From Generation to Generation

"...and Ozias begat Joatham; and Joatham begat Achaz; and Achaz begat Ezekias; and Ezekias begat Manasses; and Manasses begat Amon; and Amon begat Josias...."

Bored yet? In honesty, many of us would say that passages such as this from Matthew (1:9-10) are among the most tedious in the Bible. Though these

passages are more often passed over than read, they show some of the great respect that the Bible gives to the fact that each passing generation contributes to the establishment of our faith.

Today, a new generation is experiencing God’s love and responding in ways that are challenging the status quo and initiating new ways of being church that herald how Christ’s church may look in the coming millennium. The participants in these "uprisings," though possibly more wary of traditional church structures than other generations, are no less serious about their commitment to serve God and find ways that best convey the gospel to those coming of age in today’s post-modern culture.

What is taking place among young adults today has the potential to revitalize the wider church, which is certainly something believers of all ages will benefit from. Contrary to the media’s "slacker" description of Generation X, young people today are challenging all of us to action with their allegiance to works and not just words. In doing so, they are reshaping society’s definition of what it is to "be church."

AMONG THE "UPRISINGS" of this new generation are initiatives such as the Emerging Urban Leaders Summit, which met last September in Washington, D.C. The conference brought together young Christian leaders from a variety of backgrounds for worship and a better understanding of God’s vision for their generation.

"What the Emerging Urban Leaders network wants to do is provide space for young leaders to develop urban theologies and to continue to connect younger leadership with existing ministries and organizations," said Bill Haley, a young pastor at The Falls Church in Falls Church, Virginia, and one of the organizers of the summit. "We need to support and pray for one another—as well as learn from one another so we don’t duplicate our efforts."

Another gathering place for a new generation of Christians is the Pax Christi Youth Forum, a vibrant network of young Catholics who have taken on the peace and justice concerns of Pax Christi USA. This forum, which began in 1992, is active on a number of college campuses and comes together each year at Pax Christi’s National Assembly to address issues that face them as young Catholic peace activists. At their last retreat in August 1997, the group took on the issue of faith and sexuality, especially looking at how sexism and heterosexism can be forms of violence.

Some of those places that younger Christians are living out their callings are alongside—or even outside—church structures rather than directly within them. Rudy Carrasco and Derek Perkins have worked with others to develop an interracial, intercultural Christian community in Pasadena, California, that witnesses to their neighborhood what it might mean to transcend tired old notions of race in this country.

Many of these parachurch ministries reflect an awareness that younger Christians have a need for places where they can express their faith as they have experienced it, which may or may not correspond to what they have found within any church building. The Spirit Garage (a ministry that boasts being "The Church With a Really Big Door") in Minneapolis, was started by pastor Pam Fickenscher as a way to show young people that the gospel is for everyone, "not just for middle-age, middle-class, mainstream folks with traditional families and no visible scars, tattoos, wounds, or warts."

"I want everyone to understand that this is a church which is innovative for a reason," wrote Fickenscher in the Spirit Garage newsletter. "We don’t need to be different for difference’s sake. We need to be different because hundreds, no thousands, of people are not hearing the good news of God’s love and grace by the ‘traditional’ means."

There are also many Christians of a younger generation who are taking their faith to the streets, working with Christian, interfaith, or secular ministries on the front lines of city struggles. Among these are the many young adults who work with gang-related youth through groups such as Barrios Unidos or the Ten Point Coalition, or the college students who put in extra hours in inner-city community centers such as Sojourners Neighborhood Center, mentoring children and offering them opportunities they might not have known otherwise.

We hope "Uprisings" can be a place where the struggles, issues, and unique voice of a new generation of Christians are presented to readers of all ages. Through this column, we hope to bring the wisdom of age together with the energy of youth and, perhaps, rekindle the fire and power of Christ’s church for the work we have before us. The task of revitalizing the church will require the work of everybody, not just young people. As Bill Haley said, "It’s more about attitude than age."

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"From Generation to Generation"
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