The Next Generation
by Steve Klein
via The Bulletin of the Church of Christ at New Georgia, December 3, 2006
As Solomon looked at life under the sun, he observed that "One generation passes away, and another generation comes; But the earth abides forever" (Ecclesiastes 1:4). With the passing of each generation, knowledge, values and even faith are handed down from the older to the younger. Paul thanked God for the "genuine faith" of Timothy, which he says, "dwelt first in your grandmother Lois and your mother Eunice, and I am persuaded is in you also" (II Timothy 1:5).
Sometimes the older generation does not do a good job of transmitting what it should to the generation that follows. Sometimes the younger generation refuses to receive what was left them by their forefathers. When this occurs, the consequences are almost always negative.
British anthropologist John D. Unwin conducted an in-depth study of eighty civilizations that have come and gone over a period of some four thousand years. He discovered that a common thread ran through all of them. In each instance, they started out with a conservative mind-set with strong moral values and a heavy emphasis on family. Over a period of time, the conservative mind-set became more and more liberal, moral values declined, and the family suffered. In each instance, as the family deteriorated, the civilization itself started to come apart; and in all eighty cases the fall of the Nation was related to the fall of the family. In most cases, that civilization fell within one generation of the fall of the family unit. (from Zig Zeiglar)
The effectiveness of one generation in bringing along the next generation not only has ramifications for families and nations, it also has great ramifications for God's people. The reality is that the error that one generation accepts in moderation, the next will accept in excess. In this way, standards of personal morality, decisions regarding the work of the church, and doctrinal soundness can degrade tremendously from one generation to the next. There are churches which were once faithful that have changed so drastically from what they were a generation ago, that if someone from the previous generation rose from the dead and visited, they would think they had walked in on the worship assembly of a completely different religion.
The Psalms have a lot to say to us about the need to faithfully transmit God's truth from one generation to the next (cf. Psalm 22:30; 71:18; 78:4-6; 145:3-4). There is an especially poignant passage in Psalm 48:12-14, where faithful Israelites are instructed to "Walk about Zion, and go all around her. Count her towers; Mark well her bulwarks; Consider her palaces; that you may tell it to the generation following. For this is God, Our God forever and ever; He will be our guide Even to death." Just as the Israelites needed to know exactly how everything was to be in Zion so that they could pass the information on to the next generation, the older generation of today needs to know exactly how things are to be in the church in order to pass that information on to the next generation.
What will the church be like a generation from now? Much will depend on the job we do today of passing down truth, helping the young develop their abilities, and being examples of diligent laborers ourselves.