(Photo: Catalyst Conferences/Ryan Longnecker)
IRVINE, Calif. – Pastor Craig Groeschel, speaking before 3,500 Christian leaders at Catalyst West, urged younger and older generations within the church to invest their time and efforts toward each other to create the unity needed for change.
The leader of the multi-site LifeChurch.tv that draws 30,000 people every week told those in attendance at the conference hosted at Mariners Church in Irvine, Calif., that it was time to address "generational tension."
"Those who are older will say those that are younger are arrogant and those that are younger will say that if they were in charge they would do things differently," said the 44-year-old Groeschel, who began his frank discussion by addressing the older generation.
"Every single thing that I am doing today in ministry is the result of those in the previous generation that invested in me," he said during the second day of the 3-day event that ended Friday. "Everything that I am able to do to make a difference for the glory of God and for the name of the risen son Jesus is the result of those who went before me and invested in me."
Groeschel implored the older generation of Christians to believe in the younger generation and set aside "a whole lot of resentment and misunderstanding."
"Do not fear, resent, or judge the next generation. Believe in them, they need you so much," he urged. "One of the reasons we often find it difficult to believe in the next generation is because sometimes we become a little insecure. We often question ourselves, do I still have what it takes. Can I still connect? Am I still relevant in ministry?"
Groeschel encouraged the older generation in the audience to "hear this as if it is from God: If you are not dead, you are not done. Your best days of ministry can be right now as you invest and give the ministry away to the next generation."
He said that church leaders should not simply assign tasks, but delegate authority to younger people.
"When we delegate tasks we are creating followers. When we delegate authority we are creating leaders. We want to create leaders in the next generation," he said.
Another factor in being a good mentor to a younger Christian is the need for authenticity.
"Be yourself. You don't have to be the cool big brother or cool big sister. You may be the granddad. You might be the father figure and that's a good thing," he explained. "There's nothing worse than a fat, 50-year-old in skinny jeans. Authenticity trumps cool every single time."
He added, "Your age, your wisdom, and your experience are the greatest gifts you can give to the next generation."
While addressing the younger generation of Christians, Groeschel said, "You really need those who go before you. You desperately need them. They can be the greatest asset in your ministry, in your life, and in your marriage."
Citing several studies, he said that young people are often perceived as having a sense of entitlement. However, it's not the fault of young people because they are often over protected, and over provided for, he noted.
"Here's the challenge for the younger generation. Because you often feel entitled you often overestimate what God wants to do with you in the short run, but you underestimate what He wants to do through you in the long run," he said.
"You need to submit yourself now. You need to get under leadership now. I believe that a dishonoring younger generation is limiting what the whole church of Jesus Christ could do and it's time that we show honor. Honor builds up. Dishonor tears down. Honor believes the best. Dishonor believes the worst."
Groeschel then had some encouraging words for the younger generation.
"I believe in you because you are the most cause-driven, mission-minded generation perhaps of all time. There's something inside of you that can't settle for making money in a career, but you have to make a difference. You'll die to make a difference. You would rather lay down your life to meet the needs of people and to do it for the glory in the name of our Savior Jesus Christ," he said.
"You are a chosen generation. You are a people belonging to God. You have the same spirit that raised Christ from the dead."