Over a coffee, in his lounge, we found ourselves drifting towards the difference between our two generations. Obviously, we have to make sweeping statements when speaking about generations. I cannot say that I am able to understand fully what he meant nor can I assume that I can completely capture the heart of his reflections.
The most impacting comment started it for me, when he said that: " your generation wanted to die for something while my generation want to live for something." Wow, this was a very weighty moment as I knew we were onto something here.
It is true of my generation - certainly in RSA. We did want to find our hill to die on. Having grown up at a time when the military was compulsory, we did go to the army, some into combat. Secondly, we had to lead our churches through the trauma of a socio-political entity coming to an end as the nation was teetering on civil war - riots did pound our streets. Our economy was fragile and we had to lead our churches through those days. When Dudley came along and gave us a hill to die on, we put up our hands - we wanted to die in a fight worth fighting, and he gave us the privilege of giving up our privileges and securities. Most of my generation left for the nations, often times living in cities we did not love at first, serving in other cultures in which we were not comfortable... and we took our families with us.
This generation coming through now, certainly in the anglo-west, are not interested on where they die, but where they can live. Whilst they honor us hearing our stories, they are not ones they want nor ones that they desire to emulate. They want to live. They want the freedom to fly. They want their own faith stories built around life. They want to belong, but to a conference of peers. They do not want to be led, being told what to do, how to do it, when to do it. They do not want E4 gifts coming into the church and engaging them on weaknesses and failings [unless they really are life threatening]. They will not ask questions like: "Where are we erring? What should we do better? What are our weaknesses?"
Where we wanted to belong to a brotherhood that we would die for, they have no such compunction. They want to belong to a brotherhood, but one that celebrates victories. I fly to Brisbane in a few hours. Our dear friends Leon and Sonja planted a church there a few years ago. This year has not been an easy one for them. But we said that we would do life together and if things get tough, we would be there for each other.
The Millenials are not driven by the same priorities. Life is to be shared, but more around the things that we can celebrate - "I will come to see when I hear of the new folk God is adding, new salvations, baptisms and the like. I am so sorry to hear if my mate is having a hard time, but I am not necessarily going to try to get to you." - this is what I am hearing being said.
For the Millenials, it seems that where I belong, get connected with, is determined more by how I will benefit that by what it will cost me. I want space, freedom of choice, selecting my involvement, what I believe, what I do.
This little blog cannot fully cover all the ingredients in this big conversation. Although I am obviously on a massive learning curve with the Millenials and see much of what drives them as quite selfish, I am grateful for the journey that they are on. I am not sure that my generation was supposed to lay our lives down in the way that we did, all of the time, in the way that we did. We did sometimes surrender our need to know what we believe, what we should do, where we should go, to the very thing that had given us so much life.
I am not sure if our story is a reflection even of a generation or if it was simply the telling of our journey. Anyway, these are helpful moments as we do want to partner together into the future, benefiting from their life's lenses and they from ours.