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  • July 11, 2014 - Reflections

    By Jean S. Horner
    The other day while walking down a corridor in a public building, I saw what appeared to be someone walking toward me. On coming closer, I found it was my own reflection in a huge mirror. For a moment it frightened me. Somehow a full-length reflection of one’s self is a startling thing. ...


By Robert C. Crosby
Dec. 12, 2010

What does 5 o’clock on a Saturday afternoon mean to you? Time to tune in to a college football game? Your signal to curl up on the couch with a good book?

For Dave, a retired Assemblies of God pastor, 5 o’clock on Saturday means mentoring. He pulls away from whatever he is doing, goes to the phone and makes five separate calls to five younger pastors. It happens every week. You can count on it.

These never-rushed calls usually begin like this:

“Hey, Robert [yeah, that’s me], how are you doing? … How has your week been? … How’s the family?”

And his favorite question to ask: “So, what are you preaching on tomorrow?”

I have been the recipient of dozens of these calls over the past few years. Without fail they have led to great conversations, to a deep sense of spiritual and moral support in my life and ministry, and to better sermons on Sunday morning. In the end, not only am I blessed by Dave’s relationship, but so too is everyone who is touched by my ministry.

Dave’s calls come with no strings attached — just the enthusiastic interest and support of a sincere and seasoned man of God committed to passing the baton of his faith on to the next generation.

Unfortunately — and I think you might concur — Dave is the exception rather than the rule.

Why? Because of two lies our culture tries to foist upon us at pivotal seasons in life. Both of them limit us. Both keep our lives smaller than they are supposed to be.

One of them is aimed at younger generations: “I really don’t need to listen to older people; I can take care of myself.”

The other targets the older: “No younger person would really want to hear anything I have to say.”

These two deceptions cause us to miss incredible opportunities all around us both to gain and to give support, encouragement and even direction for life. These lies keep us from living “generation to generation.”

Identifying the differences

Generational distinctions characterize different age groupings of people in our communities and churches today. At least four generations currently exist. Each of these generally embraces a unique worldview that affects its behavior and decision making.

The Builders — born before and up to 1945.

The Boomers — born between 1946 and 1964.

The Busters (i.e., GenXers) — born between 1965 and 1983.

The Bridgers (i.e., Millennial Generation; or Gen Y) — born since 1984.

In an attempt to better understand these generations, I decided as a pastor awhile back to meet with a cross section of the members of my local church to ask them a few questions. Here’s a sample of our dialog:

“What hero has your generation looked up to? Who is someone you really respected and wanted to be more like?”

A Builder: “Gen. Dwight Eisenhower, the leader of our troops in World War II.”

A Boomer: “John F. Kennedy.”

A Buster: “Michael Jordan.”

A Bridger: “Honestly, our generation doesn’t really have any heroes. All of our ‘heroes’ are entertainers and celebrities. I guess we really don’t expect any of them to have integrity.”

“What technological invention has had the greatest impact on your generation?”

A Bridger: “Probably social networking; Facebook.”

A Buster: “The computer and the Internet.”

A Boomer: “Television.”

A Builder: “Electricity!” (Yes, one 80-plus-year-old in this group that day enthusiastically remembered electricity first coming into her neighborhood as a young girl!)   

Talk about differences! From Eisenhower to Paris Hilton; from social networking on your iPhone to the first signs of electricity in your neighborhood. So great are the differences that they could potentially divide us in our churches and communities if we don’t seek to acknowledge and better understand them.

Building linked lives

Instead of being divided, God wants us to live lives that are linked — that actively build connections to the generations before, around and coming after us. The Bible has much to say about living life “generation to generation.” A few vital life principles stand out.

• To honor the older generation (Leviticus 19:32).

• To reach our own generation (Acts 13:36).

• To teach (or train) the next generation (Titus 2).

The apostle Paul is one of the best examples of a connected life in the New Testament. One reason Paul was so effective was that he was so connected to other generations. He refused to do life or ministry alone. He followed the practices of the linked life.

Honoring the older generation

The first practice of the linked life can be seen in Timothy, Paul’s young protégé in ministry. Timothy was most likely an impressionable teenager when Paul came to his hometown (Lystra) and introduced him to the gospel.

Timothy honored Paul, an elder to him in age, by being teachable. This commitment to honoring the older generation opened doors for Timothy. On Paul’s second missionary journey, Timothy joined the apostle’s missionary team and eventually became the pastor of the church at Ephesus.

The Old Testament teaches us to “honor the presence of an old man” (Leviticus 19:32, NKJV). Timothy did just that. Honoring older people gives us access to vast repositories of wisdom stored up in the souls of seasoned men and women. We “honor” them by admiring their character, seeking their insights, and engaging them in meaningful conversation.

Honoring the older generation, however, is more than some biblical rule; it is a vital principle that links our lives to deep needs God wants to satisfy in us. There are at least three benefits I find in spending time with older followers of Christ.

1. The faith of a father. My developing faith is enriched and built up by observing the faith of an older believer.

2. Wisdom for living. I find the insights I need to understand more of life from those who have lived more of it.

3. The confidence to endure and overcome. The affirmation of an elder in the faith helps me accomplish more in life.

What role have you given older people in your life? Are you linked to the older generation?

Reaching your generation

Barnabas in Acts demonstrates the second practice of the linked life. Barnabas was the one person who risked much to advocate for Paul in the earliest stages of Paul’s faith. Barnabas’ commitment to reach out in support to one of his peers ended up creating enormous benefits for the Early Church.

In his earlier life, Paul had been a persecutor of the Church. When he finally became a believer, most Christians were understandably skeptical of Paul’s conversion. But Barnabas, a leader of the church at Antioch, laid his personal reputation on the line in order to reach this new convert in his own generation. He invited Paul to minister at Antioch and created a foundation for the apostle’s mission to the Gentile world.

In order to live the truly linked life, we have a responsibility to reach our own generation. The Bible says that David “served God’s purposes in his own generation” (Acts 13:36, NIV). What intentional steps are you taking to reach yours?

Training the next generation

Paul lived the linked life by consistently investing himself in the next generation. Timothy benefited from that investment, along with several others, including Titus, Silas, Aquila and Priscilla.

One survey taken of people 60 years of age and older asked: “If you could do anything differently in your life, what would you change?” The three top answers were:

“I would risk more.”

“I would reflect more.”

“I would pour myself more into things that would outlive me.”

Paul intentionally poured himself — his insights, skills and encouragements — into younger members of the body of Christ. With this third practice of the linked life, Paul demonstrated that faith and life wisdom are gifts of God entrusted from generation to generation. What intentional steps are you taking to share those gifts with those who are following in your footsteps?

Linking your life

As a follower of Christ, you are not just called to live day to day but generation to generation. In order to do so, however, there are three questions you must ask yourself.

1. Who is your “Paul”? From whom are you learning life?

2. Who is your “Barnabas”? With whom are you sharing life?

3. Who is your “Timothy”? To whom are you passing on your life?

Although he just celebrated his 80th birthday and has retired from full-time pastoral ministry, Dave has not retired from life. For him, ministry is more than a title he possesses; ministry is the person he is called to be in Christ. So whether on the phone or face to face, serving full time or serving in retirement, Dave continues to pour himself into the next generation.

My soul and life are all the richer for it.

ROBERT C. CROSBY is professor of practical theology at Southeastern University in Lakeland, Fla.

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