run into God’s purposes, sons and daughters can actually hinder them. We must remember that He is the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. He is Father and Son as well as Spirit. He’s generational within Himself.
I believe fathers and mothers need to prioritise teaching their sons and daughters not only to maintain what they have received but to connect them to the God they received it from. Sons and daughters need to be led into the same encounter and revelation of God’s heart that will produce the value in them – but here’s the kicker – the expression of that value might look different in the next generation. We often equate a particular practice with the revelation and encounter we had and so in fear we protect and promote the practice as sacred because we’re afraid that if it’s not maintained we will lose it all! (As a side note, the younger generation acutely feels this panic and it often causes us to react against it.)
Finally I’ll say I believe that if sons and daughters don’t receive a vision for something greater than what their mothers and fathers live in, they will simply try to maintain what they have and risk spiritual stagnation. We know that without vision from God, the people throw off their discipline and their momentum dies (Proverbs 29:18). If the mothers and fathers don’t commit themselves to impartation through both the sharing of life and the laying on of hands, we’ll all lose out! If sons and daughters don’t see the value of what the older generation is carrying, we’ll all lose out! The older generation must seek to successfully pass the baton and not expect the younger generation to go back and run their leg of the race. We do our part so that those that come after us start theirs ahead of us. The younger generation must seek to successfully receive the baton before trying to run their race so that their mothers and fathers haven’t run in vain. Like the prodigal son, too many sons and daughters want to run off with their inheritance instead of choosing to honour their fathers and mothers and receiving a legacy.
Like the prodigal son, too many sons and daughters want to run off with their inheritance instead of choosing to honour their fathers and mothers and receiving a legacy.
“Do all things without grumbling or disputing, that you may be blameless and innocent, children of God without blemish in the midst of a crooked and twisted generation, among whom you shine as lights in the world, holding fast to the word of life, so that in the day of Christ I may be proud that I did not run in vain or labor in vain.”
Paul the Apostle – Philippians 2:14-16
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