Friday, February 26, 2010

The third generation

There’s a saying: “From shirtsleeves to shirtsleeves in three generations.” Grandfather rolls up his shirtsleeves and starts a business. He knows what hard work is and won’t spend a dollar he can’t back up. The son grows up in that culture and establishes, further, the business. He starts to enjoy the fruit of a successful business. The grandson grows up in that culture not knowing the hardship and sacrifice grandfather made. When the grandson takes over the business, he thinks he has the fruit coming to him and squanders it. He loses the business and is back to rolled-up shirtsleeves, working for someone else.

A bit simplistic, but it does happen. Often a business does not survive the third generation. Just think: The present head of Toyota is Akio Toyoda, grandson of the founder, Kiichiro Toyoda who established Toyota Motor Corporation in 1937.

A company needs to be innovative and not rest on the laurels of the previous generation. It needs to remain true to the original vision, but expand it in sensible ways.

The baton of leadership in the Canadian Reformed Churches is being passed to the third generation. The immigrants who came in the 1950s, by the grace of God, built the churches up from nothing. Congregations were established, buildings were bought and built, Christian schools were founded. Their children grew up in that culture and furthered the work. They even built seniors residences for the pioneers to live in. The grandchildren grew up in a culture where church life was well established. Most Canadian Reformed youth can attend Reformed schools from K-12.

The challenge for the grandchildren is to hold on to the vision of their grandparents, to established Reformed faith and life more firmly in our country, and not to squander the inheritance. How ought they to do that? By retaining local church consciousness and, at the same time, reaching out to fellow Canadians with the gospel: Inreach and outreach.

There are at least two initiatives heavily influenced by this third generation which are fulfilling the need for inreach and outreach. The one is Roots; the other is Campfire! and Stepping Stones. (More initiatives could be mentioned.)

Recently, as an elder of my church, I was at a Roots leadership symposium. Among other things, the Roots team wants to connect younger and older youth of the congregations and foster mentoring of the younger by the older; at the same time, they want to connect the youth with the elders of the church. This is music to any elder’s ears!

The summer bible camps are great places for older youth to mentor children and teens of our churches (inreach) and to evangelize children and youth who do not know the Lord Jesus Christ (outreach).

By the grace and Spirit of God, the third generation is, I believe, doing it right. They are not squandering the inheritance, but building upon it. I thank and praise God for their enthusiasm, purposefulness and intentionality.

May our covenant God bless the Canadian Reformed Churches for many generation!