Building the multi-generational church has been the theme around Tri-State Fellowship now for more than a decade, and we have seen it happen. We are now quite a diverse congregation of all ages across the spectrum.
What motivated this theme? A first answer is simply the matter of preservation. There is a pattern of church life that, if unchecked and non-addressed, naturally flows toward a congregation aging in place. Over time, older generations dominate in numbers and ministry focus, and before long there is nothing remaining but older congregants. Eventually the church dies out.
But beyond mere practicality and institutional survival, the best church is one that has all of the generations within its walls and functioning in fellowship and service. This is the expectation we see in the New Testament. Each generation has strengths and liabilities, and the biblical picture is one of a pervasive attitude of service toward others at different stages of life and maturity. Everyone has a part to play in looking away from self toward others, and that will mean yielding personal preferences sometimes. It means that you won’t always get the worship style you want or to have everyone else walking life at the same place you are. You have to choose to exhibit what I have termed over the years “preference deference.”
Here in Titus 2 we see Paul giving some words of instruction for older and younger, men and women, and even those who lived is servile social relationships and circumstances essentially as slaves …
2:1 – You, however, must teach what is appropriate to sound doctrine. 2 Teach the older men to be temperate, worthy of respect, self-controlled, and sound in faith, in love and in endurance.
There is a sort of thing that happens when aging as a man, after having had to work hard to provide for everyone else. There may come a train of thought that says to get off that rat race, forget all the fetters that have bound you to schedules and routines, and just live for yourself for once! Paul says to teach that this is foolishness – that a temperate and respectful lifestyle is more valued now than ever. Don’t be the next “old fool.”
2:3 – Likewise, teach the older women to be reverent in the way they live, not to be slanderers or addicted to much wine, but to teach what is good. 4 Then they can urge the younger women to love their husbands and children, 5 to be self-controlled and pure, to be busy at home, to be kind, and to be subject to their husbands, so that no one will malign the word of God.
Who doesn’t like a grandmother? Older women have so much to offer to everyone, but particularly to younger women. Getting older in a church is not the time to retire from ministry. NO, it is rather the time to have the greatest of impact. Some para-church ministries like MOPS (Mothers of pre-schoolers) and CBS (Community Bible Study) have so profoundly modelled the truth of these verses.
2:6 – Similarly, encourage the young men to be self-controlled. 7 In everything set them an example by doing what is good. In your teaching show integrity, seriousness 8 and soundness of speech that cannot be condemned, so that those who oppose you may be ashamed because they have nothing bad to say about us.
My mother used to use a phrase about a young man who was living a bit riotously, saying that “he was sowing his wild oats.” She even said that is the way my dad was when she met him! I’m still not sure what that actually means, but it is more than a bit common that young men are often slow to settle down into a responsible lifestyle. Titus was to encourage this, particularly by being a model of it himself. A highly responsible 20-something young man has great respect and opportunity. And being so because of eternal values is a wonderful model for the gospel message.
9 Teach slaves to be subject to their masters in everything, to try to please them, not to talk back to them, 10 and not to steal from them, but to show that they can be fully trusted, so that in every way they will make the teaching about God our Savior attractive.
Paul never taught any sort of view about overthrowing the master/slave relationship. As we’ve written on other occasions, this was not like our own history of abusive slavery in America; yet those in this indentured servitude relationship probably nonetheless longed for a better life. Paul’s focus was on something that was higher and bigger than all of these relationships, and that was the message of the gospel. Contented living, being servants to others, having an eternal values system – these characteristics are what would make the church and its message attractive.
So we need to think bigger. It is not about us and consumer choices in life and church service. It’s about a bigger message and Kingdom. It is about the gospel message and its progress. It is about always asking the question, “What can I give and how can I serve?” rather than the question, “Are my needs being met, does this place feel right, am I being fed?”