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Some Assembly Required

By Wes Wick

I slit open the box, trying to ignore that dreaded understatement, “Some assembly required.”

Who are they kidding? Just once I’d like to read a more honest warning: “Full assembly and mechanical aptitude required. Do not open this box if you lack mechanical aptitude or persistence. Partial assembly will result in untold frustration.”

Even international, wordless assembly instructions can make me feel like an alien. Somehow I manage to misinterpret at least one important illustrated task, requiring some backtracking and reassembly.

You would think spending 50-plus years in “Assemblies” of God churches would make me an expert in assembly skills! But when I consider our churches, I observe a parallel challenge many of our congregations encounter.

Partial Assembly of God

When tackling a “some assembly required” project, we know that grouping the parts is an important first step. Does the box contain all the parts promised in the right quantities?

By visually identifying and segregating the parts, we can move more easily through the rest of the instructions. Of course, we recognize that we haven’t really begun the assembly process. We must move beyond this first preparatory step. Even I know that! But a lot of us, in a church context, stop right there.

My wife and I have the privilege of visiting several churches each month. It’s a joy to see God creatively at work through a wide variety of congregations.

As we scan Sunday morning seats or pews, we sometimes observe so-called “assemblies” still stuck on step one of the instruction manual. Youth sit with their peers. Young married adults sit with other newlywed couples. Older adults often congregate far enough away from the loudspeakers to prevent further hearing loss.

We sometimes see generational overlap, but it’s often a family choosing to sit together or latecomers just happy to find a seat.

If it were just about the seating arrangement on Sunday morning, we wouldn’t be so concerned. But, digging deeper, we find a disturbing absence of relationship between generations. Many older adults are hard pressed to identify three teenage kids by name, and vice versa.

Admittedly, the twelve disciples did not epitomize cultural or generational diversity when traveling with Jesus. But as their ministries unfolded, they collectively moved beyond the first page of their Hebrew assembly manual. Under the Holy Spirit’s direction, they reached the world with Christ’s love, helping to touch every culture and generation.

Are we “outsourcing” our assembling?

There is a distinction between the words “multigenerational” and “intergenerational.” “Multi” reflects a box containing multiple parts. “Inter” suggests you’ve begun connecting those parts. Similarly, “attending an assembly” and “assembling yourselves together” are not one and the same.

Some churches camouflage generational gaps by narrowing their overall target group. Emerging churches target a younger demographic, while more traditional churches often cater to older adults.

In congregations with multiple services, worship style may be tailored to contemporary or traditional preferences, trying to keep everybody happy, yet separate. The underlying assumption appears to be that joyful coexistence and effective intergenerational outreach are nearly impossible, or perhaps not always worth the effort.

Have we concluded that we’re going to simply outsource the generational assembly process? Are we content to award first place to Facebook, surpassing the local church’s effectiveness in bringing generations together?

Let’s return to our roots and calling as assemblies of God.

Assembled by God

A commercial enterprise with a receiving dock and separate storage areas may be an efficient distribution warehouse. But it cannot be called an assembly plant. Churches must allow God’s assembly process to move forward, connecting the varied parts together.

What does something assembled by God look like? As we all know, the human body is a wonderfully complex, interdependent organism. The different parts must work together well in our physical bodies as well as in the body of Christ, His Church.

As outlined so clearly in 1 Corinthians 12:21, “The eye cannot say to the hand, ‘I don’t need you!’ And the head cannot say to the feet, ‘I don’t need you!’” (NIV). We must work together to become assemblies of God, reflecting His character, unity of purpose and creative power.

The body of Christ is an interdependent body. The family of God is an intergenerational family. And our God is an intergenerational God.

If we shut down the assembly line and remain generationally disconnected nuts and bolts, we’re destined to find the loose nuts multiplying and good people bolting for the door.

Let’s keep the assembly process moving forward, experiencing renewed vitality in our individual lives and churches.

WES and JUDY WICK are founders and directors of YES! Young Enough to Serve.

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