Craig Groeschel (founder of LiveChurch.tv) delivered a provocative message on Bridging the Generation Gap at Willow Creek’s Leadership Summit. He addressed the tension between seasoned and emerging church leaders. For a detailed summary of Craig’s message, see Mark Sanborn’s blog or Tim Peter’s blog.
Here, I want to just sum it up. To the older generation, Craig says: “I beg you not to resent, fear, or
judge the next generation. Believe in them because they need you.” To the younger generation, he says: “You need those who have gone before you more than you can imagine.”
Craig’s message has significant application to the mix of seasoned and emerging voices regarding how the church can respond effectively to homosexuality. An unprecedented cultural and technological shift has resulted in a rapid emergence of new voices with new ideas on this old topic.
We are in uncharted waters. There is an anxiety about what will happen next. How far will you take love, seasoned leaders ask. You didn’t love people so well, younger leaders counter. What makes this more complex is that this generation gap is not solely based on age. Geographic location, family history, personal experience and denominational affiliation (or lack thereof) play into this gap as well.
In 2006, Lead Them Home lived out the joy and the pain of this gap. My ministry was called a compromise by some ex-gay leaders. Since that time, the most recognizable ex-gay leader – Allan Chambers – has embarked on repositioning Exodus with a ministry vision very similar to Lead Them Home. Not surprisingly, he has been applauded by some – but heavily criticized by others.
More recently, young writers like Wesley Hill have emerged as effective communicators of the Gospel to LGBT+ people. I encourage folks to read his book, Washed and Waiting. While I am – age wise – set in a history that understands the seasoned voices well, God gave me a ministry calling in 2003 that aligns better with the emerging voices. Not all, however, are comfortable with these new voices.
Interestingly, most of those who represent seasoned and emerging voices on homosexuality within evangelicalism actually share the same doctrinal beliefs! The differences involve “how to engage, relate to, care for and extend Christ to LGBT+ people.” Yet it is not that simple – some new evangelical voices are shifting from orthodoxy: they are becoming pro-gay. Hence, the anxiety and tension expands.
I will close up this post by proposing that Craig Groeschel’s challenging message applies well to all of us who speak on the topic of homosexuality. In short, we need one another. We need the posture of love in the emerging social justice generation. Likewise, we need the doctrinal orthodoxy of seasoned voices. But what we most need is the posture of Jesus who never lets go of moral truth even as He radically loves people right where they are.
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