BEING a CHRISTIAN in a NEW ERA— it’s a generational thing. Part 1

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“We must become what we seek to create.”— Mohandas Karamchang Ghandi

(Oct 2, 1869 – Jan. 30, 1948  —assassinated on his way to evening prayers.)

     The fact of the matter is that people are different now. Young people find it difficult to relate to the church’s way of doing things. When family structures and society were more stable people did come to church to find answers, to find community, to worship God in a traditional manner. But the breakdown of our society, the dissolution of so many marriages, the Iraq wars, renewed racial conflicts, 9/11, the 2008 financial collapse, and our present political conundrum, have all contributed to the fragmentation of society and isolation of the generations. We have ceased to learn from the older and wiser; this alone constitutes a major fracture in our family cohesion. And thanks to the Baby-Boom of 1946-1964, YOUTH CULTURE (their children) does, in fact, dominate our world.

So when young people ages 14-25 come to church what do they find, generally?[i] They find a shape of Christianity virtually irrelevant to their virtual realities. They find a pyramid power structure contrary to their relationally oriented networked reality. They find generational separation. They find “lecture style” instruction. This is NOT true of every church; but it is true of far too many.

But fear not! Facebook has now has 2.3 billion subscribers, bringing us all back together…, maybe, sorta.  In recent years, more of the Silent Generation is flocking to Facebook to see their grandchildren. So their kids are fleeing for their lives to Instagram and Snapchat. If the Church could do anything to correct this generational drift, it should re-kindle intergenerational relationships; not online, but face to face.

Two American sociologists, Neil Howe and William Strauss, have categorized our generational differences in ways that might also be helpful in our understanding of those differences and in the efforts to bridge the gaps between us… and them. Check out MILLENNIALS RISING: the next great generation, (Randon House; New York, 2000). In essence, generational characteristics must be taken into account when any presentation of the Christian faith is expressed. If they are not considered, both our communication of the faith and its comprehension levels drop into the abyss of vacuity.

The Question for us becomes— How will I express my Christian faith in a way that is appropriate to my culture, to my generation, yet sensitive to other forms of expression, as well as to the world at-large?  In the church context—  how should my worship honor God in the Body of Christ?

Between early 2005 and 2015 NEEDinc conducted a series of interviews with genuine Christians across North America [“Genuine” being defined as a faith whose principles influenced at least 75% of their daily activities]. Each interviewee was drawn from a different generational grouping; each expressed answers to the interview questions in a manner with which they were comfortable.

What we learned from the interviews surprised us a little.

  1. Some saw church as central to their Christian worship while others did not. A common frustration and disappointment in the state of the church crossed all generational lines.
  2. Though all were genuine believers and held a rich faith in Christ, they expressed that faith through worship, music, and societal involvement in different ways and to different extents. This observation followed generational lines and complied with their peer group expressions.
  3. Though younger generations held a respect for their elder’s expressions of faith, it was not reciprocated. Older believers knew little about the formats and subtleties of twenty-somethingexpressions of faith. They judged the younger generation’s faith too emotion-based, too relational, and not grounded enough in a Biblical, comprehensive worldview.
  4. Everyone was willing to consider the other person’s faith expression…, in theory. In practice, well, that didn’t work out so well. “Getting together” at all was the first hurdle to overcome.
  5. ALL considered themselves in process; that is, they understood they were each at different places in their spiritual journey and had much growing yet to come.

Reflection

How would you respond to these five observations? How would you imagine older/younger Christians responding? What commonalities have you observed between different generations of Christians? What issues do you believe still exist between diverse generations? What passions might they share in common? How might different generations of genuine Christians teach each other about their own individual expressions of faith?

NEXT— Being a Christian in a New Era—  Part 2

Gary

[i] I am well aware that to employ the phrase “churches generally,” is impossible. What is at stake here is the general reaction of unchurched youth to traditional Christian worship, whether or not they employ more contemporary worship music.

[Note— If you can find a copy of James O. Gollub’s THE DECADE MATRIX: why the decade you were born into made you what you are today (Addison Wesley Publishing, Reading, MA, 1991), currently out of print, you will learn that the title just about says it all.]

