Cornerstone, and my thoughts on cross-generational ministry

12:02 pm | Uncategorized

I have a lot of things to say about my recent vacation and experiences at the Cornerstone Festival, but as usual there is more to talk about than I am capable of writing about at one time. So, I will have to restrict myself to one series of sessions for the moment.

Several of the sessions I attended at the Cornerstone Festival were held by the Theophilus Journey, which included a number of discussions on defining church. One hour of discussion was reserved for understanding the history of the church - which was a bit of a trick since discussing two thousand years of Christian history in an hour is bound to leave a good deal of important things out. Most of the emphasis, of course, was on more recent developments in Evangelical Christianity and in the United States in particular. Later sessions focused more on understanding certain key biblical passages on the church and what elements were essential to the church - particularly Matthew 28:19-20, Acts 2:41-47, Romans 12:11-16, I Corinthians 12:4-11, Ephesians 4:11-16, and Titus 2:1-10.

From the Biblical discussion came a discussion on ideas about how we as believers could function better as a body, and what ideas we were going to take from the discussion and put into practice in our own bodies. It is worth noting that many of the participants in the discussion were not “on board” with the innovations of the emerging church movement. The emerging church was criticized - quite correctly - for its ethnocentricity, overemphasis on a particular target audience that is very economically specific, and its de-emphasis on cross-generational ministry. One point in particular was that both the under-thirties and the over-eighties were valuable and necessary to the edification of the body.

During the discussion on practical ideas, I pointed out that most of our attempts as cross-generational ministry have failed not because cross-generational ministry is difficult, but because of our own adaptation of postmodern cultural elements in the church. The younger generation’s notion of cross-generational discipleship, for instance, tends to be that we get one on one with an older and wiser individual, meet at Starbuck’s for coffee for an hour or so each week, and talk. While that sounds good to a postmodern, the problem is that it requires that someone elder take time out to minister. The side effect is that a cross-generational mentoring program has plenty of people who want to be mentored, but precious few who are willing to make the time commitment to mentor.

At a different period in our cultural history, mentorship was done in a radically different way than we envision it today. A young married man, looking for wisdom from his father or father-in-law, would go to his elder, who would in turn say “Let’s go out here and chop some wood and talk.” With axes in hand and sweat on the brow, the older man would share his thoughts with the younger man in the context of the toil of life. Rather than being mere drudgery, daily chores afforded opportunities for generations to both work together, live together, and of course impart wisdom from the older to the younger. It also had some other side benefits: It lightened the load of work by the synergy of two people working together, and it made the toil of work more bearable and even a joy. The postmodern Starbuck’s model of discipleship looks rather awkward and clunky by comparison, with its focus on sharing “my” own problems at “my” own time in “my” own way, rather than within the context of the daily grind of life experience.

Even though it may seem old-fashioned and quaint, there is no reason that this approach couldn’t work today. When I needed to repaint one of my rooms in my old apartment prior to moving out, my Sunday School teacher took the time to come help with the project. I wasn’t sure where to start on a project like this, but he lent his expertise and we were able to get the right tools and put the first coat of paint up in short order. As we were painting the walls and touching up the corners, we had the opportunity to take a few hours talking about life and were able to share quite a bit with each other. The problem is that each generation would have to be willing to sacrifice in some way - which is to say, be willing to work and toil, rather than merely lounging in a comfortable atmosphere. I think that this is a greater difficulty for younger postmoderns. People such as myself often lack the necessary work ethic or drive to work on a project unless there are immediate personal benefits. The thought of being called to sacrifice as part of the life of a disciple of Christ is foreign to our postmodern culture. But discipleship is itself counter-cultural, and as postmoderns we should be challenged to move beyond our cultural norms and willingly partake in the sufferings of Christ.

After I shared these thoughts, one of the young women there (in her early thirties) responded by telling me that she appreciated my comments, and that she when she got home from Cornerstone she was going to take my ideas and put them into action with the women’s ministry at her church. She was going to encourage women to minister to one another by working together on specific things rather than simply getting together away as a way to get away from kids family and responsibilities. I appreciated that :) There are so many ways to serve the body, to serve one another and allow ourselves to be served by the body, that I think that we’ve allowed ourselves to borrow so much of our postmodern thinking that devalues life in the private sphere and emphasizes life in the public sphere, instead of seeing life as a single unified whole.



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