Thinking Generationally

The modern Church must rediscover the mind-set of thinking generationally. First, no one but the Father knows when Jesus will return—it could be today, tomorrow, or many years from now—and second, God Himself always thinks and acts generationally. For too long, too many members of the Body of Christ have considered themselves part of a terminal generation. It is time to change that way of thinking. Each generation of Christians needs to see itself as a bridge generation that builds on the past, lives in the present, and plans for the future. It is important to live each day as if Christ is coming back today, yet plan for tomorrow as if He will not return for years.

Part of the mind-set of a bridge generation is recognizing and taking seriously the responsibility of passing on to the next generation a solid legacy of faith and godly values. Just how important is this “generational transfer”? Long ago someone observed that the Church is never more than one generation away from paganism. All it takes to lose everything is for one generation to fail in transferring its beliefs and principles to the next.

One of the most critical needs of the Church today is to renew its commitment to “generational transfer”: passing on to the next generation not just principles, theology, and doctrinal beliefs, but also passionate heart affection. Each generation must learn to love God for themselves, and it is the responsibility of the preceding generation to teach them by modeling that love. This is the biblical pattern, not only in God’s dealings with man, but also in the patriarchs’ dealings with their children. It is a fundamental principle known as mentoring—spiritual fathering and mothering.

Spiritual Mentoring

The principles of both spiritual mentoring and generational transfer are firmly grounded in Scripture. For the ancient Israelites they were foundational concepts of the Mosaic Law.  The first Scripture Jewish children are taught as they begin their spiritual education is: “Hear, O Israel! The Lord is our God, the Lord is one! You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might.” In Matthew 22:38 Jesus identified this as the “great and foremost commandment.” Nothing is of greater importance than hearing, knowing, loving, and fearing God.

On the heels of the commandment to love God is the command to pass on that love, as well as the knowledge and love of all God’s law, to the next generation. “These words, which I am commanding you today, shall be on your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your sons and shall talk of them when you sit in your house and when you walk by the way and when you lie down and when you rise up” (Deut. 6:6-7). The fathers (and mothers) were to use every walk and circumstance of life as an opportunity to transfer the legacy of faith to their children.

Generational transfer does not happen overnight. There are no shortcuts, no pat formulas, no “25-words-or-less” summary statements for imparting faith and values. There is no manual called Spiritual Multiplication for Dummies. Success comes only with commitment, discipline, diligence, and patience.

Many believers are spiritually impatient, preferring the quick touch of the Lord and the hot blaze of revival to the slower and less dramatic but more demanding pace of discipline and mentoring. In truth, the fast burn of revival and the slow burn of spiritual mentoring are both critical to God’s strategy for reaching the nations. Revival releases faith and changes individual lives while spiritual mentoring transforms culture.

Elijah set the stage by his faithfulness as a spiritual father, but it is the next generation under Elisha and Jehu that destroys Jezebel, who represents the domination of culture by the powers of darkness, and brings transformation to the land.

A Synergy of Generations

Synergy is defined as the condition where distinct groups work together in a cooperative arrangement in such a way that the total effect is greater than the sum of the individual effects. In other words, the group accomplishes more working together than the individual members could achieve working independently.

One of the things that the Elijah Revolution represents is God’s desire to link multiple generations into a synergistic relationship once again. The Church has long suffered from a “generation gap” where there is little genuine appreciation, understanding, or cooperation between the older, middle, and younger generations of believers. God wants to bring these generations back together—to infuse them with a common vision, a unified sense of purpose, and recognition of their mutual interdependence. Three generations moving together toward a shared goal can accomplish more than the sum of what each generation could achieve separately. This synergy of the generations is something that God promised He would bring about in the last days. I refer to this as the “convergence of the ages.”

A “convergence of the ages” will come upon us. The falling of pentecostal fire, healing and deliverance crusades, the latter rain presence, the evangelical burden for the lost, the charismatic giftings, the zeal of the Jesus people movement, the credibility of the third wave, the revelation of the prophetic movement, and the relational networking of the apostolic reformation—all will swell into a tidal wave greater than the impact of the Reformation 500 years ago and create what could be called the great revolution.

Before Christ returns, God will release an explosion of His Holy Spirit that will shatter paradigms in people’s minds and cause the whole Church to begin thinking generationally rather than selfishly. A whole generation will begin to give themselves to their “Elishas,” to raise up “double portion” sons and daughters who will dominate their culture in the power of the Holy Spirit.

God is generational by nature. Even His self-revelation to humanity as Father, Son, and Holy Spirit—one God in three Persons—reflects a generational perspective. God the Father gave His only begotten Son to redeem lost humanity and make salvation possible for everyone who believes. God the Son gave Himself to a small band of spiritual sons and imparted to them the Holy Spirit to dwell within them continually. God the Holy Spirit empowers and enables believers to carry out the Father’s redemptive plan on a global scale. Completion of the plan requires that all “generations” work together as one. Father, Son, and Holy Spirit are co-equal, co-existent, and co-eternal in nature but generational in relationship to mankind.

