generation

A Failure to Communicate

unsplash.com-3gens_LAnderson

unsplash.com-3gens_LAnderson

Communication is vital for many reasons. This isn't just well known, it's obvious. As vital as it is, it's difficult to do well. Language is often a hindrance, but not nearly as much as other common culprits.

Things like pride, arrogance, and stubbornness are major factors in poor communication. This is illustrated well by a short dialog from the 1967 movie Cool Hand Luke. The chain-gang boss Captain says, "What we've got here is... failure to communicate."

The number one most helpful and critical need for good communication is listening well. Marriages fall apart when spouses stop listening to each other. Negotiations break down when either or both sides are only concerned with their own agendas.

Listening well is a skill that requires time and willingness to develop. It's not a means to an end but a way to begin genuine communication.

The number one most helpful and critical need for good communication is listening well

Communication gaps

As new generations emerge a disconnect is common between younger and older generations. It was true when my generation (boomers) came of age, and it's true today.

Typically, each generation blames the other for various and perceived wrongs. The result is the inevitable generation gap. But is a generation gap inevitable or just typical? Either way, it's a gap that can be bridged, but it's a bridge that needs to be built from both sides of the divide.

I've read several articles and posts addressing the departure of millennials from the church. Depending on whose point of view, it's often a list of perceived complaints or criticisms. A lack of listening is a common complaint.

Listening well is a skill that requires time and willingness to develop

Of course, one generation blames the other. And, well, both are right because neither wants to listen to the other. It's like two young boys fighting over the same toy. When an adult intervenes and encourages them to apologize and shake each other's hand, each boy says, "I will if he will."

Part of the solution

No doubt you've heard the cliche, "If you're not part of the solution, you're part of the problem." When it comes to pursuing the common ground of understanding, listening well is key. It's a gateway to being part of the solution.

Years ago I heard a veteran missionary friend of mine speak on personal evangelism. He used the term hot communication and spoke of the importance of listening. The concept isn't new and it's an acronym with a few different meanings. One explanation I like best is—Honest, Open, Two-way.

Much of the time, communication is one-way or unidirectional. That's called a monolog.

When communication is a two-way street it's called dialog. But the listening part needs to be honest and open to facilitate hot communication, or else it remains cold and likely won't lead to true understanding.

Much of the time, communication is one-way or unidirectional—monolog

Humble enough to listen

My friend Danny also gave the example of Jesus as a twelve-year-old in the Jewish Temple listening to and asking questions of the teachers. Those in the temple were astonished at what He understood and how He answered (Luke 2:46-47). What's astonishing to me is the humility of the Lord.

Paul, in his plea to Philippian believers, also uses the example of Jesus. He reminds these brothers and sisters to have the same mind or attitude as Jesus—

Who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. (Phil 2:6-8)

Understanding one another, the intended goal of true communication, requires both humility and mutual respect and consideration.

If one generation wants the respect of another, then respect needs to be extended, and it needs to be mutual, not unilateral. This is what people saw in the twelve-year-old Jesus and the one who ate with sinners and healed the poor and hurting.

Understanding one another requires humility, mutual respect, and consideration

Communication failure

I see a communication failure when it comes to reaching the millennials and the next generation with the gospel.

Those of us in older generations can find fault with self-focused younger generations, but this only shows our own lack of humility. We (boomers) were once that self-focused younger generation.

If we refuse to listen and respect those younger than we, we remain just as self-focused but older. Those of us from the Jesus Movement ought to know better. We need to be quick to listen and slow to speak (James 1:19). Too often it's the opposite. 

In my own involvement mentoring people of younger generations, including millennials, listening and observing are essential when working with them.

Next week I want to begin exploring ways to reach younger generations with the gospel, especially those without a Christian frame of reference and those who've walked away from the church.

Listening and observing are essential when working with other generations

Until then...

Are you a good listener? Are you willing to hear more than being heard?

Remember, we were created with two ears and one mouth!

The Missing Part

OldCalvary_study

OldCalvary_study

I just started to read a book I came across this week. It's written by Ed Underwood, someone from my era, the Jesus Generation. I did a book review but it’s lost somewhere between the transfer of my site from WordPress to SquareSpace.

This book hooked me in a couple ways. First of all, I relate to it experientially. I was part of the Jesus Generation on the west coast. It was also known as the Jesus People Movement. Whatever you call it, it had a great impact on the late 1960's and early 1970's, something I've posted about before, and also written about.

Secondly, it addresses the question I spoke of in a previous post.

Something missing

We returned to the US after fifteen years in the Philippines, and I sensed something was missing in the church in America. I wondered what happened, but after a while realized it was more about what didn't happen.

In the early days of the Jesus People Movement, young people were disenchanted with the status quo and shallow life of middle class America. Social unrest, fueled by issues that ranged from civil rights to anti-war protests, helped accent an emptiness that cried out to be filled.

