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3 Ways to Encourage Peace Between Generations in Denominations

You cannot run down those that came before you and expect to have peace with them. Chances are, grandma paid for your church building, prayed for you to know Christ, sponsored your youth camps and mission trips, and told you your sermons were good when they really weren’t.

There are traditional churches in your network who are reaching the lost you aren’t. You don’t get any extra points in heaven for being the hippest church in your denomination.

But there also has to be a sense among the traditional churches that they have a confidence in their kids and their grandkids—that they may be doing things differently, but they’re doing those things for Jesus.

For those in traditional churches, you should brag on the younger generations who are doing different things for Jesus. Celebrate them. I know they aren’t as wise and perfect in ministry as you were when you were a young person, but cut ‘em some slack.

Your traditional church functioned pretty well in its context. That’s how you survived long enough to see other churches planted … like the one on the other side of town that is going to reach the people you aren’t.

If we are honest about it, our predecessors weren’t always excited about how we did new things. But they invested in us and trusted God was doing something new.

When both sides refrain from insensitive and off-putting statements, peace has a better chance to grow.

In my own denomination, I’ve heard it from both sides. I’m not a young leader now, but I’ve been a long-term defender of them. Sometimes they say dumb and thoughtless things, not realizing that there are other people who just may have thought through some things before they came along.

Yet, I’ve spent most of my time helping older leaders love, value and appreciate the next generation.

I want both to “make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit.”

2. Respect God’s Varied Ministry Callings

I was in an elevator once with two pastors, Darrin Patrick and Adrian Rogers. (For those of you who don’t know those names, they are well-known pastors from very different worlds.)

Darrin was young and cool and on his way to growing an impacting church called The Journey in St. Louis. Dr. Rogers was … well he was Dr. Rogers. I didn’t call him Adrian. So, I said, “Dr. Rogers, could I introduce you to Darrin Patrick?”

Darrin was like a kid in a candy store, meeting one of the most famous preachers in America.

He didn’t feel the need to say, “Our church is contemporary and yours is traditional, so mine is good and yours is bad.” He didn’t point out their differences and try to convince the veteran that he needed to “get with it.” He valued his elder for who he was and what God had helped him accomplish.

But respect went both ways. Dr. Rogers didn’t say, “Young man, put on a tie.” He treated Darrin (who was wearing jeans with holes in them) like he would treat a friend and a colleague.

See, they both are in very different places serving the same Lord. And, both seemed to be genuinely thankful for one another (and I was thankful for both).

If you are going to have such divisions in your local church, that’s your business. But the denomination is not a battlefield for issues of style. Do not divide the family at that level over such things—and wise leaders in wise denominations know such things.

It is a beautiful thing when you have a mutual respect for God’s ministry calling across the generations. It is a sign of wisdom when a young leader recognizes and appreciates God’s work that came before. Nothing reflects wisdom more than for an elder leader to affirm God’s work that is yet to come.

3. Reinforce a Culture of Peace

Peace is not achieved with silence.

If you want a culture of peace between generations, it will need to be communicated clearly and often. Unstated goals are just wishes.

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Ed Stetzer, Ph.D., holds the Billy Graham Chair of Church, Mission, and Evangelism at Wheaton College and serves as Executive Director of the Billy Graham Center for Evangelism. He has planted, revitalized, and pastored churches, trained pastors and church planters on six continents, holds two masters degrees and two doctorates, and has written dozens of articles and books.