I am a second generation man. My particular family of churches began one generation before me (I know, we’re just an infant group compared to many of my evangelical brothers). Over the last few years I’ve been reflecting on what it means to be a second generation man, rather than the founder of a new movement, denomination, gathering, whatever. There seems to be some amazing blessings and some serious temptations. Here’s a few lessons that have come to mind for me and my brothers and sisters who share this history with me.
1. God chose my history. I don’t know my future, and certainly some 2nd generation men become the leaders of a new, new movement. But I’m wanting to start at a place of contentment and gratefulness for the position in this story that he chose for me.
2. I’m called to gratefulness. Because second generation men grew up in a new, changing, always reforming culture we’re tempted to apply wholesale reformation language and evaluation and critique of those who came before us. Instead we should begin with a recognition that everything we do have, we received from others. We must resist the ‘newness is always better’ lie. We need to believe that gifts call for gratefulness. I didn’t start or build the churches I’ve benefited from–someone else’s faith, prayers, pain, decisions, and tears were used by God to do those things.
3. I’m called to remember and not assume. Usually if a movement has lasted to a second generation, it has established a few basic priorities. Unfortunately, its easy for a second generation man to take the basic priorities for granted and complain about secondary doctrines or practices that are not established with the same clarity. But there was a day when even the first priorities of this movement had to be chosen. I’m called to remember the courage and benefit of the first priorities I have received, and not assume that there was time to establish BOTH first and secondary priorities with the same clarity. Incidentally, if I focus too much attention and passion on reforming secondary priorities, the third generation will either fault me for abandoning the most important things or, worse, assume that the secondary things are the most important.
4. I’m called to courage. First generation leaders quickly attain a significant level of veneration in the movement. This veneration should lead to gratefulness but not to insulation from evaluation and critique. Its easier to be an “enlightened critic” or a lemming, but observations and courageous questions in a context of expressed gratefulness is the humble, faithful course. Some fond memories from my youth may have been based on wrong ideas that need to be changed. Other weaknessness that were present in the past need to be reformed. This isn’t catastrophe. This is normal. This calls for grateful courage.
5. I’m called to patience and forgiveness. Every generation sins, fails, makes mistakes, and overcorrects. These actions often cause pain. I’ve found that remembering the third generation helps me when I’m tempted to impatience and anger. Those that come after me will see and feel my failures, my sins, my overcorrections, my mistakes. I want to relate to the first generation the way I hope to be treated in the future. How I relate to the first generation is one of the legacies of the second generation man.
6. There has to be a second generation if there’s going to be a third. What will I leave to them? What priorities will they feel in my passion, what example will they see in my character, what atmosphere will they receive as normal. May I keep the first things first, make my own mark in beneficial reforms, and establish a culture of gratefulness for the past and faith for the future.
God chose my place in history. May I be a faithful to it.