Despite the 45-year age difference, two of the closest people in my life are my grandparents. Our relationship goes far beyond the occasional trips or calls. There is a genuine love for one another.
This type of grandchild-grandparent relationship is rare, especially as both parties get older. Growing up, I would spend most of my days with my grandparents as my mom worked multiple jobs a day to provide for us. The more time I spent with my grandparents, the more I interacted with their peers — or what I used to call them — “old people.”
I pulled pranks on my grandparent’s peers, and I lost my weekly allowance to their late night card games. I accompanied them as they went to nursing homes. They gave me money (…$1…) to negotiate at the local flea market for the sports item I inevitably wanted. I illegally sat and played Keno at the Coffee Shop. I even took up the hobby of reading the newspaper.
I was 12-years-old going on 65-years-old — and I loved every minute of it … for the most part.
The more I was around the older generation, the deeper the stories got. I’m fairly certain 90 percent of their stories were fabricated for story-sake. I can confirm 99 percent of my grandfather’s stories are. There are cousins in our family who think he was in the mob!
The stories eventually turned to conversations about old houses, food and automobiles.
“When I was your age, I could get a hamburger and a soda for 15 cents. Those were the good ole’ days.”
“A brand new car cost $2,000. Those were the good ole’ days.”
“My first house cost $10,000. Those were the good ole’ days.”
In the beginning, I nodded my head as I anxiously waited for the next topic of conversation. As I got older, it clicked, and I learned about inflation. So, I always made sure to interject this to their stories:
“But, didn’t you only make a few thousand of dollars a year? We make more today, so everything costs more.”
I knew once I said that the conversation would change!
The statement ‘the good ole’ days’ feels innocent by nature. It’s a fun conversation — especially with those older than 60-years-old.
The slippery slope of this statement and perspective comes in when we magnify it on to the Local Church. Through conversations with church leaders and personal experiences, the mentality of this statement often places immovable obstacles in a local church experiencing change.
Whether intentionally or unintentionally, this statement usually coincides with style differences (music, dress, service, etc.), a pastoral change, or in regards to the vision of the church.
The Book of Ecclesiastes is an interesting one. The author, Solomon, paints a painful reality of life from his perspective. It’s a perspective of ups and downs — and about everything else in between. Here’s what he said:
Unfortunately, when this mentality is prevalent in the Church, it creates an overall undertone for the following:
It prevents the church from moving forward.
It’s simple really. You can’t move forward when you’re looking back.
One of my favorite answers of all-time regarding this came by Patriots coach Bill Belichick. He was interviewed five days after his team won Super Bowl 49.
A few days after coming off a great victory, he was already looking forward to the future. This same sentiment is seen through his main leader — Tom Brady. Brady’s famously quoted by saying his favorite Super Bowl is “the next one.”
Every non-sports or Patriots fan just rolled their eyes, but we can’t deny this principle in the Local Church setting.
Successful teams, businesses, individuals and — yes — churches, are those not resting off the laurels of the good ole days.
I’m willing to bet God did some supernatural things years ago in your life and the life of your church. Those moments are to be igniters for today, not as memories we constantly crave. God wants to do something new — in you and through you — today.
It minimizes what God is currently doing.
I’ve read about what happened at Azusa Street in the early 1900’s. I heard about the Brownsville revival in the mid 1990’s.
To a lesser scale, I knew the history behind Bethany Church when we attended. I knew the past of Pineville First Assembly of God during our first ministry assignment. I’m keenly aware of our current church’s past as well.
Like you, I marvel at what God did in those situations. But, did you know God is still doing the same thing today?
God’s main mission statement for his people is to embrace and preach the Gospel. The Gospel is that Jesus is our Savior, he died in our place, he was resurrected and is alive today. Because of this, we have the opportunity to accept his gift and sacrifice and have an intimate relationship with Him.
So, when people who don’t know Jesus embrace this Gospel message — that’s what God has always done. Yes, in the good ole’ days.
We’re dancing a fine line if we minimize God’s role today and impact simply because it doesn’t look like it did years ago.
It creates a generational divide.
Ah yes, the constant tension between “young and old.”
Here we are in 2019 and we still have to talk about generational divide within the church. Does anyone else feel like we’ve been talking about this forever?
There’s a lot of situations and ideals that cause a gap between generations. I’d suggest this statement is one of the largest.
When an older individual tells a younger leader they wish the church would go back to the ‘good ole’ days’ it immediately nullifies everything the leaders is doing. A wall is put up as if the undertone is, “nothing you ever do will replace what happened in the past.”
I’m blown away that church congregations or boards vote in pastors under 40-years-old, but expect them to operate like they are 65-years-old.
If the roles were reversed, and a young church congregation or board voted in a pastor over 65-years-old wouldn’t it’d be foolish to think this 65-year-old, pastor would operate like he or she was 30?
When we have unhealthy expectations of what our leaders and churches should look like, it creates an on-going internal battle. This battle is where churches go to die.
So, what’s a healthy approach?
Let’s start by removing this statement from our vocabulary pertaining to The Church. This goes for all people. I was often guilty for wishing I could go back to my time and experiences at a previous church during my first ministry role.
Let’s create a healthy dialogue. Younger leaders — if an older individual says this, ask them what makes them want to go back to those days. Take the good and leave the bad. You might find that they desire for new families to engage in church while reaching the community like the church did in previous years. This is an easy transition to what you’re likely trying to accomplish.
For those older individuals, I know all this change in our world today is daunting. Quite frankly it’s a little sad but in these conversations learn to embrace some ideas and perspectives that may be a little different than what you’re used too.
Look, I know this is all easier said than done but if we individually re-shape our perspective, we can collectively see some things change.
This entire conversation connects back to unity. Keeping it. Protecting it. Working toward it. Creating it.