Volume 18 Issue 2
Mark Abernathy and I were up on the Manistee River in high, fast water. The swollen river was whisking our canoe along pretty quickly, and our best paddling was barely keeping us in the flow.
We hit a logjam at about a hundred miles an hour, so it seemed. From this point it is hard to remember the events, but somehow I was pushed against a log and the overturned canoe pinned me at the neck. Mark was left splashing around in the currents. Cameras, supplies, and lunch were all overboard, and both of us were foundering in the swell. Mark was laughing, but I was being choked to death. My screaming finally brought Mark to my rescue and provided him with the bragging rights that he had saved my life. It also provided, upon reflection, some great lessons.
From the same event, from the same capsizing, from the same drama wherein Mark was thrown free, I was left in a serious fight for my life. Mark could have floated downstream, found a shallow and easily have survived. But I was trapped, helpless, and frightened. It was the same accident, but resulted in two completely different consequences. Over the years I have drawn different allegories from this experience, and it came to my mind again as I thought about the proverbial generation gap.
Martin Buber (Jewish philosopher, 1878-1965) noted in his work Israel and the World that youth often prejudice themselves against tradition or the link with culture because they are diverted from contact with certain eternal values that they must incorporate to maintain the reality of being themselves.
Every new generation is a link in the great chain, and every new ring must be white-hot in the passion of its new existence before it can be welded to the chain as a new link. But both the passion of a new beginning and the ability to join as a link in the chain must go together. Youth must have the essential knowledge that the generations which produced them are within them, and that whatever new thing they accomplish draws its real significance from that fact.
We might say it this way: To be Pentecostal, our young people must have a passion for the truth, and they must have no prejudice against the apostolic tradition to be apostolic. To be Christian, they must be Christ-like. To be guided by the spirit, they must be filled with the spirit. All young people experience the passion for a new beginning, a fresh start, a chance. They need their own realization, their own inspired revelation. This is a must if they are to reach the world with the gospel.
The main point is this: if youth are to be genuine, apostolic innovators they must be bound to the faith which was once delivered unto the saints. If they depart from the faith (I do not mean man-made mechanical religion), then all their innovations and all their talents are invested in something other than that which is the substance of their own Pentecostal reality as born again believers.
Bubers position in the above quote is powerful in that he argues for a white-hot passion between generations. You cant weld metal unless both pieces are very hot, equally hot. An older generation cannot weld a younger generation to that which has become stale and uninteresting. Neither can a younger generation become their own generations sons of thunder if they divorce themselves from the Bible, from truth, and from tradition. They must have a passion for that which belongs to the apostles, to the early church, and to us. And when spirit-anointed men, on fire and uncompromising, meet a fired up, ready-to-go generation (which I believe we have, right now), then the weld is made, the faith holds, the future is secured, the living Word is passed, and the identity with Jesus and the Apostles is maintained. Perhaps here we should note that youth will demonstrate no desire for that which their parents have grown tired of themselves, a faith that their elders have placed in a moldy basement like an obsolete eight-track tape player.
On the river, Mark and I needed to establish contact in order for me to survive. And we needed to establish it quickly. We couldnt turn off the river and stop the rushing waters; we needed to escape. He needed to quit laughing and recognize my situation. I needed to be saved and he needed to save me. He was all I had. I did not need criticism or a lecture. I did not need Mark to tell me how cold the river was or how fast it was or how blessed he was not to be trapped under a log, gulping muddy river water as I was. I needed his help, his intense, fired-up concern. Thankfully, a partnership was quickly formed and our energies and strengths were put together for the rescue. We both survived.
That day, the river was our reality. The reality of this day is the general perversion of morals and religion brought about in large part by the persuasive and powerful elements of modern technology. Our survival depends on the welding together of todays youth and the veteran keepers of the flame so that apostolic revival can surge forward to the next level.