John Stumbo Video Blog No. 39
October 12, 2016
John engages a live audience at the C&MA National Office, encouraging the generations to understand each others’ differing values.
Hey team, good to be with you! Today I’ve chosen a different setting for today’s video blog. I’m at the National Office chapel we do every week. National Office, do you want to say “hi” to the Alliance family?
Good. We love getting to serve the Alliance family. I love this team, who, by the way, has just gotten the Council Web site up. If you’re ready to register for Council, we’re ready for you.
Over the course of this last year I had the privilege of going to five young-leader events—Sacramento, Atlanta, Minneapolis-St. Paul, Columbus, Queens—where we gathered an average of 22 people together in the room that were appointed or nominated by district superintendents or in some way were recommended to us.
I felt badly that I couldn’t enlarge the gathering, but the strength was that it generated great conversation. You see, the purpose of this event was not preaching or worship, but Stumbo threw out questions. And it was like shaking a Pepsi can with an explosion of enthusiasm as the young leaders spoke into theology, spoke into who The Alliance is becoming—all the way down to putting one of our brochures in front of them. And it was like a shark attack. I absolutely loved it.
One of the themes that emerged is what I want to focus on today. And in a future video blog I’ll say much more about what I’ve learned from those young-leader events. But for this moment I want to focus in on one theme.
Every young-leader event I introduced with a Bible study on 2 Corinthians chapter 4. I chose that passage for a very specific reason, multiple reasons. One: It’s been influential for me as president. Two: I think any young leader would benefit from studying this passage well. And three: That was the same passage of Scripture that I used for every gathering of district superintendents that I had in my first year as president. And I thought this would be interesting—take the same chapter of Scripture and hear how young leaders interact with it in contrast to how senior leaders had interacted with it.
I knew I’d learn something, I just didn’t know what I’d learn. 2 Corinthians 4. The way that I set up the study was simply saying, “Tell me what this says about the gospel.” And number two, “Tell me what this says about how we are to do ministry or not to do ministry.” And over the course of conversation various things emerged within every setting—pointing out that we are not to lose heart as we do ministry (very appropriate for those of us who have leadership continue to persevere with joy). We will not use shameful or secret ways or deceive; we won’t spin in any way or use manipulation.
Number three: We won’t distort the Word of God; we will come under the authority of the Word of God. And I’m delighted to say that the Alliance family is in strong agreement that we will not join that sad parade of those organizations that in our lifetime have drifted away from the authority of the Scripture. But we will stay under God’s authority as communicated to us through His Word.
And number four, he says here, “We do not preach ourselves, but we preach Christ.” So it created great conversation, great interaction. Much of it was the same between the generations, but the one point of greatest difference, at least in this study between the generations, was on point number two—we would not spin, twist, distort, [or] use deceptive methodology.
I asked, “Well what would that look like for you to spin, to twist, distort?” And the district superintendents and those in my generation of leadership would say to me, and something that I would understand, “Well, you know, we turn the clay pot toward its polished side.” Because everybody noted in 2 Corinthians chapter four that we have this all-surpassing power from God in these jars of clay. And so using the clay pot metaphor of one side of that pot has a crack and the other side is more polished up, we turn the polished side because we value excellence and quality, those kinds of things. So that was the common conversation among the senior leaders.
Young leaders said to me something very different. They said, “We turn our pot toward the cracked side.” I didn’t understand. “Well,” they said, “well the new spin is messy. We react to the fake of previous generations where it feels like they just put a veneer of spirituality or something over the top of stuff that wasn’t nearly as good underneath. Messy is the new normal,” they told me. The goal, they said, was to be able to relate to their generation. And so a form of relating, a method of relating was to reveal how broken we are, how cracked we are.
I went on to the next city. Same conversation: “Striving for authenticity, our generation is striving for authenticity,” these young leaders told me, “and we’re reacting toward a generation before us who were more polished in their approach.”
Next city. “We are trying so hard to be acceptable to our culture that we can deceive.” One leader said that they actually led somebody to Christ by pretending they were really more addicted than they had actually been, but so that they could relate to the brokenness of that person, they exaggerated their own previous addiction that Jesus had rescued them from—turning the cracked side forward. Being called fake is a fear of this generation.
So I’m going from city to city; I’m hearing different answers; one last city to mention. “Previous generation’s veneer of integrity did not impress us because it lacked transparency. We don’t see shiny as positive because positive looks fake. “That’s why,” quote, “we hate Tim Tebow and love Kim Kardashian.” I don’t know if that’s actually accurate or not, but they’re saying that messiness is actually a positive thing—turning the cracked side forward.
We have a values collision going on here between the generations. Arising generations value authenticity and relationship. And to have relationship means we need to relate in an acceptable kind of way, and older generations, my generation and older, value excellence. 1 Corinthians 14:40, “All things done decently and in order,” was one of our favorite verses. Quality control standards were major themes in the industry in my lifetime. We took church programs to new levels. We like excellence. We like things done well.
Do you see how this can create a values collision?
I’m thinking today of our office here, between generations. I’m thinking today of hundreds of Alliance churches that would have senior leadership elders and lead pastors of my generation or older and staff members who are of arising generations. And sometimes it works well, and sometimes it doesn’t. And one reason that it doesn’t always work well is this idea of a collision of values is taking place. And if we don’t understand that it’s a value collision, we end up either having bad conversations or no conversations at all.
There’s more at play than just personality profiles. I think the personality profile thing is fine, but if you’re only seeing through that lens, you’re missing something. There’s more at play then “We’re experienced and you’re not, so just, you know, get in line and listen until you get more experience.” If that’s the approach, it’s not going to work. There’s more at play here than “I’m young, and you’re irrelevant.” No, there’s more going on here.
The generations must learn from each other. That much is obvious. But I think the fulcrum, the leverage point of learning about each other, is learning to understand each other’s values. Our churches will be better if all the generations values are brought to the table, understood, and celebrated.
Let me say it this way: Baby Boomer and older, we would benefit from some authenticity. Our leadership will be better if we learn to be a little more, like, honest, real, frank, not having to polish everything over with a spin of excellence.
Meanwhile, young generation, don’t wallow in the brokenness. No, don’t see messiness as the end. That’s the beginning point of the gospel, but the gospel doesn’t want to leave you there.
If there’s tension in the room between generations, I am challenging us to think about what value collision is taking place. Why are we both irritated right now? Well, maybe because I really care about this, and you don’t get it, and you really care about something that I don’t understand.
If we can begin to articulate with each other not only what’s bothering us but what is the good value behind it, I think we’ll have stronger relationships, stronger staffs, stronger meetings, and stronger churches.
So my simple appeal today between the generations is this: Would you press hard enough into the relationship to understand why this matters so much to us and how we both can grow as generations by valuing each other’s values?
Father, I pray that this would create good conversation here where I really believe we’re better together. And I really want to be shaped by younger voices, and I really want to help shape younger voices in a mentoring kind of way and the iron sharpening iron and the Body just enjoying every expression. I’m so glad we’re not just a whole church full of baby boomers. Thank you for the different expressions identified. And not to lump everybody generationally in the same categories, but I do pray that we would shape each other and be humble enough to receive that.
So guide us now, as we go our ways. In Jesus’ name, amen.
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