The Generational Relationality of the Church


It would seem, generally, that the further down the stream of history one gets away from the origin of something, the more likely one is to lose a clear vision of that something. Think, a long game of “Telephone,” where a thought, an event record, a religion gets passed from one generation to the next. We generally expect there to be decay in the transmission, especially without the use of video/photographic records. We expect the original participants/thinkers to have the clearest understanding, and then things just get foggier and less reliable from there. We expect our children to forget important things that made up our lives, just as we have forgotten important things about our parents. We expect our disciples to have less understanding than we have.

Paul wrote, “What you have heard from me… entrust to faithful men who will be able to teach others also” (2 Tim. 2:2). Our job as disciples is to keep a really long game of “Telephone” going. Of course, we have the written Word of God to pass on to future generations, but the expectation here is that there would be no transmission decay in discipleship. And in fact, the history of the church has actually demonstrated improvement in discipleship in certain ways, especially in theological understanding. Rather than doctrinal concepts getting foggier with the movement of time away from the origin of Christianity, it appears that Christian thinkers have “stood upon the shoulders” of their predecessors and developed a clearer understanding of God’s Word than earlier disciples enjoyed.

Could this be a facet of the true relationality that stands at the center of Christianity? The Persons of the Trinity have known each other perfectly for all eternity. But God created his people at a finite point in time, and welcomes them into a relationship of knowing him that will last forever. We, as individuals, will never cease to grow in our relational knowledge of God. It would also seem that we, as the church, the corporate body of believers throughout history, together are growing in our collective knowledge of God. It’s taking a long time, but his bride is getting to know him better. So maybe, by God’s grace, we can expect that our children and our disciples will actually know the Lord better than we do. There’s something pleasant and hopeful about that thought.

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