The church is faced with a challenge, this challenge will determine the kind of church that we will have in the future. The ability to speak into the next generation is crucial and the challenge we face. It is hinged on the relationship between the “now” generation and the “next” generation as demonstrated between Eli and Samuel.
It is even more crucial in this transition because the current generation is facing serious challenges and they are living in a fast pace informational time. We call them the Millennials those 35 and younger. The most important group in this generation is grouped between 18-35. As David Kinnaman, and Aly Hawkins said in the book, You lost me, “The story –the great struggle-of this emerging generation is learning how to live faithfully in a new context, to be in the world but not of the world.” This generation he contends, is about doing their faith not just hearing their faith or doctrine; it is about faith in action. The important thing that the older generation must accept is a new mind as Kinnaman, Hawkins stated, “Christian community needs a new mind to pass on the faith to this culture and future generation”. We can still speak into the next generation; the door is not yet closed.
So here is the challenges; how can the now generation speak into the next generation? Are the Millinnaials willing to hear from their predecessors? We turn to the Bible for answers to these questions. I will tell you the story of a boy that became a man and had a tremendous impact on the course of history. This was possible because he had a relationship with is parents and guardians. In the book of Samuel we find a man, a prophet and a priest selecting and anointing the first and second kings of Israel. David the second king of Israel became the symbolic forefather of Jesus Christ. To this day, David remains the greatest leader in all the history of Israel. His life was ministered and poured into by this little boy that became a man, a prophet and a priest.
How did this happened?
Let us step back into time into the 1st & 2nd chapters of Samuel. The parents of Samuel were God-fearing parents (Elkanah & Hannah). They practiced their faith, in particularly Hannah, Samuel’s mother. Her faith in God was unshaken even when Eli, the priest, in charge of the temple worship did not understand or recognized her earnest prayer. She kept on praying and interceding year after of year. Her request was her simply request, Lord I need a child and if you give me this child I will give him back to you.
Parents and guardians must practice what they preach and teach. They must remember their vow to God. Their fulfillment of this vow or pledge will have an impact on the next generation. When Hannah’s prayer was answered she remembered her vow and brought little Samuel back to the priest, Eli, so he could raise him in the service to God. We should not hold back our service to God through the church because leaders are not living right; we are serving God not the leaders.
Let us concentrate on the 3rd chapter of 1 Samuel. The church has been witnessing a mass exodus from its pews of those between 18-35 years old. The transition between the now and next generation, as we will see in Samuel’s life, was crucial. The relationship between those in charge and those that will be in charge is critical. Understanding this relationship, I believe, will help us to be more effective in the ministries of the church. Bridging this gap is fundamental to speaking into the next generation. Let us focus on the two main characters in this chapter, chapter 3, Samuel and Eli. The next generation must listen (hear and do); they must pay close attention to what is being transmitted (hear) and they must follow these Godly instructions carefully (do).
The now generation is represented by Eli. Here are four (4) things that the Eli Generation should consider as they endeavor to speak into the lives of the Samuels’Generation.
- The Eli Generation must not cover up the bad behaviors of their children, (1 Samuel 1:3 & 3:11-14). Eli knew of the bad behaviors of his children and did not corrected them. He allowed them to defile the temple and God was not pleased with this behavior. One might wonder what it would be like if those two boys were mentored properly by Eli. Here we see that Eli was no able to effectively minister into the lives of Hophni and Phinehas. Parents and leaders should not cover up the bad behaviors of your children. Some parents sacrifice the ability to directly speak into the future of their children for the opportunity to be liked. This is a lie from the pit of hell. You are only damaging your children’s future. Parents if you see and know of bad behaviors speak up do not keep quiet. God will hold you accountable for your inactions. In verse 13 and 14 God spoke to Samuel about what he was going to do to Eli and his family because of his sin of inaction. Parents you have a responsibility to speak into the next generation do not avocate your responsibility.
