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Why Are Second Generation Christians So Lame?

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It’s painful to see a church that I love almost completely abandon evangelism, becoming spiritually dry and question the very radicality and community principles that made it so uniquely biblical in the first place. Second and third generation members are the ones that to the largest part try to “reform” the church into a normal, mainline, un-challenging pudding. In fact, I’ve spoken to older church members who were surprised that I was both young and radical – in their context it’s usually either or!

As I’ve spoken to friends about this many have pointed out that this is the usual course of events: revival strikes, people gather around on the blazing cross, a generation passes, their kids think it’s boring, and so revival ceases and has to stir up somewhere else. And yes, I am aware that this is a common pattern. This very thing has happened in the Vineyard, where signs and wonders once used to be normal but nowadays are exotic and sometimes even unwanted. Christy Wimber, the daughter-in-law of Vineyard founder John Wimber, wrote a few years ago:

I have been in service after service throughout the world these past few years where miracles are taking place and the response of the people is one of surprise, not expectation. In fact, I heard a Vineyard pastor say not that long ago that he didn’t really know John, and his model and influence comes from a different Movement. He in fact said he doesn’t particularly like the whole signs and wonders part. And I know this Movement that’s influencing him doesn’t move in the gifts.

That’s fine to me, except it left me wondering as to why he is a pastor and leader in the Vineyard Movement? What is happening now in the Vineyard that he signed up for and bought into?

Should we accept the deradicalisation of revival movements as a brute fact that church leadership simply has to manage rather than trying to avoid? I think not. First, I don’t see this pattern in the Bible. As Moses passed on leadership on to Joshua, miracles didn’t cease and morality didn’t collapse but God’s people remained united and won insanely unlikely victories. After Elijah passed on his mantle to Elisha, prophecies and miracles continued to abound and the apprentice arguably experienced more signs and wonders than his master. And as Jesus handed his mission over to the apostles, they healed the sick, raised the dead and spread the Gospel like never before, expanding church influence rapidly across continents.

Second, I don’t think this “law” of second generation apathy is applicable to for example the Chinese underground church that has experienced revival for over 60 years, or Pandita Ramabai’s Mukti Mission that still is going strong almost 100 years after their founder’s death, or the Congolese church that has seen people rise from the dead and receive Christ ever since the civil war in the 60’s. It seems to be a Western phenomenon, and like everything Western it can change if we are committed to it.

I think that if we build a church stucture that even more strongly ties our lives to radical discipleship and nurtures us in evangelism, pastoral care, Spiritual gifts and equal community we will see less apathy. The Bruderhof is an inspiring example of a church that prevails to be alternative throughout different generations and that young people are happy to be a part of, even though they could expand in their evangelism to recruit new people to the Kingdom. Also, we could use a lot more persecution.

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4 Comments

  1. unkleE says:

    I’m inclined to think a little differently. I think you believe that all the gifts should be available to christians today all the time, but I’m inclined to think that God gifts some people and not others, and works in some situations and not in others. If that is true, then it may be that second generation christians are not so much lame but differently gifted. I don’t suppose you accept tnat way of thinking, but I just put it forward as an alternative.

    • Hello brother! Even when explaining it like that, the problems that I point out remain: we don’t see this pattern in the Bible, and we don’t see it at much in the majority world. It is also a stretch to portray something that is objectively worse and less Biblical than revival as something that was God’s plan all along. NOT evangelising, NOT healing and NOT helping the poor aren’t Spiritual gifts, they’re absence of such.

      • Irene says:

        Micael,

        I think u must have come from a privileged background. So ur worldview is extremely limited and u become very judgemental and self righteous.

        Many people in America are struggling with homelessness, or tortured every minute of the day by PTSD, anxiety, bipolar, schizophrenia, severe autism, addiction, abuse (women, children, or elders) and the lifelong effects, severe chronic pain, and rape and the consequences, etc etc. Being unwanted and unloved. The vast majority of children under the crown are never adopted.

