I will open my mouth with a parable; I will utter hidden things, things from of old — things we have heard and known, things our ancestors have told us. We will not hide them from their descendants; we will tell the next generation the praiseworthy deeds of the LORD, his power, and the wonders he has done.
Psalm 78 focuses mainly on the sad history of Israel’s persistent rebellion against the Lord. Though he showed them mercy time and again, and though he disciplined them for their disobedience, the children of Israel regularly turned away from God and failed to keep his covenant.
Yet Psalm 78 holds out hope that the future for Israel might be better than the past if those who are mature teach the next generation to know and serve the Lord. In particular, the younger folk need to learn about “the praiseworthy deeds of the LORD, his power, and the wonders he has done” (78:4). Then the next generation will “put their trust in God” (78:7).
This psalm reminds those of us who are mature in our Christian faith that we have the responsibility of passing on our faith to the next generation. Studies show that this is not happening effectively, that increasing numbers of people under 30 are rejecting the faith of older generations. From my experience as a pastor, I know the pain of parents whose children turn away from the Lord. Yet I have also rejoiced with parents as their children and grandchildren come to renewed faith in Christ.
Psalm 78 urges us to be attentive to the next generation. Are we, in our churches, telling the story of God’s wonders in a way that communicates with the next generation? Are we willing to be stretched in order to speak the language of younger folk? Are we living our faith in a way that is compelling to others? Are we embodying the Gospel in our churches, workplaces, and communities?
P.S. If you’re looking for practical, biblically based wisdom on how to do this, I would highly recommend a couple of outstanding books written by my colleagues in the Fuller Youth Institute. Sticky Faith: Everyday Ideas to Build Lasting Faith in Your Kids and Growing Young: Six Essential Strategies to Help Young People Discover and Love Your Church should be read by every parent, church leader, and Christian concerned about helping folk in the next generations to flourish as disciples of Jesus. You can learn more about the work and resources of FYI at their website.
QUESTIONS TO CONSIDER:
In what ways does your church seek to reach the next generations with the good news of Christ?
In what ways do you sense resistance to speaking in the idiom of the next generations?
If you’re under 35, how does your church do in its effort to help you grow in your faith?
How could you share the good news with younger people in your life?
How could you embody the good news in your daily work?
Gracious God, today I’m reminded of my responsibility to share your wonders with the next generations. Indeed, it’s not mine alone, but something I share with all other mature believers. So I pray today for my church, that we will find creative and effective ways to share the good news with younger folk. Help us to make this a priority, to stretch ourselves for the sake of the next generation.
Help me, Lord, to be faithful in this endeavor in my own life. With my children and their friends, may I share my faith in word and deed, doing so in a way that is authentic and open. May I live my faith in such a way that the younger people in my world see your reality in me, so they might be open to hear me speak of your grace. Amen.
Alternative Prayer if you are in the Next Generations
Gracious God, thank you for making yourself known throughout all generations. Thank you for those who have faithfully helped me to know you and serve you. [You might mention specific people here.]
Help me, Lord, to engage deeply with your church. Give me patience when the traditions of previous generations seem so out of touch with where I am. Teach me to engage deeply with those who aren’t just like me, including those who are older. Use me, even now, to pass on your good news to those who are younger than I am.
May I live your good news every day, Lord, in my relationships, in my work, in my play, in my church. Amen.