Ministry is full of interesting, and most of the time, very meaningful experiences; without a doubt, these “experiences” vary across the board. One of my favorite things about my job is every day is not only a new day, but a “different” day. Some days it’s quiet, consisting of mostly study, writing, and prayer. Other days you plan to work on a sermon, but you never begin because you’re called to visit a hospital or meet someone who needs advice or counseling. Then other days, you get a phone call for a meeting you hadn’t planned, but you know it’s a meeting you must make. I had a meeting like that this past week.
One of our dear members at Faith Village–a faithful, humble, godly brother–asked to meet with me at his home this past Tuesday morning, which I was more than happy to do. I’ve learned in a decade of ministry that when people ask to meet with you unexpectedly, it’s either to build you up or tear you down. Very rarely is the meeting called just because they want to get together. There’s usually an agenda–good or bad; but this past meeting was one of those “unusual”, “unforgettable”, meetings.
We sat down at his kitchen table, enjoyed a cup of coffee, and ate some Lemon Keebler Cookies. Well, I did, unapologetically–he did place them within my reach. Putting cookies in front of me is like poking a bee’s nest. If you don’t want to get stung, don’t tempt the hive.
As I sat there drinking my coffee and eating my cookie(s), I kept waiting for the shoe to drop. He then explained why the meeting was called–“Brother, I simply wanted to talk with you for a few minutes about how I can better relate with and impact the millennial generation for Christ. Any ideas?” I almost choked on one of the Keebler elves. I said, “Can you re-phrase? Did I hear you correctly? You just want to better understand how to relate with the oh-so-dreaded millennials?” Yes. There was no “hidden agenda”. It wasn’t a set up. It wasn’t a “back door” approach to the usual, “If millennials would just………” conversation. It was sincere. Raw. Real. And righteous. “I just want to know what I can do to encourage them in their walk with Christ and better understand where they’re coming from.” What an incredible heart.
As a millennial, I have a hard time defending our “generation” on many things. As a whole, millennials can be selfish, arrogant, lazy, and rude. This doesn’t speak for all millennials. I have many millennial, colleague preachers who are humble, passionate, and full of zeal. I preach to millennials every week at Faith Village that I would place in the same category–they sincerely want the church to thrive and honor Jesus. They’re incredible people. I’m just saying millennials in our country don’t always have the best “showing”. I completely understand why those in their 70s, 80s, and 90s, look at millennials with such disappointment and often disdain, but this was different. This was a real, true, godly man, wanting to know how HE could better understand my generation for the glory of God and growth of the Kingdom.
After our spiritual conversation, he told me more about his life and journey of faith. His struggles and questions, but also his convictions and passions. He showed me his picture in his Air Force uniform, flying for our country over distant waters, as well as the Bronze Star he received from his impeccable service to our nation. It’s a day I will always remember.
I so wish millennials would do for his generation what he did for ours. The “greatest generation”–his generation–understood (and still understands) loyalty, honor, commitment, and hard work. They were “visionaries” in their own right. Even today, we stand on their shoulders politically, physically, and most importantly, spiritually. We should take more time just to sit down, close our mouths, and learn, and less time pointing fingers, passing judgment, and assessing blame. We need better listeners than speakers, even when we don’t always agree.
Are there big differences between the generations? Sure there are. That shouldn’t scare us. It’s healthy. In fact, what should scare us if we were all the same! Have you ever studied not only WHO Jesus called to be His apostles, but the PERSONALITIES Jesus called to be His apostles? They were as different as they could be. Unschooled, ordinary fisherman, with tax collectors? Tax collectors with political zealots? How about getting Chuck Schumer and Rand Paul together for a picnic? Wouldn’t that be a pleasant day in the park? Ok, maybe not the best illustration–but they certainly weren’t two peas in a pod. The apostles were DIFFERENT, and Jesus valued their differences.
It’s my prayer that the church across the world will have more conversations like I was blessed with this week. More conversations just to learn and listen. More conversations about why we tick the way we tick and why we think the way we think, regardless of what “generation” we call ours. Not “get-togethers” to insult or demean each other’s perceptions, values, or preferences; just a little time to “talk” and “better know” our brothers and sisters, so we can better relate and impact each other for Christ Jesus.
Will you be bold enough to embark on THOSE conversations? Let’s have more of them. I’ll bring the Lemon Keebler Cookies. If there’s any left, that is!