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What Did You Say? No Generation Gap?

John Lamb of HispanicNashville, supplied me with this post that should strike a chord with some of us as it relates to generation gaps. The author of a new book claims that people of all generations really just want the same things, despite our differences in behavior.

While the book closes the generation gap in employment, I wonder if we could say the same for church, especially a cultural church, where the culture demands one generation doesn’t have the same priority as the other. So while it’s true that…

  1. All generations have similar values.
  2. Everyone wants respect.
  3. Trust matters.
  4. People want leaders who are credible and trustworthy.
  5. Organizational politics is a problem — no matter how old or young you are.
  6. No one really likes change.
  7. Loyalty depends on the context, not on the generation.
  8. It’s as easy to retain a young person as an older one — if you do the right things.
  9. Everyone wants to learn — more than just about anything else.
  10. Almost everyone wants a coach.

The real clincher is this last point:

Conflicts between generations are really a matter of who has clout and who wants it.

Perhaps what we have is not so much a generational gap in our churches as opposed to a “clout gap”. Of course, we’re the perpetual youth ministry, they never let us be anything else! “Respect your elders” really takes the cake here in the case of generational ministry, because aren’t we assuming that our elders are godly, humble, and unselfish people?

I mean, what would have happened if David, annointed to be the next king, submitted to Saul? Or if Joseph gave up his dreams for fear of offending his older brothers? Or how about Jacob foiling his elder brother’s plans to inherit the blessing?

When does the “respect your elder” tenet become untenable in church? Perhaps the older generation doesn’t want to bequeath power to the younger, but in that case, should we be surprised that the next generation doesn’t find the same roof a good place to start growing ministries? Are we expecting these young, rebellious pastors to come running home to the mother churches once they’ve spent their meager budget like prodigal sons? What is the expectation that we’re trying to set here?

Interesting to note that point #7 above states that loyalty is dependent on context, not generation. Perhaps we will see healthy contexts, places where elders are friends, not opponents; where parents are trusted advisors, not naysayers. We want a context where we can contribute and be welcomed to the table, is that possible?


About David Park

Christian 2nd-generation Korean American; Atlanta Georgia; more details to come.

6 responses to “What Did You Say? No Generation Gap?

  1. elderj

    well to be fair, David refused to touch Saul when he could have because Saul was the Lord’s anointed; Joseph didn’t so much give up his dreams as watched them be fulfilled in spite of sibling rivalry; Jacob’s theft of Esau’s blessing was hardly commended by God, indeed it could be said that Esau actually gave it away.

    Respect your elder can never become untenable in a church since it is a scriptural command the defial of which was grounds for capital punishment under the Old Covenant and certainly not encouraged under the new. Even Jesus submitted to the authority of the High Priest of the Sanhedrin Council as did his disciples when they were later brought before it.

    The slow turnover of power or authority from one generation to the next is normative in history and in human societies across culture; the modern US is an exception

  2. I still beg to differ. power or authority was not handed over in any of the biblical examples, nor do I think it’s been normative in history across human societies. Also, while I understand your criticism of modern US, it’s also unfair — the social factors present in the US are unlike anywhere else in the world, of course it’s different.

    Also, I think you could make a strong case that Jesus was not respecting the authority of the sanhedrin so much as fulfilling prophecy. I mean, should Joseph, his earthly father respected the authority of King Herod?

  3. elderj

    David, should I take you to school?

  4. Sure Josh. Enlighten me.

  5. elderj

    Nahh… this isn’t the place to have that kind of discussion. Perhaps another time

  6. C’mon Josh, you’re not going to hurt my feelings. I don’t have a postgraduate degree in history. I’m not the smartest guy…I could use correction and enlightenment…just don’t destroy me. Teach me something.

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