Monthly Archives: March 2015

Hey! Generation Me – Why Are We Not Engaged?

 Mozart was 8 years old when he wrote his first symphony.
Thomas Jefferson was 33 years old when he wrote the Declaration of Independence.
Henry Ford was 50 years old when he started his first manufacturing assembly line.
Benjamin Franklin was 79 years old when he invented bifocal eyeglasses. (1)

Everything great in our communities is built by people who believe the future is bigger than the past. Losing sight of this principle or once we stop believing that this is possible – people begin to disengage. (1)

I am not convinced that we can convince that many people that we have another “Duke Kimbrell” in our future. Believing that our greatest successes, greatest leaders, or “Greatest Generation” is behind us is a very dangerous thought – one that may paralyze our community going forward. As recent as in the past two years many conversations have arisen regarding the lack of leadership in Gaston County; discussions regarding corporate leadership, leadership of elected bodies, and not-for-profit leadership.

The root of our leadership woes to a certain degree begins with all of us and our perception of who we are, what we are, and where we are heading. For decades our community had great titans of business who later became great philanthropist. In addition, there was an active citizen framework that supported our Rotary Clubs, Jaycees, Kiwanis, Optimist, and etc… Our executives worked together through alliances and the rising stars of the community were strongly encouraged to serve the public in many different ways. This continues to be relevant but with drastically lower numbers.

Certainly a shift has taken place both economically and culturally. Millennials or Generation Y, (born 1977-1995) and Generation X (born 1965-1977) continue to still work for, serve under, and support baby boomers (1946-1964) and sometimes Traditionalists (born pre 1946) in the workforce or in the community. This concept of four generations working side by side in many different facets is certainly interesting as this has never happened in the past. Unquestionably, this is a challenge as the four generations have fundamentally different views and different skill sets. This challenge can be shifted into an opportunity if we recognize that multi-generational teams are much stronger than when isolated by age group and therefore cross the generational leadership bridge. The best organizations are changing their meeting agendas, adding generation specific sub-groups, allowing younger members to have a voice, and adding valuable online and mobile tools to their traditional offerings. (2) It will take time for newer members to cultivate benefits; but by seeing their peers benefit from key connections and lifelong relationships, through creating positive change in their communities and professional lives, we will see young people begin to re-engage.

Motivating our future leaders is essential. The idea of changing our mission, vision, and legacy may rattle a few traditionalists or baby boomers but the new generations’ need to become a bigger part of the process. Past leaders must identify and empower future leaders. Subsequently, young people need to look beyond themselves, put down the cell phone, get engaged, and demand that our future is bigger than the past!

*** Funding for leadership development is virtually non-existent. Consequently, leadership development in Gaston County is not a priority outside of very few organizations. Until the right people with influence and means decides that leadership development needs to be a top priority, it will continue to be piecemealed together and ineffective. In order to close the gap in new leadership we must spend more time, energy, and resources on organized high-yielding activities.

Ryan Schrift
Financial Advisor
Founder of R.J. Schrift Private Asset Management.

(1) Rhythm of Life, Matthew Kelly
(2) Associations and Younger Generation, Thom Singer

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The Mission and Role of The Church in the World

A few years after arriving in Gaston County in July 1976, I was approached by two eminently respected ministers, the late Dr. Hoyle Allred, director of the Gaston Baptist Association and Dr. Doug Aldridge, Pastor at 1st Baptist Church, Gastonia. They invited me to serve on a task force assigned to conduct a research study of religion in Gaston County that was part of a larger visioning effort organized by “Look Up Gaston.” The study confirmed Gaston County had about 650+ churches and the religious community, in most cases, was the most segregated and fragmented segment of the local culture with regards to biblical beliefs, race, education and socioeconomic standing.

The study also brought to light a more troubling dynamic, namely, the toxic mix of deep seated suspicion, lack of trust and fear that constantly percolated below the surface around the biblical and theological differences which divided the religious community. Influenced by suspicion, mistrust and fear, each church found it easy to settle into their unique religious bunker which provided a comfort zone and safe haven from the errors and corrupting threats posed by all those “other religious folks” who just did not measure up morally or who possessed unhealthy, deficient or dead wrong distortions of biblical truth. The chief drawback to this mode of ministry is the unsettling realization that a church centered in suspicion, lack of trust and fear of others reflects little or no similarity with the message proclaimed by Jesus Christ and the ministry into which Jesus called the church. And from a practical standpoint it is difficult to get churches to work together long enough to accomplish anything of substance when suspicion, lack of trust and fear are the dominant motives driving ministry.

