It’s Time to Regain First-generation Faith

Many years ago at The Summit Church, there was a group of people who said, “Jesus and his mission will be first.” That was expressed in two primary ways: They were willing to do whatever it took to reach the lost (even if it was uncomfortable), and they were willing to do whatever the Holy Spirit said.

But here’s what happens: When churches like ours get big and “settled,” so to speak, they experience a natural inertia. Within a generation, they move from mission to maintenance. They go from being reckless in the mission to being comfortable in the institution.

Here’s the difference in first generation and second generation:

  • First generation does “whatever it takes.” Second generation does “only what I’m asked to do.”
  • First generation assumes personal responsibility. Second generation assumes someone else will do it.
  • First generation expects personal sacrifice. Second generation expects personal comfort.
  • First generation sees problems and seeks solutions. Second generation sees problems and complains.
  • First generation sees possibilities and dreams about what could be. Second generation sees barriers and reasons to quit.
  • First generation hears the voice of God firsthand and owns the vision. Second generation inherits the vision secondhand and questions every decision.
  • First generation steps out with bold, reckless trust in God. Second generation sits satisfied in the stability of the institution.
  • First generation fears holding anything back from God. Second generation fears commitment.
  • First generation feels privileged to be a part of the movement. Second generation feels entitled to the benefits of the institution.

Which of those two lists best describes you? What about your church?

Jesus is preeminent—the foundation, the center of everything. He is why we exist. We were created by him and for him. That means he can never be merely an important commitment in our lives. He must be first (Colossians 1:18).

Years ago, when the Summit was still Homestead Heights Baptist Church, we were able to host a Monday night basketball ministry at our facility. One of the men who showed up was 6’5” and nicknamed “Air,” because he could dunk like a fool. (My name, unsurprisingly, was “No, don’t shoot.”)

I had the joy of leading this man and his girlfriend to Christ and baptized both of them shortly after. As far as I could remember, he was the first African American we had baptized in our church. He gave the most incredible testimony at his baptism about how God had brought him from darkness to light, and there wasn’t a dry eye in the room when he was done.

After the service, one of our older members pulled me aside in the lobby and said, “Son, you know I don’t like a lot of these changes you’re making in our church.” As I braced myself for what he would say next, he got choked up as he pointed to the baptistery and said, “But if that’s what we’re going to get right there, you can count me in for all of them!”

That’s the kind of first-generation faith I’m talking about. On the other hand, I have a number of emails on file from the last few years that pretty thoroughly represent the second generation in our church.

The Summit Church is now experiencing the fruits of the bold, reckless, hear-from-God-and-put-his-kingdom-first faith of others. We are the fruit of their audacious faith, yet we too easily trend toward the mindset of second-generation believers.

Second-generation faith is death to any movement. It is time for us and every church like us to regain first-generation faith, because God is not finished with his church.

One of our staff members recently told me,

I realize that all I enjoy here is because of someone else’s bold, sacrificial faith. But I was reading how when Moses passed leadership on to Joshua, Joshua had to hear from God and own the vision for himself. I want to be like Joshua, who inherited the accomplishments of the previous generation but showed his own faith in going after the Promised Land. Our Promised Land is the people we are supposed to reach, and we can’t take possession of it through Moses’—the first generation’s—faith. We need to be the second wave of the first generation, showing the same first-generation faith.

This is a matter of life and death for God’s church and our communities. There are new people to reach. Another generation of children. New nations to impact through church planting.

The faith of the previous generation was awesome, but it’s not enough to take us there. As we look to the Promised Land, let’s do whatever it takes to put God and his mission first in our churches and in our lives.