Warning Signs for the Church: Generational Divide

Several months ago Leadership Network filmed me for their 30 Second Leadership Series of videos on their website.  I was asked to share one thing facing leaders today that concerned me.  To be honest, there are currently two things that I see going on in the church that concern me… but Leadership Network only gave me thirty seconds on film, which is probably one of the wisest decisions that they have ever made.  These two things are the generational divide in the church, and a concern that I have for the church planting movement.

The generational divide issue may not be a surprise to readers that have been following this site for a while.  I have written often about it, and reviewed a book on it here.   But in the thirty seconds that I had on film, this is the topic that I brought up:

A few thoughts on this:

  • My generation and the generation that follows us needs to get this right.  Jesus prays for unity in John 17, and while it may be difficult… we need to do everything in our power to preserve unity within the body.  Divisive power struggles do nothing but hurt the Kingdom.  We all know of people who have been hurt by the church, people who have walked away for one reason or another.  Too many of these stories stem from a power struggle or a church split.
  • We need our elders.  We need the people who have walked the journey and have more life experience than we do to speak into our lives and share their wisdom with us.  Having the humility to ask for advice and place ourselves under the authority of those who have a few more miles on the journey than we do will only help us develop our leadership abilities, and will deepen our faith.
  • The last thirty years have seen more significant, cultural change than any other period in the history of this nation.  This change has created two very different tribes in the boomers and the millennials, along with a third tribe, generation X which… is doing whatever it is that my generation does these days.  These differences have gone beyond just a typical generational divide, evolving into two very different cultures (Leonard Sweet outlined this incredibly well a few years back).  While some on both sides may have an understanding of the other’s culture, they will never fully know it… but they show grace to the cultural differences.  We may live in the same country, speak the same language, and look relatively the same, but there are two cultures in the church right now, and we need to be approaching one another with a desire to learn, a heart full of grace, and a willingness to work together moving forward.
  • Lastly, to the boomers who are currently in leadership.  I appreciate all that you have done for the Kingdom.  I am grateful for your sacrifices, and your willingness to serve as long as you have.  That said, things are changing, ministry will not look the way it does today, in five years.  If you are going to invite my generation, or the millennials, to the leadership table please know that we are going to expect to be treated as peers, not projects.  We are going to come to the table with a desire to contribute to the Kingdom as a whole, and generally do not react well to the idea of leaving a legacy.  We will speak our mind, and at times you will not like it.  But, we are uniquely qualified to lead the church in the years to come… just as you were uniquely qualified to lead the church when the baton was passed to you by earlier generations.

There are enough noisy gongs and clanging cymbals out there in the church world right now… what we need is a little patience, a little kindness, and a whole lot of love for our brothers and sisters in ministry.

Tomorrow I will share a little bit of my concern about the church planting movement.

What is the biggest mistake that YOU see church leaders making?


About the Author: Matt Steen

I love Jesus, Theresa (my wife), the Redskins & Capitals, and am currently living in Waco, Texas where I am studying the finer points of BBQ (while working on my MDiv and MBA at Baylor University). When not studying, I serve church leaders through MinistryBriefing.com and am the Director of Connections for Harris Creek Baptist Church's Downtown Campus.