Community: Hanging with the MAWGs

I spoke to two thousand high school students who were holding a mock political convention and said that unless their generation helps create a “new politics” in this country, all our future political conventions were destined to be “mock” ones. The popular wisdom says young people don’t care about public life. The popular wisdom is wrong. Breaking the death grip of money over politics and dealing with real issues like child poverty in the midst of prosperity are things they really care about.

~Jim Wallis, God’s Politics, Harper San Francisco, 2005. Pg. 353.

Mostly, I hang out with mawgs.

What’s a mawg?  you ask. Sounds like something out of Harry Potter. “Mawg” is an acronym I dreamed up. It means, “middle-aged white guys.” I go to meetings and look around the room and there they are. Oh, all right, there WE are—balding, graying, a little too heavy, some of us in un-cool polyester pants. We are the mawgs, and there are lots of us. We’ve been in the church for a long time and we’re at the top of our game, the peak of our influence. It’s not that we clamored to get here, walking over anybody that got in our way, we’re just here, unwitting beneficiaries of the cultural tilt of the church community in many American cities.

Don’t get me wrong. Some of my best friends are mawgs. It’s just that I get the feeling that God wants more for his church than stratification. He expects more than neatly divided churches, the rich from the poor; men from women; white from black; white collar from blue; young from old. He probably isn’t all that excited about denominations, either, but what I’m most concerned about right now is the young versus old thing. What’s more, I think God is concerned about it, too.

Some time back, I was walking and praying. I was thinking about Malachi 4:6. It says, “He will turn the hearts of the fathers to their children, and the hearts of the children to their fathers; or else I will come and strike the land with a curse (NIV).” Evidently, before he wraps up the story of the ages and puts everything to rights, God intends to see the generations united, young and old turned toward one another. Anything short of that and the whole thing is bound for the ash heap.

With that, the Old Testament was complete. Those were God’s last expressed thoughts for a long time. He spoke of the hearts of fathers and children joined together, and then silence. The spiritual airwaves went quiet. WGOD signed off the air.

Then, one day, some 400 years later, an unsuspecting priest named Zachariah stepped into the Holy Place of the temple of the Jews. He had no way of knowing that God had chosen this day to break the silence. He couldn’t have suspected that he was about to hear the first words of God concerning a New Covenant. And what was on God’s mind after 400 years of silence? Listen:

Do not be afraid, Zechariah; your prayer has been heard. Your wife Elizabeth will bear you a son, and you are to give him the name John”¦And he will go on before the Lord, in the spirit and power of Elijah, to turn the hearts of the fathers to their children and the disobedient to the wisdom of the righteous,  to make ready a people prepared for the Lord. (Luke 1:13-17 NIV)

I have italicized the last sentence of the angel’s announcement because it’s important. It is drawn from those last words of Malachi, the last words of the Old Testament: “turn the hearts of the fathers to their children, and the hearts of the children to their fathers.” What was on God’s mind at the beginning of the New Testament? The same thing that was on His mind at the end of the old: generations in one accord. Is that a coincidence? I bet not.

I believe God is waiting for we mawgs to turn our hearts and receive younger brothers and sisters as partners; to forsake our comfortable meetings and places of privilege; to invite the young into the circle, or better yet, go work side by side with the church as God is shaping it among our sons and daughters; emerging church and established church. I suspect He is waiting for the young to value the contribution of those that have gone before and seek opportunities to build upon the foundation they have laid. God is anticipating a new generation, not defined by its age, but by its passion; not divided by different experiences but joined in the determination to apply those experiences to the advancement of the Kingdom; young and old united together in faith and obedience, a people prepared for the Lord.

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