This week we began our time of 21 days of prayer and fasting. These next three weeks, we are going to explore the three main things that we as a church are going to be fasting for, The Next Generation, The Next Phase of Community Engagement and the Next era of our church.

1 Corinthians 4: 14-16
14 I am writing this not to shame you but to warn you as my dear children. 15 Even if you had ten thousand guardians in Christ, you do not have many fathers, for in Christ Jesus I became your father through the gospel. 16 Therefore I urge you to imitate me. 17 For this reason I have sent to you Timothy, my son whom I love, who is faithful in the Lord. He will remind you of my way of life in Christ Jesus, which agrees with what I teach everywhere in every church.

Paul chose to fight for the hearts of people rather than fight with people. This is particularly relevant when we talk about the next generation. It is easy to get into an argument or a fight with our kids or young people around us. We can fight and often win the argument however in the process lose their heart.

1. We can all fight for the hearts of the next generation, as we shape rather than shame the next generation.

Paul knew he could so easily force the right behavior from these people he loves and yet lose the heart of the people in the process.  The opportunity to shape people on the other hand is one of the greatest privileges we can have and may even involve what can best be described as short term pain and long term gain.

We have the opportunity and responsibility to shape a generation. How? Pray for them, journey with them, have an open conversation with them, even open our homes and our lives to them, displaying love and grace to them and we need to encourage them into an environment where they can encounter for themselves the risen Jesus and be impacted by Holy Spirit.

2. We can all fight for the hearts of the next generation, as we become spiritual parents to the next generation.

Paul uses a particular group of words to compare and contrast the relationship he has with the Corinthians to the relationship that others have with them.

The first relationship is described by using the term guardians. In some translations guide, instructor, even teacher, not like what we understand as a legal guardian. The word really refers to a servant in a household whose role it was to take the children to school or to tutor them and give instruction or opinion on a range of topics.

There is a big difference between this picture and the picture we get when Paul uses the term 
Father. When we hear the word father as its used in this passage what we have to remember
is that it is loaded with male energy because of the fact that Paul is a male but in the context 
of today’s world the role that Paul is referring to would not rest solely on the shoulders of a 
father figure and so we could easily use the term parent or spiritual parent.

A spiritual parent is someone who:
• Has real love and affection for the child concerned
• Has a vested interest in success of child
• Would want to give best advice, guidance, set them up well
• Wants to protect them from harm, moral failure, foolish behavior, protect from people who 
  would want to bring harm
• Of course they would want to ensure they are brought up well

Our young people need more than just a variety of opinions from people who have no vested interest in their long term futures. They need people who will journey with them, allow them to talk through questions and to dialogue through their doubts. As parents, we need to provide safe places for them to express their doubt and wrestle with their opinions, struggles and pain and come through the other side of that struggle and actually help them own their own faith.

As a church what we give to our children or what we do for our children is not as important as what we leave in them.

3. We can all fight for the hearts of the next generation, as we live lives worth imitating.

Just as Paul says imitate me as I imitate Christ, conveying that the most valuable thing you can do for the next generation is to live a life worth imitating.

Our lives should exemplify not just how we act morally but also exemplifies what discipleship looks like for our kids. We need to model that being a follower of Jesus makes a difference to who we are and the way we act towards other people.

Discussion Questions
1. Share an experience when you have had to fight for the hearts of your children rather than        fight with them.
2. Is there a member of the next generation that comes to mind that you could help shape?
3. In what way could you help shape them?
4. Is there someone you could become a spiritual parent to?
5. Who can you be an example to?
6. In what ways can you imitate Christ in your everyday life?

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