I was riding through some Detroit neighborhoods the other day with a person who grew up in the area. Every block had abandoned homes – some of them boarded up, some of them burned out, some of them with broken windows where looters had broken in to try to find anything of value. No one is buying houses in these areas. Some people are hanging on because they can’t afford to go elsewhere. Others have just abandoned homes and hope and moved out.
Her opinion on the situation interested me since she had observed a lot of the decline first hand: “We lost a generation,” she said. She mentioned how back thirty years ago drugs started taking over the neighborhoods, and in the process a generation of youth was lost. And the neighborhoods never recovered. Worse, every generation since has only added to the demise since that is the only culture they know.
While you could probably debate and uncover many other factors that were involved, her perspective is interesting. And transferable.
Christianity is supposed to be next generational. That’s the thought when Paul tells Timothy
“And the things that you have heard me say in the presence of many witnesses entrust to reliable men who will also be qualified to teach others.” (2 Timothy 2:2)
It’s always about the next generation. The next generation of believers. The next generation of the church. It’s about passing the faith along – and making sure that the community of believers stays strong.
Church should never be about you – what you like, what you want, what you prefer, what you think, what makes you feel comfortable. When we focus in that direction we sacrifice the future of those who come after us. We lose track of the fact that Christianity is supposed to be something that we pass on and on and on.
We see many declining churches today with aging congregations (I’m not simply talking about elderly people; I’m talking about congregations who are not seeing any new life). It’s like the Detroit version of church. There’s a generation that’s missing.
I don’t know how much hope there is for the city; Detroit is in big trouble. But I do believe that there is hope for the church. And humanly speaking, it lies in the next generation.
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