 

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From the Archives

Small_USPS_TruckFrom March 1998

Personal encounters with an obvious Work of God.
An obvious work of God-something that seems kind of rare; you don’t experience it everyday. So it’s nice to relate one such encounter for your reflection.
She was a postal worker; someone who had taken our packages and letters (like NEEDnews) and mailed them out for us over the past 10+ years. In many people’s eyes, someone just to glass over and get on with your life. But God had arranged a divine encounter, as it were.
My executive  assistant, was mailing out some correspondence for me last week when Anne noticed the NEED letterhead on the envelopes, “oh, you must work for Gary. Could you have him call me; there’s something I need to talk over with him.”
So Anne and I met at The Pub for some munchies. “I’ll be direct. I need to find a spiritual path for my life and I have no idea how to find one. You are one of the few spiritual people I know who will shoot straight with me. Where do I look?”
Anne went on to tell me of the personal unhappiness she carried with her, even with “the best husband in the world.” She talked about the 2-3 years of counseling she had just completed when her therapist told her “I don’t know what else to do for you.” She talked about her dreams and the weight of feeling unfulfilled as she approached 50. Then she said, “How would you guide me in the quest for a spiritual path?”
It was obvious that the Lord was drawing her to himself. It was his Spirit at work in her. I was just the guest at the party, the interpreter, the navigator.
So I told her of how Christ came to reestablish a connection between us and our creator. I told her that our ancestors rejection of God’s perimeters for our protection (that’s sin for most of us) had broken our relationship with God and badly damaged our human relationships.
“What you need, Anne is to be reconnected with the God who made you and loves you.”
“But that’s a big step, Gary, and I’m not a risk taker.”
“Anything in life worth going for is a risk, Anne.”
“I know. That’s why I need your help.”
“Well, okay. But really need to talk to God himself. He’s a lot more help than I’ll ever be.”
We just gave her the Guide Book, a Bible.
Gary

Learning to Love…Again

dr gary davis, love, hurt, relationships, clueless, christian, learning to love again

    “It hurts like hell; and then, one day, it doesn’t.”

-Ari Eastman’s mother.

From I PROMISED YOU

I WOULDN’T WRITE THIS.

 

Learning to love again takes everything you’ve got. You have to relearn trust, transparency, touch, and to risk speaking truth. You have to remember love is more giving than taking; that people are not perfect; that flaws and faults always come with the territory.

11 When I was a child, I spoke as a child, I understood as a child, I thought as a child; but when I became a man, I put away childish things.” [1 Corinthians 13:11. NKJV]

Learning to love again is a matter of maturity, fortitude, and determination. It does not “just happen.” It is a decision based on ongoing healing and forming new relationships. It is time to take a chance with new experiences that confirm trustworthiness. It is involves making a commitment to dropping your protective shields and allowing another to know you more fully. It is an adult thing to do. Children simply get mad or sullen, but only for a time. Some adults I have known never move beyond. They wallow in hurt, spite, and revenge. They never forgive, or forget. Somehow, they fester vile to feed their anger; what they do not realize is that this venom is slowly poisoning them from within, like a cancer. Let it go!

To overcome your fear and bitterness, your isolation, you will need to awaken these 4 qualities—

  • Trust (risk). We live in community, not separation.
  • Faith. More likely than not relying on God is a much better idea than stubborn independence.
  • Heart. Activating your passions, your emotions, and fear are worth the risk. Learn to feel again.
  • Commitment. Make a decision to commit is stepping out of your comfort zone. You will have to do it sooner or later. To NOT decide, to NOT commit is a decision to die.

Failure to embrace these 4 qualities will leave you in emotional and relational limbo, encased in the darkness of your soul. It will take work to emerge from your cocoon a new butterfly rather than rotting within a decaying caterpillar shell.

Learning to love again will take real effort on your part. Do not love simply as a response to someone else’s love for you. Initiate love from within. Sponges in the ocean have little more function than to suck up the impurities around them. You are not a sponge.

Again, love is a give and take, not the other way around. You must be proactive, not passive.

This concludes our series Learning to love, maybe again or for the first time. Where would like us to go next?

Awaiting with baited breath,

Gary

Love Hurts

love hurts, relationships, gary davis, hurt, pain, Love Hurts

Being in love is not for the faint of heart. Loving has become a dangerous enterprise in Western Culture. Expressing love, no matter how up-front or innocent, is open to interpretations of manipulation, harassment and aggression.

Let’s start with our own love-wounds. If you have not been hurt through love, you have not loved, or allowed another to love you. Hurt is part of life: it gives joy its perspective. So if you are guarding your heart, sadly, you also have given up hope of ever trusting or loving at another time. The longer this continues the harder it will be for you to ever love, or be loved, again.

