The Great Generational Divide
Suits or jeans?
King James or New International Version?
Website or newsletters?
Pews or chairs?
Organ or electric guitar?
Clean-shaven or beard?
What about tattoos, cable television, or even wearing a wedding ring?! All the things we fight about in church…and the list goes on. I have seen people vehemently stand on either side of all these issues, Scripture-bombing each other like Hiroshima. No wonder people all too often walk into a church and feel like they just entered a war zone rather than a spiritual hospital where they can find help and renewal.
I remember preparing for marriage, and I’m not talking about the wedding planning. Come on, as a guy all we do is nod and say, “Whatever you want honey!” I am talking about the emotional preparation, specifically the stuff that people don’t see. It’s amazing how your mind can run all over the map before you make a major decision like marriage. I finally decided I should have a man-to-man talk with my dad. My parents really do have an outstanding marriage, so I asked him, “How do you do it?” So he laid it out for me. He always drives when they are riding together, fills her car up with gas, she never has to change a tire, pay the bills, or worry about money. This is Dad’s gift to Mom. His desire is for her to be able to enjoy life without worrying about those things. Mom loves it too! Dad really does treat her like a queen. There is no doubt they have had a long, extremely successful marriage.
Little did I know I was marrying a modern woman! She likes to drive, desires to be highly involved with the money, and is perfectly capable of filling her own car with gas, and didn’t like it when I implied those things were my job, not hers. It became clear that what is a gift from my dad to my mom is condescending and overbearing to my wife. My desire to love my wife and my dad’s desire to love my mom is the same, but the reality is the way it’s played out in each marriage looks quite different. Let me be clear–my parents are also very much partners in life, their partnership just looks different than the one between my wife and I.
This happens in churches too! We have ways that we “do church.” We can’t understand why our ways don’t work, or even worse why they may offend another generation. So how do we find common ground? If all of life were subjective alone no one would ever get along.
As Christians, Scripture gives us a common, coherent, objective foundation to build our lives on. The church of tomorrow must learn to elevate the time-transcendent Word of God above morphing cultural norms.
The reality is, as culture shifts some cultural norms may move from endearing to offensive. I guess the real question is, do we love our cultural norms more than the proclamation of the Word of God? Could we celebrate God moving in a way that doesn’t look quite like it did in the “good ole days?” The question is the same for me: can I be okay with honoring the social norms of my parents? The answer to all of these questions is simply this: does the way we “do church” line up with Scripture? Not our out-of-context interpretation, but the Scripture as a whole! What the church of tomorrow needs today is the Bible as the central source of truth again! Let the word of God be the way in which we adjudicate what is cultural preference and what must be foundational for all generations.
Remember Paul’s final charge to Timothy? “All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, 17 so that the servant of God[a] may be thoroughly equipped for every good work.” (2 Timothy 3:16-17)
Here is a clip pertaining to this. You can watch the whole message at http://www.encountertrinity.com.