Tiny, beat up sketchers on the feet of a tiny, sad seven-year-old broke my heart this weekend.
The hugeness of an active and intimate God working through the smallness of the intergenerational church mended my heart this weekend.
These two things go together more than you might think.
I know very few people who would not be heartbroken over the sad stories and heavy hearts that show up at Camp Agape. A camper returning to camp for the fourth time because her father is still in prison; a child who is not wanted in her own home and is suffering abuse; a middle schooler who is hard on the surface from being hurt so many times; young boys quickly clinging to their male cabin leaders who may be the only male figure who has shown any love to them all year; tiny, torn-up sketchers on the feet of a first grader who seems to have a frown stamped upon his face.
When viewed through the eyes of an individual person, Camp Agape is heartbreaking. The hurt is so deep and the brokenness so widespread that any one person would be crushed if they were to try to mend these little hearts on their own. They wouldn’t be able to do it. More is needed if anyone wishes to lift the weight off of a little boy with beat up sketchers.
A Big Church
This weekend, I saw the God-given solution: the intergenerational church. God is in the business of healing hearts, and he intends to use the entire church body to accomplish this purpose. He uses the young, he uses the old, he uses every moving member in his body to graft more in.
I had the privilege of overseeing a team of high school and college students this weekend. These are the ages I spend most of my days with. During my typical day, I am strategizing with a team about how we can best serve and equip youth. During my free time, I spend time in community with college-aged church members. These are the people I love and do life with.
But the Lord challenged me this weekend with this: what do I think is going to happen if the church that I interact with and do life and ministry with is comprised of individuals ranging from ages 11 to 24? I am confident that God often uses the young to change culture and to do far more than is expected of them, and I have been so blessed to see that in the lives of our youth. I have seen God use young people at UFC, and I have seen him use them at Camp Agape. But I think what I and many others have failed to see is that we need much more than one group of people to carry out the healing work of the Lord.
Enter in God’s church: diverse, uniquely gifted, encouraging, co-laboring, fighting together to bring about the change that the Lord has called for. As Titus 2 says, we need older men who are sober-minded, dignified, self-controlled, sound in faith, in love, and in steadfastness; we need older women who train younger women, who are self-controlled, pure, and hardworking; we need young people who have the passion and the zeal to challenge systems, cast vision and spur change. We need the intergenerational church.
This weekend, the heaviness I felt in my heart was lifted by the blessing of experiencing all the moving parts of the church. I got to pray with and be encouraged by faithful men and women who have walked longer than I, who have committed themselves to interceding on behalf of young and broken hearts. I got to see moms with a heart for nurturing feed and care for mass amounts of volunteers. I saw cabin leaders in their 50’s partner with 20-something cabin leaders for the purpose of caring for hurting campers. I watched middle schoolers serve as junior administrators, high schoolers love on kids, college students lead by example, moms and dads shepherd kids who were not their own, and older church members share the wisdom God has embedded into their hearts over the years. I watched the church work, and I watched God working through that.
The feet walking in those tiny, beat-up sketchers cannot be brought into freedom by one person alone. But the hurt we witnessed this weekend is not without hope; God is bringing healing to the hurt through the body of Christ. He is not working solely through the hand, the mouth, the head or the foot. God is working through the body. He is healing little hearts through the heartbeat of a big church, through generations banding together for the cause of Christ.
I’m encouraged by how the Lord is using our youth. They challenge and encourage me daily. I am also encouraged by how our ministry is just a small fraction of all the work God is doing in Lane County. I’m hopeful that “God arranged the members in the body, each one as he chose,” and I’m thankful that it is just that—a body with several parts functioning as one (1 Corinthians 12:18). As Scripture says, “If one member suffers, all suffer together; if one member is honored, all rejoice together.” This weekend, we suffered together. We felt the weight of heavy, confused young hearts. But we also rejoice together because God is knitting our hearts together as one body in order to bring glory to his great name and freedom to his precious children.
The tired feet walking in the tiny, beat-up sketchers are being relieved by the feet of God’s church walking in step with one another.