Some of those I’ve counseled have constructed such a protective shell about them that they can barely bring themselves to speak. Fear overtakes their lives and they retreat even deeper into their reclusive shell. Others shut down all and any emotion; no sadness, no elation, no joy, no sorrow. They become the living-dead.

If you are tired of feeling no pain, no joy, no love, try implementing one of these action plans.

  1. Find a friend. Anyone. They need to be someone with whom you feel safe, more at ease.
  2. Spend time in sunlight. No, seriously. Vitamin D works wonders on the soul. Take a walk while you’re at it. The exercise will rid your body of the toxins that accompany the pain.
  3. Talk with a counselor about any abuse. Remember, neglect is abuse too. Whether from a father, a sibling, or a bully, or a spouse, your scars run deep. Don’t let them fester and feed your dark side.
  4. Find an empowerment group. You’re not the only one who’s been hurt. Others have been through the same or even worse pain. Bond together with them for mutual building. [Not bitching.]
  5. Come along side someone who has been hurt. That’s right; in your misery reach out a caring hand to someone else. It may do more for you than it does for them.
  6. Cut back on sugar. Sugar is probably one of the most poisonous substances in our diet, causing everything from depression, to heart disease, to early dementia. Eat fruit. I am dead serious.
  7. If possible, confront the cause(s) of your pain. Not alone. Take an advocate or an arbiter; especially if the cause is an abuser. Actually, with an abuser, the best course of action may be a simple old snail-mail with no return address. If the cause is a former boyfriend/girlfriend…, well, they probably will not want to meet with you. There is always email, though. Be kind…, and truthful.

For future encounters, please keep in mind that love is always a risk, even more so in these early decades of the Twenty-first Century. It beckons you to put out a little, and then a little more. Reciprocation will tell you if you are on the right path. Do be careful. But do take the risk. Yes, you may be hurt again. But you will be wiser and stronger to handle it this time around.

On a personal note, I have been hurt by people so much in life that I have lost track. And that is a good thing. If I hung on for resolution of every painful experience in life, I would be a useless blot on the DNA scan of the Universe. So now I struggle to live without resolution, yes, but with great hope and trust in the God of my faith. He has always proven to be faithful, safe, and, for me, a little dangerous. It’s just hard sometime.

NEXT DISCUSSION:  Learning to Love Again.  

 Healing from the hurt,

Gary

You are how you love

love games. Dr gary davis, clueless, christian, relationships, personality Love is a peculiar thing. Every individual has their own Love Language. Gary Chapman categorized The Five Love Languages (1995) for us—

  • Words of Affirmation
  • Acts of Service
  • Receiving (giving) Gifts
  • Quality Time
  • Physical Touch

Most of us fit into one (or more) of these five ways of wanting to be loved.

Our personalities have a great deal to do with the way we want to be loved…, and how we love. [If you have not thought much about your personality I encourage to take these two “personality identifier” tests. The Myers-Briggs Type Indicator test (the MBTI) here— http://www.personalitypathways.com/type_inventory.html, and the DISC test here— https://discpersonalitytesting.com/free-disc-test/ . They are great fun and quite informative. Enjoy! And don’t copy.] Learning how to love another person is just as important as actually loving them.

If you truly want to know how to love another person put your agenda aside and observe the other; a.k.a.- learn their ways. What do you see? Do they like heat? Chocolate? Tech stuff? Promptness? Silence? A good book? Vegan? A good steak? Honesty and transparency? Time alone? Or, time outside…, wandering? Putting out some effort to discover how another person wants to be loved is one of the clearest indications of genuine love.

When my wife and I were first married, I would often buy her quite nice articles of clothing. No response. It took me a good five years to learn that she did not care that much for clothes, style, “outfits,” etc. She loved books. Once I even snatched a bundle of her books, took them to a book store and asked “What are these and do you have any more like them?” I bought her a book. She was elated!

I was loving her the way I would want to be loved, not the way she wanted to be loved. The same goes for friends and fellow employees. Before you give your friend a box of Havana’s, better find out if he smokes. If you want to give your boss a nice pen, better find out if she even uses one…, or constantly loses them.

Our personalities and preferences hold great sway over the way we love other people. We need to learn how to love them the way they want to be loved— in a safe other-centered way. Furthermore, if I might add, do not love expecting anything in return. For if you love to provoke a love-response from the other you are, in truth, loving yourself. You may want or need their love but do not love them to get it. Love them selflessly, expecting nothing in return. That is truly LOVE.

