One of my favorite prayers in the Psalms says this:
So even to old age and gray hairs,
O God, do not forsake me,
until I proclaim your might to another generation,
your power to all those to come. (Psalm 71:18)
The Psalmist is aware of the fatigue that old age brings, so he prays for the strength to mentor and disciple the next generation. This kind of intergenerational discipleship is assumed throughout the Bible (Deuteronomy 32:7, Psalm 78:4-6, 1 Timothy 5:1-2, Titus 2:1-6, etc.). These relationships between older and younger members of Christ’s body are a reflection of the kind of unity which God has won for us in Christ (Acts 2:42-47, 1 Corinthians 12:12ff).
I have a special burden for intergenerational relationships and discipleship in the Church, not only because it has made such an impact on my life but also because I believe it is a biblical model that is often neglected in our churches. While there’s nothing wrong with affinity groups (where we explicitly gather with other saints from common demographics), we are missing out on necessary growth and sanctification when these groups are the only Christian relationships we have.
Over the years I’ve tried to pay attention to the latest in intergenerational research, whether that is in the broader culture or in the church explicitly (sadly, the former often impacts the latter much more than the latter impacts the former). I was delighted when I learned that David Kinnaman (with his friend Mark Matlock) at the Barna Research Group put out a new work for us to learn from. Faith for Exiles: 5 Ways for a New Generation to Follow Jesus in Digital Babylon has some really insightful research and applications for ministry today. In particular, this new research sheds light on how intergenerational relationships not only need to be a priority in our churches, but it also shows us how these relationships might need to adapt for the challenges of this new age. Continue Reading
2020 Update: I update this post every year to let you know how I did on my reading plan in the previous year. Well, 2019 was pretty abysmal. I read a lot of Bible – I have to for my job! But I didn’t quite stay with my plans to read the Bible for my own edification and communion with God. But you know what? That’s ok. There’s no Bible verse that says how much and how often we are to be reading. Nevertheless, goals and plans are important to help us accomplish the things we want to do. So let’s make our plan for 2020 and move forward together. Continue Reading
How do people come to faith? The way you begin to answer this question explains a lot about who you think people are and the way God works in their hearts to bring them to faith. So often the way Christians approach this question is by way of theory and method, comparing ideas and what they think will “work best.”
While it is certainly important for us to brainstorm with others or compare ideas to refine our ability to share the gospel, many Christians get stuck in the world of theories and never move into the realm of real relationships with real people. The result is a lot of hypothetical evangelism which forgets about the complexity of sharing life with flesh and blood friends, neighbors, and co-workers.
This is why I have long been grateful for the work of Randy Newman. In his first book Questioning Evangelism, Randy presented the task of evangelism as less of a theory and more of an art. He showed us how the work of the evangelist involves real conversations with real people – meaning we actually need to come into contact with real people and engage them in conversations using good questions and plain speech.
In his newest book Unlikely Converts: Improbable Stories of Faith and What They Teach Us About Evangelism, Randy shares real stories that help us see the dynamic and supernatural means God can use to bring people to repentance and faith. The way he weaves real stories, biblical exposition, and practical applications helps us to avoid mere theory while sharing lessons that translate into the everyday life of Christians.
How do people come to faith? Using his concept of pre-evangelism, Randy tells us people tend to come to faith in four ways: gradually, communally, variously, and supernaturally. Continue Reading
One of the things I love most about living in the DMV area is its incredible diversity. Because of its rich opportunity for employment, we attract people from every country and culture to come and be a part of the life that we make together. This creates an exciting environment of vocational diversity. In the churches where I have served, I have witnessed a beautiful fellowship of different people who, on account of their careers and cultural backgrounds, would ordinarily never gather together. But having been united by their faith in Christ, churches in the DMV become this fascinating intersection of people in different vocations coming together for a common purpose and mission.
But there is a darker, challenging side to this diversity. I often meet Christians who are really struggling to maintain their faith in their work. Many believers find themselves put in situations where they feel that they must compromise their faith in order to faithfully carry out their jobs. I’ve met teachers who are uncomfortable with new curriculum that is being introduced to the students, government officials who recognize the unethical shortcuts being taken in their offices, marketers who know their employer’s products are immoral, and businesswomen who work in very toxic and draining environments. This leads many of them to wonder: is this what God has called me to? Is it possible to be a faithful Christian in this space? Or do I need to leave and find new work altogether? Continue Reading