When God describes Himself as the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, He is not just identifying Himself by name; He is describing His very being and how His purposes proceed throughout history. God told Abraham that his children would be as the stars in the sky or the sand on the seashore, yet Abraham had only one son of promise: Isaac. Isaac passed the promise on to his son, Jacob, who passed it on to his 12 sons, one of whom was Joseph, who rose to prominence in Egypt. After a small beginning, in the fourth generation one appeared who ruled an entire nation. All of Jacob’s sons were fruitful, their descendants multiplying across many generations to become the 12 tribes of the nation of Israel.

Running With the Vision

This is God’s plan for every person in every generation. God wants to do in each of us that which He did in His own Son. This is the process: A child born becomes through character testing the son (or daughter) given; these children given become parents who multiply themselves over and over and over again by raising up and nurturing spiritual sons and daughters. The parents pour their unconditional love into their children until they come to maturity, and then they release those children onto the stage of history.

The Father’s great desire is to fill the earth with His spiritual children. This will happen not through a crash course in holiness, but through one generation patiently and faithfully passing on to the next not just information and knowledge, but wisdom, passion, integrity, faith, heart affection, and vision.

Each generation must learn to honor those who have gone before, the “pioneers” of the Church who have followed their vision and forged a path for their descendants to walk. Many spiritual parents and grandparents are alive today who ache inside because they have not yet seen the fullness of what God spoke to them 20, 30, or even 50 or more years ago. They long to see their vision fulfilled in their children. I know that is the case with my life.

Mature Plants and Corner Pillars

As the children honor their parents and grandparents, the synergy of the generations begins to become reality. Thus honor becomes a relational bridge that allows the generational transference to occur. The Lord takes the wisdom of the older generation, combines it with the resources of the middle generation, then mingles it with the zeal of the younger generation. As the younger generation moves out in action, the older ones cheer them on, saying, “Go, go, go! Run with the vision! We will speak counsel, we will speak wisdom, we will speak out of our experience. We will back you with our resources and with our prayers. Run with the vision!”

If this kind of transgenerational harmony and unity is to be fully realized, the modern Church must undergo a paradigm shift of major proportions. The younger generation must learn once again to hold their elders in high honor and respect, no longer dismissing their ideas, values, and counsel as quaint and outmoded relics of the past. For their part, the middle and older generations must be willing to see the younger ones through a different lens; to stop viewing them simply as immature children with little or nothing to offer and recognize both their giftedness and their usefulness in the Kingdom of God. The hearts of the fathers must turn to the children and the hearts of the children to the fathers in recognition of mutual respect and interdependence.

Psalm 144:12 says, “Let our sons in their youth be as grown-up plants, and our daughters as corner pillars fashioned as for a palace.” A “grown-up plant” is one that has reached maturity and is ready for full fruitfulness and productivity. Corner pillars are critical structural supports; tear them down and the entire building will collapse.

Usefulness in the Kingdom of God is not gender exclusive. Nor is it an issue of age. It is rather a matter of maturity and calling. Members of the middle and older generations need to recognize that sons and daughters in their youth should be treated with grown-up privileges, not just in the world but in the Church as well. These spiritual children should be equipped, encouraged, and empowered, according to their giftings, to lay hands on the sick, serve as leaders in the church, preach, teach, lead worship, baptize new believers, serve communion, cast out demons, and operate in other areas of ministry and service. Many, because of their ability to think “out of the box,” would be very useful in helping to come up with creative strategies for outreach and any number of other issues—strategies that would connect and resonate with members of their own generation who might not be reached any other way.

Want a Harvest?

Our barns will be filled with every kind of provision. Our sheep will increase by thousands, by tens of thousands in our fields (Psalm 144:13 NIV).

The need of the hour is great. Where are the spiritual fathers and mothers who will pray in the spirit of Elijah, “God, give me a spiritual son or daughter”? Where are the “elders” who will bless those children with their time, knowledge, and every good thing that God has given them? Where are the mentors who will share their life with those children, knowing that generational transfer is about life impartation and not just information? Where will the sons and daughters find spiritual parents who will dream with them and for them, help them tap into their God-given passions and destiny, encourage them and intercede for them?

Responsibility fosters maturity, while maturity leads to greater responsibility. The promise of the fathers and mothers to treat their sons as grown-up plants and their daughters as corner pillars in the palace of the king. It means the commitment of spiritual parents to speak wisdom and strength and vision into the lives of their “children.” It means imparting blessing by a spoken word or a meaningful touch, by giving them a high appraisal of their value, by helping them envision their future in the family of God. It means helping with practical steps, providing necessary resources, and releasing authority to them to accomplish their God-given commission.
Who will rise to the challenge?

This week in our Global Prayer Storm we are going to intercede in each of our cities and nations for a move of the Holy Spirit for the Joining of the Generations. Let’s move forward together and see the wisdom of the older, the resources of the middle and the zeal of the younger come together for such a time as this! This teaching is a partial excerpt from a chapter of the book The Call to the Elijah Revolution co-authored by Lou Engle and myself.

Praying for Generational Synergy!

James W. Goll