1 Timothy and Titus 2: Gathering Across Generations
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While welcoming a new family into our church, the conversation turned to why they were seeking a move from their previous congregation. I knew this other church to be led by a great team who were faithful in their preaching and strove towards developing a Christ-centred culture in their community. Why would this family want to leave?
“There just wasn’t anyone there our age,” came the reply.
From the context of Christian or post-Christian Western nations, there are many cities and towns where church-seeking Christians are spoilt for choice. (Not a privilege found in many other nations in the world.) There may be several churches, catering for differences in theological persuasion, denominational affiliation, or age and stage demographics in one neighbourhood.
When it comes to finding a church there are many right and good factors to consider (for example, biblical fidelity in both preaching and culture). However, once these are considered, it may be a matter of choosing a church community from a number of good options. When confronted with this choice, it is understandable that individuals and families want a church that feels right. Paul describes the church as “God’s household” (1 Timothy 3:15), and it is natural—and right—to want church to ‘feel like home’ when you gather.
However, for many, this ‘homeliness’ is interpreted as a comfort that comes from being with others who are just like themselves. Young families want to gather with other young families. Singles with other singles. Seniors with seniors. Teens and young adults with others of their generation. And due to the prominence of the Homogeneous Unit Principle and Church Growth Movement—coming from, but not limited to the USA—generations of church planters, church leaders, and those whom they lead, have been taught that the fastest way to grow a church is by targeting specific groups, usually determined by age and stage of life.
What we see in Scripture is a different vision of church. Throughout the Old and New Testaments there is a consistent history of God’s people meeting together across the generations in homes (Exodus 12), in churches (Ephesians 6:1-4; Colossians 3:18-25) and meeting together at large gatherings (Deuteronomy 5-6; 2 Chronicles 20:13) meeting for the purpose of hearing God’s word and responding to him in prayer and song. In Paul’s letters to Timothy and Titus we see that this intergenerational gathering is not accidental but is part of God’s purposeful design for discipleship.
Paul reminds Titus of the power of the older generations teaching and modelling Christian behaviour to the young (Titus 2:2-7). Older generations have a maturity in the Christian life that is to be a model for those who are growing up in the church under them.
However, Paul also reminds Timothy that as a younger man, he is also to model “speech, conduct, love, faith and purity” to those who are older than him (1 Timothy 4:12). The maturity of faith that produces a model of Christian character is not the exclusive domain of the older adults in the room. Younger Christians, especially children, need the wisdom, teaching and guidance of our older saints (2 Timothy 3:14-15). But older saints need the example, modelling and faithfulness of the young, including children (Matthew 18:2-5). We cannot mature as disciples of Jesus when we are limited to gathering with those who are just like us.
This new family at my church will need peers, those who can minister to them from the solidarity that comes from familiar circumstances. But they will also need the ministry of older adults, senior saints, teenagers and other children in order to flourish as disciples of Christ.
As you think about “God’s household” at your church, who are the older saints whose wisdom you can sit under, and who are the younger saints who can be models of faithfulness to you? And how can you fulfil these roles to others?
The Lift Up Your Hearts devotional series for the month of March 2021 are provided by Canon Craig Roberts, CEO, and his colleagues from Anglican Youthworks in Australia. Today’s devotion was written by Rev.Tim Beilharz, Children’s, Special Religious Education and Boys’ Ministry Advisor, Youthworks Ministry Support. You can find more of Youthworks excellent resources here.
Pray with us today's prayer request:
North East Nigeria. Rev Hassan John reports that the situation in North East Nigeria is deteriorating. Abductions from schools are on the increase. On March 11, 30 students were abducted in Mando, Kaduna State. Travel is tough because of attacks and kidnappings on the roads. The situation is anarchic. Pray for the release of the students , for God's protection on Christian communities and leaders , for the nation's leaders to take action.
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