- The Eli Generation should recognize that there is always a second chance, (verse 1-3). 1 Samuel 1:1, samuel said that, “The boy Samuel was serving God under Eli’s direction. This was at a time when the revelation of God was rarely heard or seen. One night Eli was sound asleep (his eyesight was very bad—he could hardly see). It was well before dawn; the sanctuary lamp was still burning. Samuel was still in bed in the Temple of God, where the Chest of God rested.” If you have messed up in the past by not speaking into the lives of some of your children you still have a second chance. Even if you are old and have began to loose some of your strength as long as you have life you can speak into the lives of the next generation. The caution here is that inaction or turning a blind eye can cause spiritual decline. Even thought Eli had failed at speaking into the lives of his sons the Bible said that Samuel ministered unto the Lord before Eli. Samuel provided another opportunity for Eli to speak into the lives of the next generation. As leaders of the church we must allow room for the younger generation to minister unto God. Recognize the opportunity we have been presented with to speak into the lives of the next generation. We can walk along side them and help them to serve God.
- The Eli Generation should be sensitive to the leading of the Holy Spirit in the lives of the Samuel generation, (verse 4-10). This is a crucial time in the lives of the next generation. It requires the older generation to accept the changing of the guard. We have to understand that God is at work and his grand plan has you and I working at different time and place. We have to recognize when it is time to past the baton to the next generation. The fact that Eli a man of God, old, and seasoned could not understand the call of God on Samuel’s life, not one time but twice, is a serous revelation. Leaders and parents we must prepare our lives in order to hear and discern when God is leading and calling the next generation. It might be that what God has hidden from you He is now ready to reveal it to the youths. Jesus said in Luke 10:21, “In that hour Jesus rejoiced in spirit, and said, I thank thee, O Father, Lord of heaven and earth, that thou hast hid these things from the wise and prudent, and hast revealed them unto babes: even so, Father; for so it seemed good in thy sight.” We have a glorious opportunity to help the Samuel Generation discern the leading of the Holy Spirit in their lives. We who are familiar with the voice of God must make it our duty to help others discern the voice of God in their lives.
- The Eli Generation should Recognize God’s call on the person’s life, (verse 9-10). As the Holy Spirit is speaking there is a call of appointment on that life. Our responsibility is to help the next generation discern the call of God on their lives. We have little time and it is imperative that we waste no time in helping the next generation answer the call of God on their lives. What is God leading them into is the question to answer? Help them discern the call of God on their lives. Samuel sought and received the instructions because he “did not yet know the Lord, and the word of the Lord had not yet been revealed to him.” After two times of failure Eli was able to discern that it was God that was calling Samuel. His instructions were clearer go and lie down and if you hear the call again this time answer, “Speak, Lord, for your servant hears.” What a joy to know that you have walked beside a Samuel and help them discern the call of God on their lives and see them live out such call. This is one of the most important responsibilities of the Eli Generatiuon.
Samuel represents the next generation. Here are four (4) things that the Samuel generation should consider as they endeavor to walk into their calling and take over leadership of the church.
- The Samuel Generation must Serve faithfully in the church, (verse 1), regardless of the failures of the now generation. While Eli was busy covering up for his boys, Samuel was serving in the temple. He must have seen what Hophni and Phinehas were doing but he did not succumb to that presser. The Bible said he ministered unto the Lord before Eli. It is key as you serve to recognize that you are serving God first and that those in authority are second. Therefore it does not matter what those in authority are doing. Even if they are sinning you should not give up on your service unto God. God might be calling you to reveal to you his plan for the future. He has a work for you to do. There are lives awaiting your prophetic words. The anointing you carry is for a greater impact on history. It is often sad to hear of people leaving the church because they were offended by what others did. They gave up their relationship with God because of others. Do not let anyone or anything stop you from serving and from walking into your calling. Young people, Samuel, you have a responsibility to prepare yourself for the future. Do not stop serving God regardless of who is not working and doing the right thing. Your life has been ordained for this time so that the Glory of God will be seen.