Fortunately, there are some signs suggesting the situation may be changing. Pivotal in the church’s move toward a more biblically grounded and theologically informed ministry will be ongoing conversations with one another in the context of prayer, scripture and worship regarding the church’s biblical and theological roots. Below are some key biblical narratives which I think are essential if the church is to become more faithful to its calling and more effective as the yeast in the loaf of life. The list is not exhaustive but, hopefully, will help foster creative and fruitful conversation.

1. Servanthood not Smugness: (Genesis 12:1-4) – The biblical understanding that our being blessed by God also contains the inseparable call to be a blessing to others is grounded in the blessing, covenant and promise God gave to Abraham. Abraham is blessed by God and is called to be a blessing to all the families of the earth. The Hebrew language underscores the inseparable linkage between our being blessed by God and the call to be a blessing to others through the use of the two similar Hebrew words %rB (barak) meaning blessing and hk’r’B. (barakah) meaning to be a blessing to others. Servanthood, not smugness, defines the people whom God blesses and calls.

2. The Church: The “called out” people of God: (Matthew16:17-19) – The New Testament Greek word translated “church” is evkklhsi,a (ekklesia). This word is a combination of two other Greek words ek (ek) “out” and kalew (kaleo) “to call” which literally mean “called out.” The church is not of human origin. Only by God’s divine action through the power of the Holy Spirit and God’s Word is the church created. The church, evkklhsi,a (ekklesia), is the “called out” people of God. It is God’s church, not ours. The church’s mission is far greater than any human endeavor and the church serves as an instrument of God’s love and will, revealed in the Scriptures and focused most clearly in Jesus – The Christ, God’s Living Word.

3. Jesus’ Call to Servanthood is the basis for the Servant Church: (Mark 10:42-45) – Jesus informs his disciples that true greatness is not measured by the metrics of the world’s standards for success but in terms of service to others. Jesus then cites his own ministry and announces he came not to be served but to serve and to give his life as a ransom for many.

4. Grounded in Love not Fear: (John 3:16-17) – The NT Greek word agaph (agape) is used in this text and is the primary word the NT uses to describe God’s unique love that is infinitely greater than human love in both quality and quantity. Unlike human love, God’s agaph (agape) love is: (a) Infinite – without end. It goes on forever, (b) Unconditional – We can never be good enough to deserve God’s love and never evil enough to destroy God’s love, and (c) Transformative – God’s agaph (agape) love transforms, changes for the better and makes new all that it embraces. This is the love that brought forth the whole creation (ex nihilo) out of nothing, that prays for forgiveness amidst the agony of crucifixion, that raised Jesus from the dead, that brings ultimate victory over Sin, Evil and Death and promises to make ALL things new.

5. In but, not of the world. (John 17:1-26) Jesus prays for the unity and oneness of the church in its mission and purpose. The church is also sent into the world. There is no dimension of life that is beyond the concern and the ministry of the church. Yet, Christ’s call to ministry involves the exceedingly difficult task of struggling to maintain the delicate balance of being in, but not of the world. The servant church should engage the world prepared and grounded in intellectual and theological rigor, seeking to lovingly and passionately foster wisdom, understanding and justice and also speaking truth to power, yet, do so without losing its biblical and theological moorings and becoming too much of the world.

6. Jesus Christ is God’s Living Word &The Linkage of Grace and Truth: (John 1:1-14) – In John 1:14, we learn the incarnate and living Word of God, Jesus Christ, is the perfect blending and incarnation of both grace and truth. When differences run deep and the temptations to anger, hatred and despair rage within and around us, sinful human beings and the church have difficulty discerning God’s will and keeping grace and truth connected and in proper balance. Here we need the Redeeming Presence of the Living Christ, who – like He did at the Last Supper – loves us and gives us a new commandment that we love one another as Christ has already loved us. God’s agape love draws us into a new way of living. Perhaps church historian and theologian, Martin E. Marty, is instructive when he reminds us that the spiritual giants and sages over the millennia have shown us that, as fallible human beings, a degree of humility is wise and God’s purposes are often better served when God’s will is sought rather than claimed. May our struggle to become a more “Christ like” church be sustained and shaped by the prayer of the late theologian, Albert C. Outler, “O Lord deliver us from a truthless love that deceives and a loveless truth that wounds. Amen.”

Rev. Gary Weant
Philadelphia Evangelical Lutheran Church