Church is an Intergenerational Community

By Pr Ho Wei Liang

In the pastoral message two weeks ago, Rev Clive explained the two halves of Ephesians: the first half consisting of theological truths which then exhorts us to live out our heavenly calling through sanctified relationships within and beyond God’s new community in the second. The emphasis on the saved community is clear. Indeed, “spiritual growth occurs primarily in community with others” (ORPC Pastoral Message, 16 May 2021).

In describing “church”, Paul uses the Greek word ekklesia in his letters. It literally means “assembly” or “gathering”. The church is not a building or place, nor is it about programmes, activities, or budgets. It is a living, active group of people—people of all ages—who are called by God to live according to His kingdom values and priorities. It isn’t segregated by age, gender, or interests, but cuts across all dividing lines (Eph. 2:14-16). There are no convenient categories and so church is “messy”. 

In our society which emphasises niche markets and specific educational levels, I wonder if we have inadvertently imported such a philosophy into our churches. Consider this: in our effort to offer relevant and developmentally appropriate teaching and fellowship for each age segment, have we segregated our young from the rest of the church? Splitting up into age groupings makes it easier to teach, but faith goes beyond imparting propositional knowledge. Have we deprived our young of role models so crucial to the passing on of faith? And have we deprived our adults the joys of learning alongside and from the young, of seeing them grow? This seems to hurt both sides.

As theologian Stanley Hauerwas reminds us, intergenerational ministry also benefits the adults because it helps them reach their full kingdom potential. He writes, “For Christians, there is no ‘Florida’ (retirement) even if they happen to live in Florida. That is, we must continue to be present to those who have made us what we are so that we can make future generations what they are called to be. Aging among Christians is not and cannot be a lost opportunity.” (Growing Old in Christ, p. 182)

Through the church united in Christ (Eph. 2:14-16), God has made known His wisdom to all spiritual principalities and powers (Eph. 3:10); through the church, they have also learnt that they too have a place in the grand plan of God (Eph. 1:9-10; Col. 1:19-22). The oneness of the church plays such a critical role in the universe, may we live up to our heavenly calling.