Church is important to me, but I struggle with it. I look at Scripture and I look at the Sunday morning social club that church has become, and the gap concerns me.
Yet, it is part of the spiritual inheritance I want to give my kids and those I mentor. When I’m gone from the earth, I want them to not just be a part of a church, but to love it and be fed by it.
And so, as a Baby Boomer with something I value that I want to bequeath, I’m faced with a fundamental problem. It’s a problem that I share with a lot of my peers.
The problem is that my kids don’t want what I want to give them.
This past week I asked a few of the young leaders in our ministry what they think of the way we do church in America.
“We don’t like it,” one answered. He elaborated why and it was sad. Perhaps he speaks for his generation. If not, the generation is at least speaking with its feet as they are leaving the church of their parents. They are leaving by the millions.
As parents, we are failing to give them something that we deeply value. And what’s especially sad is that it comes down to an issue of style, not substance. If we look at what Scripture says and what we want, I’m betting we and our kids would actually agree.
For example, how do you think most young people would answer these questions?
1. Do they want to belong to a group of people who encourage them? Absolutely.
2. Do they want to be built up to do a better job of loving? Yes, they do.
3. Do they want to be equipped to live a meaningful life filled with purpose and good works? Of course!
If you read the letter to the Hebrews, you’ll see that the writer encourages his readers to continue meeting together (Heb. 10:24-25). In other words, to do church. And he gave three outcomes that we should expect when we are doing church:
being built up to love, and
being built up for purpose
Yet, how many of us experience church that way? When we say “church”, they hear “the building with pews in it.” It’s a church with walls. But God’s idea was different – a church without walls. The Bible makes it clear: “The Most High does not live in houses made by human hands.” (Acts 7:48)
The result is that our children are leaving what is to them, obviously a sham. They are gifted with a keen nose for authenticity. They go to college, struggle with faith, and not seeing alternatives, seek other more life-giving ways to spend their Sunday mornings.
So, I have this dream. It’s my dream to help them rediscover what God intended when he told us that we need to regularly meet together. The Greek word is “ecclesia” and we translate it church.
Church was intended to be life-giving, but young people don’t experience it that way. That leaves we Baby Boomers with a choice:
we can either do some real soul-searching and ask what’s wrong and help fix it,
or we can stick our head in the sand and not have any plan for transferring our spiritual inheritance.
I propose that we do the former. We Boomers need to rediscover the original intent behind the passage in Hebrews that encourages us to meet together.
It’s a dream that Andrew Shearman shares with me. He often talks about deep, covenantal relationships. Life-giving friends who help you become the best version of yourself. Andrew dreams of large numbers of young leaders helping their peers to discover how to live a life in community with the people who love you like that.
Sixteen years ago on a back stretch of Alabama road I asked Andrew a question that exploded in his soul and called him out of obscurity.
“Have you done it yet?”
I didn’t know it at the time, but as a young man, Andrew had asked God for 100,000 trained leaders who would show others what deep relationship and a life-giving community look like.
But the problem was the gap between his dream and his reality. He felt his request was so holy and audacious that he’d only ever told his wife, Mo, about it.
Andrew had buried his dream. It seemed too impossible.
But he knew the answer to my question was, “No.”
I pressed him, “Tell me about your dream.”
It took him a while, but finally I pulled it out of him. He told me all about it. And he told me how preposterous and inadequate he felt to make a something like that happen.
When he finished, I said, “I’m going to help you get your dream. I’m going to help raise up those 100,000 leaders.”
Both of us were speaking about something so outrageously impossible that we wrestled within ourselves to even talk about it. But having expressed it, I know that neither of us can die happy if we don’t give the dream our best shot.
Fighting for inheritance
Part of my growing up as a father is learning how to be a good son. What better gift to give a spiritual father than to help him see his dream live so that one day he can die happy?
Our dreams are a central part of the spiritual inheritance that we leave our sons and daughters. But as fathers, we need to have a plan for how we’re going to give them what we value most.
I know that to give my sons and daughters (and their friends) a version of church that they will cherish and fight for, I’ve got to live it myself. It has to be real for me and real for those I help lead.
I’ve got to fight for the inheritance if I’m ever to give the inheritance.
So here’s my plan: I’m a part of a church plant in Gainesville, Georgia. We’re trying to put shoe leather on the dream. And I’m asking every World Race squad to become a church – a body of Christ that looks like a church without walls. A community that encourages them and builds them up for love and good works.
And I’m asking them to make disciples who make disciples who then meet together to encourage one another – in the process rediscovering what God had in mind when he asked us to meet regularly.
The status quo is unacceptable. It won’t feed my grandchildren. It has to change. I’m fighting for the inheritance. Every week I’m experiencing what I want to give.
This next week we’re convening a conference called the Awakening. Andrew and I and a few others are going to share our hearts about what it has cost us to fight for inheritance. You’re all invited.
What spiritual inheritance do you want to give your children and grandchildren? What parts of your faith really make a difference in your life? Take some time to think about your answer. And then ask yourself: How am I going to pass that on to them? How will I fight for it?
If you want to join us next week, more info here.