The Next Generation

We all know things are different. Change? That’s the only thing that doesn’t change. List the changes you’ve seen in your life. Too many to count. So many changes. Many have been good. Does anyone want to go back to outdoor plumbing? Some changes are not good. The change I want to talk to you about today is one of those, a not good change.

I learned about this change from the book It’s a Different World by genius church consultant Lyle Schaller. Schaller told a story about a boy, Johnny, growing up in a world in which everyone in his family was focused on his future. His parents wanted him to be the first member of their family to go to college, and they worked toward that goal. Dad worked hard. Mom worked ironing clothes from the neighbors. Even grandma, who lived in the house too, raised chickens and sold eggs and put that money toward Johnny’s future. The good news is Johnny made it, and he made his family proud. He went to college. He had a long and lucrative professional career. Financially, he did well. Johnny is retired now, and do you know what he’s doing? He’s driving the highways in a big motorhome that has a bumper sticker that says, “We’re Spending Our Kid’s Inheritance.”

The change? Resources used to flow to the next generation. Now they don’t. Resources like time and money flow to the previous generation. Think of all our national resources as a pie. When we divide it up and serve it the older generations get a bigger slice than the youngest.

We can’t do much about the nation. We can do something about our church. We need to change. We need to change this change and go back to the old way; the way things were for generations and generations. We need to invest in the next generation. We need to give time and effort to the young. We all, every one of us, need to ask “How am I helping? Where am I giving time and effort to the children and the teenagers? Where am I serving the young?”

We can make excuses. We’re too old. We’ve done our time; let someone else do it. We’re too busy. We’re this. We’re that. They’re all excuses. The next generation matters. The next generation is everything.

I hear reports about the next generation from people in our community who are in touch with them. I hear about atheists and wiccans. I hear about young people with a growing hostility to Christianity. I hear about teenagers who do not have the first tiny bit of understanding of what the faith we teach is. We’re losing the next generation, and we cannot afford to stand by and say, “I’m too busy.”

And read your Bible. Did you know that one of the largest books in the Bible is written entirely by an older generation for the sole intent of passing on wisdom to the next generation? It’s called Proverbs. Did you know the next book in the Bible does the exact same thing? It’s called Ecclesiastes. And read the Shema, Deuteronomy 6:4-6. It contains Israel’s highest truth, the one truth that has transformed the world. It calls Israel to hear that truth, to listen deep and well. The truth? The Lord is one. And then it calls Israel to love the Lord with every last fiber of their beings. This is truly the world’s deep truth and secret. And when you have discovered it, grasped it, absorbed it, what do you do with it? One thing. Impress this upon the children, the Bible says for they are everything.