By Michael C. Mack
“Do Not Disturb.” The unseen sign hung noticeably on Bob and Mary’s heart.
The boomer minister had retired and was replaced by a millennial lead pastor. More millennials joined the staff and eldership. The church’s mission statement was reworded and the music updated. The pulpit disappeared as the new guy preached noteless. New signs were added above the doors declaring the vision to reach people “out there.”
This month we ask an important question: How can we minister effectively to—and with—multiple generations? Many of our articles this month seek to answer that question. Haydn Shaw tells us that, for the first time in history, we now live with, work with, and share the church with five generations. That’s changing things, especially as younger generations step into leadership.
And that’s disturbing many of us.
This isn’t necessarily about age. “Bob and Mary” represent several couples younger than me who left our church when our boomer founding pastor retired and was replaced by a gifted 29-year-old. Yet, several other friends in their 70s and 80s have not only stayed but fully support our new pastor and the millennial staff, and they love our church. The difference is in perspective. The first group have said things like, “I feel like it’s not my church anymore” (it never was) and “the new leaders are not meeting my needs.” The second group is excited about all the new, young people and love serving our church and community.
It’s when God disturbs us that he grows us. He constantly puts opportunities in our paths to count the cost of discipleship in order to pursue growth and fulfill his mission. Each opportunity is a decision point, often a difficult one, for us. We can stay in our safe and reliable comfort zones or we can trust God to step out into others-first, self-sacrificing service.
We need to be disturbed, and Jesus’ words may do just that:
I know your deeds; you have a reputation of being alive, but you are dead. Wake up! Strengthen what remains and is about to die, for I have found your deeds unfinished in the sight of my God (Revelation 3:1, 2).
If the new millennial staff members or fellow church members are disturbing you, thank God for them! Their unbridled passion for God and for serving “the least of these” may be the wake-up call the church needs.
So let’s take down those figurative “Do Not Disturb” signs that keep us from growth and revival. We—all of us, from all generations and tribes and races—are better together, and we’ll do more together than any of us can do alone. Lord, disturb us!
In February, managing editor Jim Nieman (left) celebrated his 20-year anniversary with Christian Standard. Jim has now worked with three editors: Sam Stone (editor from 1978 to 2003, third from left), Mark Taylor (2003 to 2017, second from left), and me. (See Jim’s article about the editors he has known and worked with, “The Editors: An Inside Scoop.”)