In churches, there can be situations where the older generation disapproves of the younger generation's practices while the younger generation struggles to adapt to the ways of the older generation. How senior pastors pass the baton to new ones and whether the older and younger generations can work together harmoniously and effectively are the current issues troubling the church in China.
Rev. Liu Abraham from Taipei Revival Church discussed the possibility of harmonious cooperation between young pastors and the older generation at the Second Impact Asia Alliance Summit on November 3 in Jakarta, Indonesia.
Old church models might no longer apply to the current church situation.
Most churches have experienced a revival, with halls filled and periods of growth. However, when churches encounter stagnation or even decline and face topics like why young people are leaving the church today, there is a need to rediscover a model to bring about change in the church.
Liu pointed out that a new model is necessary because the old one may no longer be suitable for the present circumstances. The challenges churches face now are greater than before. It's not just about young people disliking or not attending church; it's about issues like these young people "not getting married." They don't feel the need to marry, believing they can fulfill all their needs, including physical and emotional, through the internet.
Two generations can coexist.
Liu's father, the former senior pastor of the church, suddenly fell ill in 2014. Young Liu had to start taking on some church responsibilities. At that time, many elders in the church who had watched him grow up considered him a "youngster."
He shared that for about six months, he liked hiding in his office after preaching: "I dared not shake hands or talk to believers." He was afraid of being compared to his father. Liu recalled that despite his efforts, people around him still gave him plenty of advice.
However, from 2014 to the present, over the past nine years, by God's grace, the church has experienced growth. Before the pandemic, the church had grown from 800 to 1,200 members, and post-pandemic, the number continued to rise to 1,500.
He shared his experience of church growth: "I believe it is possible for two generations to walk together, and there is a path to take." He sees Moses as a good model for church leaders, sharing the following points:
Joshua needs to learn obedience and honor towards Moses.
In the story of defeating the Amalekites, Moses instructed Joshua, who immediately took action. However, the way young people act is indeed different from that of the older generation. Liu said, "We must understand that obeying and honoring the elders is what God wants us to do."
He stated that he teaches young people to appreciate and be grateful for the contributions of the older generation to the church. He believes it's crucial to make them understand the history of their church by telling stories about their elders and how the church was built. "Obedience and honor are the foundations for generational unity," he added.
The new generation needs to live out "fearless faith," daring to innovate and try new things.
Liu mentioned that when Moses and Joshua were about to go into battle the next day, Joshua's response wasn't to postpone, never saying, "Let's prepare for another two weeks before fighting." Joshua demonstrated the confidence to face new things head-on.
He described opportunities at the church where young people could be creative. If there is no violation of the principle, Liu would step down from his pastor role and give the younger generation in the church a "right to demand." The gatherings organized by young members allowed them to take the lead: "Whatever they asked me to do, I did."
The pastor gave an example of a recent interesting activity designed for children at the church. They prepared a swimming pool filled with snacks, allowing children who memorized Bible verses to jump in and grab snacks. The result was that the kids were up by 8 a.m., dressed, and eager to attend the service with their parents.
Another impressive creative initiative for young Christians was a gathering featuring "magnitude"—everything was enlarged, such as the microphone being large, the pastor drinking from a one-liter water bottle, and even the font size on the presentation being huge.
Pastor Liu said that complying with the requests of young people in this way "let them know we stand with them."
There might be voices criticizing, "Don't turn God's house into this." Faced with these doubts, Pastor Liu's responded, "We can be creative in this way, as long as we don’t dilute the message of the gospel but deliver God's word well."
Each generation has different needs.
When Liu just became the senior pastor of the church, some elders suggested that the church worship team sing more classic old songs like "What a Friend We Have in Jesus." These elders also provided feedback that some newer songs had too fast rhythms and that the lyrics were changing on the PowerPoint before they finished reading them. When Pastor Liu relayed this request to the worship team, the young worship leaders hadn't heard of those songs, asking, "Pastor, what are these new songs?"
Liu shared that what moves them varies with each generation. When pastors and staff workers serve believers, they need to consider age differences and needs rather than select what they like or emphasize what moves them.
Moses imbues Joshua with strength and gives him full authority.
Before fighting the Amalekites, in the Bible, Moses instructed Joshua to "choose men" to go to battle with. Liu explained that this meant Moses was nurturing Joshua's ability to fight with enemies.
Lack of experience means young people need opportunities to learn and practice. History repeats itself, and one generation passes the baton to another. One problem that arises in churches is not giving young people the chance to participate in significant matters but assigning them tasks like moving heavy items, doing menial work, leading worship, etc. These happen because the older generation hasn't truly authorized the young people.
The senior generation needs to become a spiritual example for young people.
The power that gave Joshua victory in the battle was the prayer behind Moses. Whenever Moses raised his hands, the Israelites would win, and whenever he lowered them, the Amalekites would prevail.
Pastor Liu also prompted the congregation to reflect: "Are the current elders in the church setting a spiritual example for young people? Young people today pursue righteousness and authenticity. But if they see elders in the church being hypocritical or engaging in politics and power struggles, it's a kind of sadness."
Liu said to the elder pastors, "The best example we can give is to raise our hands in prayer. I believe that when God helps us in our difficult times, He will continue to help the next generation."
Moses dares to show vulnerability.
Liu stated that Moses, a wise elder, took Aaron and Hur with him to pray on the mountain when Joshua went to battle. Moses knew that even the strongest individuals could be weak, so he needed Aaron and Hur by his side.
Standing in a leadership position, over time, we may face a situation where nobody speaks the truth to us or lends a helping hand when we are weak. Moses set a very good example for us; he had people around him supporting him, which enabled him to continue to triumph.
Liu mentioned that in this harmonious relationship between two generations, our God can still proudly introduce Himself: "I have been the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, the God of Jacob."
- Translated by Abigail Wu