I was recently sitting with four pastors and two of them were pastoring churches begun by their fathers. One of the pastors had recently lost his father. One of the other pastors had his father sitting with us. Then these two younger pastors, in their 40’s, asked me this question: “What was it that our father’s received in the revival that we need to pass on?”
Suddenly I realized that I had never been asked that question before. Yes, I thought of several things associated with the move of the Holy Spirit and the powerful revival that moved through many nations in the 1960s and 1970s. But I had not intentionally thought about specific issues, principles, and revelations that must be transmitted by faithful stewards to future generations. It had to be even more than the emotions, excitement, or the miracles that we saw.
I replied, “Let me think more about this question.” And I have been thinking about this question almost daily. The question has led me to focus on our broken “generational bridges,” the failure to pass the truth on to future generations. Churchill wisely said, “If we lose the past, we lose the future.” When I was a senior in high school, our class in 1955 was asked to create a motto; my motto was, “Upon the past, we build the future.”The class adopted it as our motto.
What if we forget the past or were never taught it? The Bible is filled with warnings about that. Malachi 4:5-6 warns that if fathers and sons hearts are not turned toward each other, a curse will follow. My friend, Derek Prince said, “Were it not for the New Testament, the last word in the Bible would be “curse;” a curse caused by our broken generational relationships.
WHEN THEY FORGOT
Exodus 1:8 says, “There arose a king who did not know Joseph.” After all that Joseph had done for Pharaoh and to save Egypt from famine, Joseph was forgotten. Then came slavery, strife and plagues, destruction, loss of sons and of resources.
Daniel chapter 7 tells us that there arose a king in Babylon who didn’t know who Daniel was, even though Daniel had served Nebuchadnezzar, had been appointed president, interpreted dreams, and became a famous Israelite in Babylon. Daniel was a great prophet whose insights are still relevant to us. Yet Belshazzar didn’t know him. The stories were not passed on. But when the finger of God wrote on the wall that Belshazzar’s kingdom had been “weighed in the balance and found wanting,” someone remembered Daniel, but it was too late. Babylon was conquered.
I could go on with this human problem. Empires arise and empires fall when they cease to pass on their founding principles. Today in the United States, we can name a city or state after a great person, and even live there, and still not know who he or she was or what they did. There is no connection and no content.
Yes, even churches can be named after some person or principle, but members do not know what or who it was. Then they began to fade. Broken generational bridges cause broken futures. Churches born in revival fires can then become ashes.
My father’s mother worshipped in a “brush arbor” church away from downtown. The Holy Spirit would move in power, and I was told that she would lift her hands and shout. Now that group meets in nice facilities, but they don’t shout anymore, nor do they remember when or why they did.
Psalm 145:4 says, “One generation shall praise your works to another.” When they do that, God’s work continues. First Kings 19 and Second Kings 2 tell us the story of Elijah and Elisha, two of the greatest prophets. The Lord led Elijah to cast his mantle upon Elisha; then Elisha followed Elijah, and he would not quit even when given the opportunity. He would not be distracted but kept his eyes on Elijah – he watched and learned as a true disciple does. One day he saw Elijah taken up to heaven and cried out, “My father, my father.”Elijah’s mantle fell and Elisha took it up. Then he cried out, “Where is the Lord God of Elijah?”Elisha did not ask where Elijah was, but where is his God? Miracles continued because the generational bridge was strong!
How did that happen? They spent time together; they knew one another; they were spiritual father and son. The truth traveled over a bridge of love and connection.
We could discuss David’s love for Solomon, and how he provided for Solomon to build the temple. But David did more than provide – very generously, he prepared Solomon who became extremely wealthy and famously wise. Provision is important, but not the same as preparation. Many parents provide but fail to prepare. As wise as Solomon was, he provided for his successor, Rehoboam, with massive wealth. But he did not prepare Rehoboam, who then ignored the wisdom of the past and immediately lost rulership over ten of the twelve tribes of Israel.
Another great bridge builder was the Apostle Paul. Second Timothy records what is likely Paul’s final message to his spiritual son, Timothy. In First and Second Timothy, Paul often refers to Timothy as his “son” and his “beloved son.” In Second Timothy chapter two, Paul tells Timothy to teach what he had heard from Paul to faithful men who would teach others also. Notice there are four generations: Paul, Timothy, faithful men, and others also. The bridge between these generations was to be strong, and it was. It has been so in many generations because we still have those truths!
Of course, the greatest bridge builder is Jesus, Who chose disciples, unlikely disciples, and demonstrated the truth that He is to them and to us. He demonstrated the power and love of God to them. Truth traveled over the bridge of love and removed the curse from them and from us.