Great interest in eastern philosophies and religions, coupled with a surge of psychedelic drugs and "love-ins," intensified this emptiness. The political scene and economy also contributed to it.

God's Spirit began to flow into a broken and lost generation, to fill up this emptiness.

A generation found and filled

No specific leader started the Jesus People Movement or headed up the Jesus Generation. It was a sovereign move of God's Holy Spirit.

Some people did have influence in this move of God, but because of God's favor, not their expertise at leading. Young people began to gather in public and private places, as well as in many churches. They were hungry and sought to be filled with the truth of God and God's power.

A generational revival began to grow across the nation, which led to the raising up of evangelists and disciple-makers. They had no special training and needed no prompting to spread the gospel. This was not the product of a well designed program.

Simple, but mighty

Simple Bible study, often led by non-seminary-trained teachers, was a core element of the movement. Pastors and teachers who did have training were also swept up in the movement. My first pastor, Chuck Smith, was one of those teachers, but he was one among many solid teachers of God's Word.

The gospel was preached and the Bible was taught in a simple way. Theology was simple in the early days, mostly born out of an organic biblical framework. Praise and worship was typically a blend of folk and rock music led by young people with long hair and buckskin. It was simple and genuine, and seemed innocently spiritual.

Even prayer had a simple power to it. People were set free from their brokenness and bondage.

Communal life and mindset

In much the same way as the early church, communities began to spring up where everything was shared. Communal life seemed to thrive off the flow of people being set free. Houses, ranches, and even apartment buildings became homes to people who had fulfilled lives with broken pasts.

These communities were inclusive, non-discriminatory, and often had strong leaders. It was a shared life with shared resources. My wife and I lived a few blocks from one in our first year of marriage. It was called Mansion Messiah located in Costa Mesa, CA.

They became models of biblical discipleship. Because Bible study was a core value, it spawned young people who were grounded in the truth of God's Word, filled with God's power, and released to share their faith with others.

At first, it seemed there was a constant flow of new young people equipped and prepared to disciple others. It did last for quite a while, but then it seemed to fade.

What changed?

As happened with the radical activists of the 60's, the Jesus Generation became more and more mainstream. Where once they were anti-establishment, they became the establishment. Once shunned by society, and many churches, the blended with the culture of the times.

When Christian believers don't seem very different from the culture around them, something is lost. But what was lost?

There are several books and blogs that speak of the so-called demise of the Jesus Generation, and lots of factors are involved.

But I see one thing in particular at the core of that movement, which is not as strong as it was then.

The missing part

In a word discipleship—intentional, relational, organic discipleship led by the Holy Spirit. In the past several years, even the last decade, discipleship has once again become popular. But I wonder if it's just the next thing to catch people's attention. I hope I'm wrong about that.

The difficulty with intentional, relational, and Spirit-led organic discipleship is that it's hard to package. So, it is by nature hard to control. It also takes considerable time to do well, and requires genuine commitment. Commitment not to the task, but to the person discipled. Commitment is also needed on the part of the one being discipled.

Do you see the dilemma? Genuine commitment isn't very popular nowadays, not in this distracted ADHD-culture of ours.

We can't go back

It's easy to long for the good old days, but that genders useless nostalgia. We need to look forward, not backwards.

About fifteen to twenty years ago while on a furlough, I spoke at one of our supporting churches. A young man came up to me and said, "I miss the days when we learned about the Holy Spirit." He was telling me that the moving of God's Spirit and teaching about Him wasn't as common as before.

God hasn't stopped being God. He's supernatural and sovereign. He alone is the one who stirs up a revival that produces something like the Jesus Generation. But believers do have a part in what God does upon the earth. He's chosen us for such things (Eph 2:4-10).

What can we do?

So, what can we do if we long for revival like the Jesus People Movement of the 60's and 70's?

  • We can start with prayer and follow after the Lord with a radical commitment. A commitment as simple as, "If anyone wants to follow me [Jesus], he must say no to himself. He must pick up his cross and follow me." (Matt 16:24 NIRV)

  • Daily Bible reading is important. Yes, I said daily. And while we're at it, reading through the whole Bible would be real valuable.

  • Church fellowship, or at least a home group, is important for building relationships that can grow into a shared community.

  • Then we can began to share our faith with others. When we find someone who is hungry for spiritual life, we can begin to disciple them with what we've learned ourselves, and share how God changed and fulfilled our own life.

Sound too simple? It's not. It's the way it was with the first church, and during the Jesus Generation. It's our choice to make this commitment to God.

Let me know your thoughts on all this, I'd love to hear them!

Still want some nostalgia? Here you go—Jesus People Film (1972) | The Jesus Movement of the 70's