        For people like you, you can only see materialism poverty in countries like Africa and think those are the only people deserve to be helped becuz u cannot see beyond yourself. If you yourself make it in a rich country, surely others can but they just don’t try as hard like u do. You are not thanking God daily that you don’t have mental problems, or wasn’t abused as a child or adult, don’t have to deal with chronic pain, or have a family of ur own while many never do no matter how many potential adoptive parents they have met. You, like all other preachers who are so privileged, u take all these blessings for granted and chant slogan that God is all you need, when in fact, your wellbeing is a direct result of all these blessings from God. So, you feel righteous serving the poor in foreign countries while condemning the poor in the rich countries or ur home country.

        Some people have the gifts to evangelize and help the poor in Africa. Other have the gifts to evangelize and help the poor in their own church or backyard or neighbourhood. Is it possible that the second generation is doing neither? May be. But based on ur blog, u already make the judgement just using ur own limited worldview without considering if these second generations are tailoring to the needs of those hurting at churches in rich countries. It is not all about you and ur worldviews.

        Who needs help? The poor child in Africa without shoes and clothes, or the child in the expensive Canadian hospital’s mental ward crying her heart out the whole day without getting any relief? Or the 60 years old just released from jail without any hope or future or any family or friends after having served his term for a 2nd degree murder? Or the 90 years old sobbing alone for years saying she has made too many mistakes and God no longer wants to hear from her again? Or the schizophrenic who has killed his own mother and is now released from mental institution trying to come to terms and find meanings in his life. How about the child who is abused at home all the time but goes to church with parents every Sunday? Or the old parents whose only son has committed suicide despite being a Christian family their whole life? I don’t make these people up. They are real.

        No doubt, many rich churches don’t give a dame about these people either. But the worldview that evangelism is all about people being fed and knowing Jesus…. is very scary, ungrateful, and critical. I hope u can look beyond ur privileged self and see the pain in some of ur neighbours in rich countries.

        Surprise Sithole is so different from you. He is so non critical or judgemental and willing to help everyone. I wish you have interviewed him about–or see him as–who he is as a child of God instead of the miracles he has performed.

  2. Aidan says:

    I’m not sure which church you’re describing here, but do recognise how my church may fit the description. However I’d contest the young vs radical assertion as both inaccurate and offensive! Whoever said that, it does make me wonder how much of a father/mother they are to young people, rather than just a guide or critic.

    So often in church history it’s been young people who have been at the forefront of radical new movements, but radical movements have always been most fiercely resisted by yesterday’s radical movements. The new thing God’s doing will carry something very old in its heart, but it will also seem in some ways completely fresh or even alien to yesteryear’s expression of radicality.

    I believe there are two common responses that cement and worsen perceived decline:

    1. Blame and blinkered insistence on things not changing
    2. Over-organisation. Further cementation of the movement into a machine. Insisting on more wineskin while neglecting wine.

    Regarding the first point I’d advise a post Joz wrote on the Forward blog: Leaders, Take The Blame (forward.jesus.org.uk/2014/12/10/leaders-take-blame)

    Regarding the second point, if deradicalisation and decline is a deathly common feature that we can observe in so many organisations and churches, but not present in some, we need to ask why some decline while others thrive, rather than jump into condemning a whole generation. Arguably, the persecution faced by many vibrant movements like underground churches is what stops them becoming over-organised, empire building organisations and keeps them weak, God-dependent people movements. I’d advise a post I wrote, also on Forward: Escaping the Man, Movement, Machine, Monument Cycle (forward.jesus.org.uk/2013/02/15/escaping-man-movement-machine-monument). Building a strong church structure wineskin is one of the worst things that can be done when wine is lacking. Find out what God is doing and water the green spot.

    Do lament where the church you’re describing church is at, but let it drive you to God in prayer and in love to your brother. Starting to point fingers will turn decline terminal. What a cooling church needs is for radical men and women to lay their lives down for one another, and to empower any new movement there is in the church, not to build a stronger church structure or control it.

    The fire of a radical pioneering vision never comes from blame or organisation, it comes from hearts meeting one another. The Father will not pour His new wine into old wineskins.

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The author

Micael Grenholm - a Swedish charismactivist residing with the Jesus Army in the UK.

Micael Grenholm - a Swedish charismactivist residing with the Jesus Army in the UK.

Check out my YouTube channel!

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