THE “GREATEST GENERATION”
The American generation of the 1930s and 1940s has been referred to as the “greatest generation.” I am not saying that they were the greatest, but they were great. They are called that because they endured the great depression of the 1930s and then won the dreadful World War II. They were willing to die for their nation and for liberty. They believed in and fought for our classic principles and values. Many of those people died for the truth and we are heirs of them.
In the 1930s, provision was often meager; there was little money or goods to be had. Parents went bankrupt and lived off the land. While provision was meager, preparation was strong and character was built through testing and difficulty. Young men and women worked alongside their parents. Families were most often strong and durable. When the German Nazis and Imperial Japanese Navy attacked, that generation stood up and were victorious. So, we inherited prosperity and liberty. Our generation has become stewards of many precious treasures. Sadly, some are taught to “trash the treasures” in favor of untested and unproven ideas. Many bridges are broken, and malicious motives wait on the other side of the bridge. Depression, suicide, drugs, gender confusion, and other issues plague our children.
WANTED: BRIDGE BUILDERS
The haunting question for me is this: Can we restore the broken bridges? Can we reconnect the generations that have been torn apart? It is getting late, many remain asleep, and many cannot answer the question these two young pastors asked me: “What did our fathers receive that we must pass on?”
I have personally witnessed the depression, suicide, drugs, gender confusion and other issues that confront the emerging generations. Then I look at the rapidly emerging artificial intelligence that threatens our very humanity. The challenges are formidable as social media too often becomes the “parent” in this storm. Is there hope? Yes, if we take responsibility to rebuild because truth in love is powerful! So, how can we go about this sacred task?
- Seek the Lord while He may be found and call upon Him while He is yet near (see Isaiah 55:6-7).
- Repent of irresponsibility. Stop blaming others for our own failure (see 2 Chronicles 7:14).
- Be led by the Holy Spirit (see Romans 8:14).
- Know the Truth, the Word of God (see John 14:6; 2 Timothy 2:15).
- Love your father and mother; and parents, love your children (see Matthew 15:4; 19:17-19; Psalm 127:3-5; Ephesians 6:4).
- Teach your children the Word of God and history. Tell your personal testimony (see Psalm 78).
- Spend time with them as a priority. Remember, even when they don’t seem to listen, they do watch.
- Pray for them daily and pray with them. When we are gone, God still remembers the prayers.
- Make a list of things you want them to remember. Record your stories on video or audio. Take and share lots of photos.
If you have not already, I urge you with all my heart to commit yourself to building a strong bridge with children and young people by relating with them, listening, and speaking the truth in love (see Ephesians 4:15). Remember, as President Theodore Roosevelt once said, “Nobody cares how much you know until they know how much you care.”
Prepare the next generations to take up the treasures as good stewards and pass them on. Our Lord holds us accountable (see 2 Timothy 4:1). Please do not put your responsibility on someone else or some institution. If we do a good job, our older years can be Golden Years! May it be!
This article is excerpted from Charles Simpson’s Ministries pastoral letter dated June 2023.
Top image credit: background abstract artwork of blurry colored lights, from Bigstock.com, © by dpaint, stock photo ID: 16573031. Used with permission. Quote added.
Charles Simpson is an internationally-known author, Bible teacher, and pastor, serving in ministry since 1955. His humor and story-telling often carry a deeper message that is prophetic in its timeliness and timelessness.
Born in New Orleans in 1937, Brother Charles grew up as the son of a Baptist pastor in the bayous of Louisiana, and then later in southern Alabama. He responded to God’s call into ministry in 1955 at the age of eighteen, and two years later, he became the Pastor of a small Baptist church in Mobile, Alabama. Brother Charles completed his Bachelor’s Degree at William Carey College, Hattiesburg, Mississippi, in 1959, and attended New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary.
In 1964, he experienced a profound personal spiritual renewal and began traveling and teaching in churches worldwide. He became widely recognized as a pioneer in the modern Charismatic Renewal Movement. Charles Simpson became part of the inaugural issue of New Wine Magazine, an international publication dedicated to Christian Growth, in 1969. During the next seventeen years, Charles wrote and served alongside other notable Bible teachers on the board of New Wine, including Don Basham, Ern Baxter, Bob Mumford and Derek Prince.
Brother Charles and a team of pastors founded Covenant Church of Mobile in 1973, based on organic home cell-groups centered on making disciples of Jesus Christ and extending Christ’s Kingdom around the world.
Charles Simpson is the author of numerous books, including Courageous Living: How to Move in the Power of God’s Unfolding Plan for His People, and The Challenge to Care, both first published in 1986 and 1987 by Servant Books, Ann Arbor, Michigan USA.
Today, he serves as a spiritual father to many pastors and as a consultant to churches and businesses, traveling and ministering globally. He is the Editor-in-Chief of One-to-One magazine, and is a featured writer in every issue. Charles resides in Mobile, Alabama. His wife of 47 years, Carolyn, went home to be with the Lord in 2008. Charles has three adult children and nine grandchildren.