Making Room For the Next Generation
The Friday night renewal meeting was full of life, relevancy and creativity, and yet there wasn’t a pastor or a person over thirty to be seen on the worship team, facilitating of the meeting, in the preaching or on the prayer ministry team.
"The next generation is not at all content with pew warming."
What is wrong with this picture? Absolutely nothing! It is actually a true-life picture of what God is doing in our church and many other churches over the earth as a direct fruit of this River. I believe God is expressing a mandate to local church leadership to find fresh and relevant ways of equipping and releasing the next generation to take hold of the purposes of God so they can invite a lost and dying world into a love relationship with Him!
No Longer A One-Man Show
The Church desperately needs a paradigm shift in its concept of Ephesians 4 five-fold ministry if we are to successfully equip believers. So many of us in the western church have gone to meetings for years with a spectator mentality expecting the paid professionals to feed us and supply our spiritual nourishment. Many have fallen into this rut becoming non-participants and have grown content with that. Unfortunately, many pastors have also become content with the one-man show. Without realizing it we tend to find identity and significance in our function. Yet one of the functions of five-fold ministry is “to equip the saints for the work of the ministry,” to give the members an opportunity to release the anointing they have. (Ephesians 4:11-12)
The next generation is not at all content with pew warming. Actually, it turns most of them off. They want to be active participants, and they yearn to express their connection to God with their own genre of worship. They are team oriented and are searching to fit into the body and be a light to the world.
Releasing The Next Generation
So how do we make room for the next generation in our churches? How do we release the younger generation into the things we have prophesied about concerning the coming radical youth explosion? How do we nurture, mentor, equip and release our younger generation into their gifts and callings and launch them into the passion and excitement of living a life full of God’s purposes and destiny? How do we as a church walk and work together in a multi-generational and multi-faceted expression and in the fullness that God has intended for us and called us to? How do we as church leaders implement and facilitate the re-shaping of the church?
Historically, every move of God has released and has powerfully used people in the church that formerly were relegated to obscure places in the body of Christ. But as those who have been concealed emerge, there comes a distinct, new sound. The Holy Spirit expresses Himself through a new generation. This move of God that millions of people are experiencing all over the earth is no exception. The church is taking on a new shape as the 21st century begins as men, women and young people work alongside each other to bring in the harvest.
"Out went the pews and the required dress code for ministry."
In November of 1994, Bill and Melinda Fish, my pastors, crawled to Toronto in a dry and desperate condition and were dramatically touched by God. We could have never imagined what God was about to do in our personal lives and our church and ministries in the ensuing years! Our lives were literally turned upside down and transformed and our church has reflected that shift. Out went the pews and the required dress code for ministry. Out went the old worship songs. We began to adapt the sanctuary to facilitate the moving of the Spirit.
But this paled in comparison to what God was doing in our hearts. We became ignited with first love passion for God and became addicted to experiencing His presence. As God poured His love and fire into us, we stretched and were reshaped. The wonderful way God was moving and the testimony of how God transformed so many of us in our church through the renewal began to re-position our church leadership. Spiritual molting began to take place as we shed layers of “religious skin” to accommodate the move of the Spirit. Eventually Bill and Melinda Fish, the senior pastors, began to travel extensively carrying the blessing across the U.S. and to other nations. As they traveled, my responsibilities increased locally. Gradually, we found ourselves in transition. There were times of conflict as responsibility and authority began to shift.
In January of this year, after much prophetic confirmation, outside input and honest dialogue, Bill and Melinda released me to be the local pastor. This decision enabled me to have the freedom and the authority to implement many of the things I was seeing for the church but had previously been unable to do. They knew it was time for me. Amazingly, their decision to release me to take the reins of the local church also propelled them into a new phase of ministry and anointing that probably would have not been realized if they had held on.
As they handed the reins to me, I immediately saw several changes that needed to take place. I began to notice that there were many more teenagers and young adults than there were middle-aged members in our church. They were responding to the drawing of God and hungered for more of His reality as a result of the renewal, but they did not want the religious forms of Church as we had always known it. They wanted to connect to God in an honest and unreligious way! I also realized that they loved hands-on ministry.
Since renewal began, I had taken several teams composed of the younger and the older generation to Central America and to Africa and noticed how the young people on the teams preferred a different flavor of ministry. Sitting and watching a speaker teach and preach and then participating in prayer ministry was not what they were looking for! They wanted to “do the stuff.” They wanted to BE the radical youth that would impact the world for Christ that so many have prophesied about. They wanted to take worship to the streets; they wanted to share the gospel outside the walls of the church—in their own way and with their own sound!
I believe that each local church must make room for the next generation by integrating them into the mainstream of the local church life. While there is certainly no “cookie cutter” model, in our local body, this is what the change looks like.
"Mentoring has become a core value and priority."
Recently, we have implemented a network called ‘Aliyah’. The word ‘aliyah’ is a Hebrew word which means ‘ascension, ascent, progress, to go up.” In Hebrew, aliyah is the word that represents a Jew’s immigration to Israel. It is a symbol of taking one’s Jewish life to a higher level. 'Aliyah' also indicates a rise to a higher spiritual level, a lifestyle motivated by values, principles and ideals. We have borrowed the Hebrew word and have incorporated it into the life of our church. Aliyah is a relationship-based network that is committed to nurturing, mentoring, equipping and releasing youth and young adults. We are committed to seeing our young people “go for it.”
Just as intimate relationship with God is a high value in our church body, so has mentoring become a core value and priority. We encourage the Mordecais (the older generation) to invest themselves in the Esther generation. We look for opportunities to mentor them in worship ministry, the prayer team, intercession, street ministry, ministry of the word, and ministry of helps. I am excited to see generations co-laboring in unity. We have come to realize more and more that we need each other! The zeal and fresh vision of the young blended with the wisdom and resources of the older is a lovely, full expression of what God intended His body to be! Our lives can have a greater and more lasting contribution as we develop the kind of relationship Paul had with Timothy. It is so very important to share the things God had done and is doing in our lives with the next generation and not make the mistake of separating from them.
Where the river flows, life flows! When the life and anointing of God flow in a church, we see the multi- faceted, multigenerational church with men and women standing side by side expressing God’s love to the world. We leaders need to go beyond equipping and begin to make room for the next generation. We must begin to realize how God has designed every part of His body to be fitted and held together by what every joint supplies, according to the proper working of each individual part. (Ephesians 4:16) As we do, the body of Christ will shine with His fullness to a lost and desperate world, and we will all rise higher in God and find our 'aliyah'.