- The Samuel Generation should seek counsel from the older generation, (verse 4-10). You have a glorious opportunity to get counsel from those that have past your way before. Do not despised the older generation because they might not readily accept your way of doing church. Seek their counsel because they too had to deal with similar issues like you are now facing. The Bible said in 1 Samuel 3 verse 7, “Now Samuel did not yet know the Lord, and the word of the Lord had not yet been revealed to him.” As much as you have been serving in the church there are certain things you have not yet learn. Do not think that because you are more educated and fluent in the technology of the time that you do not have time for the older more mature generation. The issues you face has embedded in them certain principles that are evident in every generation. Those Elis that have past where you are can speak with more authority because of their experiences. The wise man Solomon can teach us a few things on this matter. Even the Apostle Paul in his instruction to Timothy and the Early Church admonished them to develop a relationship between the older and younger generations (Titus 2 & 1Timothy 3). You might be serving but you might not have full understood of discerning the call of God. Let those that are mature in the Lord help you discern the call of God on your life. It is even more imperative to be able to discern God’s call in this generation. So many false prophets are risen up and are confusing and clouding the voice of God. Samuel you need the tutelage of the Eli generation. Making the distinction between the voice of God and that of the world is crucial therefore seek the advice of those that are mature in the Lord. Do not turn your back on the adults because you are aware of their past. Listen to the wisdom and learn from it.
- Samuel should always Recognized your potential. Wrapped up in all of us is a level of potential to do Gods’ work. As you serve in the church you will begin to understand and discern what are the gifts that God has given to you. Do not allow external sources that you do not have control of control you and limit your potential. There are Saul and David to be anointed. There are many people waiting to hear from you what God has to say. There are many lives that you will impact. You are a bungle of potentiality. People will fail, leaders will fail, friends will fail, families will fail and your finances will fail but for heavens’ sake you must keep going on walk into your calling. You can do all things, through Christ who strengthen you, (Philippians. 4:13)
- The Samuel Generation must be honest and speak, as God will let you. No matter how harsh the truth, the truth must be spoken. God is preparing you to be bold. Eli was able to lead Samuel into identifying the voice of God and to ultimately speak the truth regardless of the circumstances. It was this training that allowed Samuel to become such an effective leader. The time you live in will witness an avalanche of people that will want you to compromise by offering position, money and prestige. They will want you to not correct them but to stand with them knowing quite well that your very presence will signify your endorsement of their behaviors. When it was time to face the great king Saul and to look him in the eyes and tell him the harsh truth about his demise, Samuel did not relent. I cannot help but think that the morning after Samuel’s revelation and Eli’s willingness to hear from the young boy helped developed his character. Samuel, understand that God has put you in place to clean up the mess of the Eli Generation. He is not looking for a compromiser like Eli; he is looking for a truth teller. Samuel you have seen first hand what happens to those that fail in their responsibilities and now you can learn from those experiences without going through them yourself.
I conclude with these two reminders. In order for the Eli Generation to impact and speak into the lives of the Samuel Generation it is imperative that they develop a relationship. The common thread in this story was that there was a relationship between the older graying priest and the younger boy; the now and the next generation. Samuel could feel okay with approaching Eli with questions and Eli was able to speak into his situation. It was that relationship that allows Samuel to follow the instructions of Eli. Both generations must make it a priority to develop a relationship between them. Dallas Willard, author of Knowing Christ Today, said “we must connect spiritual wisdom with real-world knowledge and teach through experience, reason and authority if we are going to pass on the values and principles to the next generation”. While there is an effort to classify groups of people around birth year I believe that what we should be focusing on are the principles that can impact any generational transition. Kinnaman, Hawkins said in their book, You lost me, All is not lost, they said, the ‘Millennaials’ (Samuels) are looking more to historical forms of their faith and the younger generation needs the older generations to help them identify the voices of God like Eli and Samuel. It is about helping fewer people go deeper in their faith rather than mass evangelism.
 David Kinnaman, and Aly Hawkins. You lost me: why young Christians are leaving church– and rethinking faith. Grand Rapids, Mich.: BakerBooks, 2011, Kindle location 128.
 Kinnaman, Hawkins. You lost me, Location 3432.
 Eugene H. Peterson, The Message : The Bible in Contemporary Language (Colorado Springs, Colo.: NavPress, 2002), 1 Sa 3:1–3.
 The Holy Bible: English Standard Version (Wheaton: Standard Bible Society, 2001), 1 Sa 3:7.
 The Holy Bible: English Standard Version (Wheaton: Standard Bible Society, 2001), 1 Sa 3:9.
 The Holy Bible: English Standard Version (Wheaton: Standard Bible Society, 2001), 1 Sa 3:7.