Your personality does have a lot to do with the way you love people, how you love them. Get a grip on your personality. If you do not want to take a test, ask your friends the brutally honest question, “How do I come across to you? To other people?” Give some diligent consideration to what they say. O, hell, take the test anyway. It’s fun. Do it in a group with goodies to munch during the subsequent discussion.

You truly ARE how you love. Learn what that means.

NEXT DISCUSSION:  LOVE HURTS!

 Now buying my wife British murder-mystery novels,

Gary

Why does love even exist?

dr gary davis, clueless, christian, relationships, love, purpose   Try to imagine your world without love? Hard to do, isn’t it. Most of us have been wounded in a relationship. It hurt. Some of us have lost a husband, a wife, or a child. That pain is unbearable; a gut-wrenching vacuum that nothing can fill. If you have God in your life you have a great resource for strength & solace; if not…, how do you ever deal with the agony?!?

Back to my original question— Why does love even exist? Frankly, love is something we all take for granted. It’s just part of the fabric of life. But for some of us love is rather close to an impossibility. Either we’ve lost the ability to love from some past experience, or we are simply incapable of loving or accepting love. We fear love for…, whatever reason. So we always have our guard up, protecting our hearts.

Scientists have concluded that love is an inner chemical response to some external stimulus. Really! So why do we love some people and not others? And why do we not loveeverybody? Equally? Some other species on this planet form what appears to be a lovingfamily entity. Is it? And, unlike humans, they commit for life. Humm.

Evolutionists will insist that love, even if only an internal chemical reaction, is there for the preservation of our species. That doesn’t ring true for me. Love exists for so much more than that. It’s what binds people together; it is the bond of trust, comradery, brotherhood, friendship, parenting, caring for the dying, sticking with someone through thick and thin, remaining faithful.

The evolutionary theory has it all wrong. Love is a gift from our Creator. It fulfills us as human beings. It brings joy at the end of sorrow, peace after suffering, release in finality. It brings elation at that first kiss, and the second, the third…, lalalala. Love exists to force us to define boundaries that are appropriate to the nature of the relationship we hold with each other person, or people, or nation. Love is an inner ethereal reach for meaning and connection to something, someone, outside of ourselves. It is Devine and human at the same time. A “chemical response” can no more define the reason love exists than a bumble bee could describe the Universe.

Love exists, simply, for us. It was built into our beings at the beginning. Period. Please, argue with me.

 NEXT DISCUSSION:  How does love affect us?

 Love rocks!

Gary

Learning to Love-Introduction

There’s really nothing quite like being in love, is there? Being loved, and loving, builds us in ways that nothing else can.

     We live in a culture where love has been lifted up to the highest pinnacle of experience…, and then we complicate it with sex, romance, and shattered relationships. We’ve lost something— a depth of love and any ability to love another selflessly. It’s always about me. Genuine love should be about the other.

     We need to learn to love again— with a rich love, a deep love. I’m not talking simply about romantic love…, but a love that is empowering— for our wives, husbands, our parents, our children, neighbors, and our workmates.

     Love cannot be merely a word or a feeling: it must be an attitude toward living, an underlying approach to everyone around us. Only then will we begin to grasp the wild stability found in selfless love.

     So if you’ve been hurt by love, or simply forgotten how to love, I invite you to join me over the next 6-7 weeks in this discussion about love. Invite your friends into the discussion too. Great fun lies ahead.

~ Dr. Gary Davis

[ALL OF THE STARS, Ed Sheeran—  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nkqVm5aiC28 ]

Some of the facets of love we will be discussing are—

  • Learning Love. What are the different kinds of love? Why does love even exist? To what extent does loving and being loved affect our lives? And what are the effects of NOT being loved, or NOT loving other people.
  • Love Games.  What are they? Why do we play them? What do they do to our relationships?
  • Your Personality and Love. Your individual personality has a lot to do with your interactions with other people. It influences how and who you love too.
  • Love Hurts. Surprise! Giving love that expects nothing in return can lead to deep wounds. How do I recover from them? Giving love expecting something in return is even more dangerous. How are we to recover from love’s life discouragements? Learning to love again is one of the most difficult challenges we will ever face.
  • Trust. Loving anyone involves a measure of trust that lets go of personal protection and says My life is in your hands. How do we learn to “trust?” What are the ingredients of trust?

More issues will probably arise as we move through our discussion. There’s no right or wrong here; only open, honest options for us to knock around.

 Let’s make love an action verb,

Gary