This morning I was invited by the Associate Pastor of our church to speak to a men’s small group out in Bluffton, SC. He asked me to talk about the youth ministry and provide some sort of devotion for the men and that the format would be an hour long breakfast. Thinking that an hour would be a long time, I did my usual over-preparation for speaking and had several points of conversation.
What I actually got to:
(A) Where our Youth Ministry has come from.
(B) Where our youth ministry is now.
(C) The scriptural foundation for Incarnational (Jesus Centered) ministry among youth.
(D) How others can help out – get to know one of our families and show them that you care about their wellbeing.
We had some great question and answers and I am so thankful for the support of so many from our church. It was so affirming to have so many concerned men from our conversation surround me.
But there was one thing I didn’t get to that was really going to be a Meat and Potatoes kind of message. It is something that I’ve ruminated over ever since the first time I read through the entirety of scripture because I hardly ever hear anyone talk about it. I noticed it simply because I have studied the sociological histories of the different American Generations since we developed as a nation, and I saw a similar pattern of generations in the forming of, maintenance, and then later deterioration of the nation of Israel.
The point I didn’t have time for was the story of Rahoboam, the son of Solomon.
In 2 Chronicles 10 in the Old Testament of scripture, Solomon – Israel’s wisest and most powerful King is now out of the picture. It is time for a son of Solomon to become King and there is a tricky political situation that occurs as the young leadership tries to take hold. The elders of the nation gather from the different tribes and there is a conversation between the one to be annointed, Rahoboam, who is Solomon’s son, and the people. It is obvious that the nation has had some momentum for quite some time. As their identity has unfolded as a people, they have gone from wandering Semitic people in the desert to slaves, to wanderers, to a military caravan of tribes, to land owners and Justice dealers, to Magistrates of towns and cities and ultimately to being a people over a land with Kings and a history. God brought them to this point because he promised it to Abraham way back in the generations. God said, “I will bless the nations through you.” Kings Saul, then David, and then the greatest – Solomon, had gone through terrible times and great wars to provide security for the people. It wasn’t until the reign of Solomon that they had such respect and security that they could build God’s temple to God’s specifications and the people could see the results of generations of hardship and determination.
But there was an issue in Rahoboam’s generation that would play itself out with massive consequences. The children of Solomon’s generation had never wandered, they hadn’t fought the terrible wars, they didn’t build the buildings or the towns they inhabited, and the systems of food distribution, diplomacy and general well being were not of their experience. They were inheriting a blessed nation with no realization or appreciation for how they had gotten there. They expected greatness. They expected power. They were entitled to everything they had always had.
Does this sound familiar? In America there was a time of pioneering and wandering across the land. We fought revolution, civil war, and world wars – all which set our place in this world as determined people respected and revered for what we can do. We fixed problems, built cities, dreamed big and got results. We produced more and consumed more and more all within the boundaries of the safety we built on our North American continent. The blessings have flowed from generation to generation. But something has happened as our hand became dominant. Since World War II, something has changed.
In the book “Me, Myspace, and I” by Larry D. Rosen, Ph.D, the generations are spread out and their main characteristics laid bare. The Greatest Generation of World War II are a largely silent generation who worked hard and did what they had to to make our nation safe and to make it work. Then the Baby Boomer Generation, characterized by their ability to work hard and almost worship their ability to provide for their families, made our nation prosper and brought wealth and new ideas that changed the whole world. Next came Generation X, which was a generation that worked to have fun. They love recreation and the ability to experience life and all it has to offer by doing more and pushing harder. And now, we have developed the Internet Generation – a generation that wants to play and work at the same time. The world is a playground where we can create and mold our visions to our will.
This video that was just released by celebrity Will Smith’s daughter Willow demonstrates the Ethos of Generation Y/Internet Generation:
If you watched the whole film you will see that the exuberance of the youth today is like an electric ball of energy. “21st Century Girl. I do what I want.” They will create new orders and penetrate institutions like no institutions because they want to be in control. When they grow older, everything is set to change even faster than it has.
But there is a problem with this. They don’t have the experience that has anchored previous generations. We live in an America with no surviving World War I veterans still living. The last died recently at age 110. The youth culture has so quickly progressed that many adults who have been charged with raising this generation have been more like buddies than parents molding the character and formation of children. In a world where kids have access to anything they want and have no understanding of ultimate sacrifice other than a few words on a paper – it is hard for this generation to understand true pain and what it feels like to live in material, relational, or situational poverty. Even when out on missions trips in youth groups or on service projects, the experiences take some time to take hold. It is hard for them to realize that the problems of the world are big. That there is still more to work on and that we as Americans have not arrived.
Okay, so editorial aside, what does this have to do with Rahoboam, the son of Solomon? His generation had everything at his finger tips like this upcoming generation today does. He had the wisdom of the remaining elders, he had the vigor of youth, and the wealth and security of a military and a trained populace. His situation looks a lot like ours does today or very soon from today. What happened when he was to become King over the land?
He consulted the elders and they asked for a period of rest for the people after the great projects of Solomon. He consulted his youthful advisors and they told him to tell the people that they will feel his whip and they will do greater things than in the days of his father. He chose the youthful mode of power, and announced he would be a scourge to them. He chose the mantle of power and misunderstood where his power came from. Even an Israelite king governed by the consent of the people under the anointing of God. When the northern tribes heard there would be no rest they replied, the House of Judah can do its own work (Judah was the tribe of King David, Solomon, and now Rahoboam). Their nation split into two, and the decline of Israel followed. The north would later be conquered by the Assyrians, and the south would later be conquered by Nebuchadnezzar and the people of Babylon. Dire consequences for youthful pride.
Since I am part of this generation I feel like I have a voice to speak about these things. God loves to bless his people, but when a generation assumes that they are inherently powerful and dominant, they also begin to rely less on God. They become Imperialistic and Lord their power over others in the name of God, but the only God they recognize is themselves.
Why was I going to speak about this to the men’s breakfast in Bluffton? It is a heavy message after all. I believe that the older generation needs to hear that the young people who are slowly coming up into the ranks are in dire need of the Wisdom of previous generations. I believe that our idealists need the temperment of your experience and the stories that you hold within your hearts and mind. I believe that your faith and your courage and your ideas are still necessary as a temporary rudder for my own Generation as we begin to take over the course. We need to respect and revere the people who have done so much, but even if our generation comes off as arrogant and does not provide that respect – we still need all of you.
I know I didn’t get to that part of the message, but it will be a theme that runs through everything I do in our ministry. All Generations need to come together to show the Body of Christ as full an whole. We cannot afford to take our gifts and talents and retire to our corners of culture. Youth culture may seem interesting and dominant but it lacks vision beyond its raw energy. I know God is in control, but I sometimes worry about the times to come. We have a few different paths we can take – but all good paths include a strong foundation and staying in relationship with America’s and the World’s youth.