Preserving and Passing On the Faith
by Barry Smith
I

believe in generational faith! It didn’t start with me and it doesn’t stop with me. I received it and I will pass it on.

I’m writing this article while preparing for my father’s retirement celebration. I’ve been privileged to serve beside him since I was a child, standing on a footstool, singing while he played the piano. Dad is, without a doubt, the most gracious, loving, and faithful man I’ve ever known. He is a man of God and of impeccable character.

Now, I follow him as lead pastor of Generation Changers Church in middle Tennessee. This is the way things are supposed to happen: one generation who loves and follows Jesus passes the baton to the next generation.

I believe there are two essential elements for a successful transition of the faith: honor and empowerment.

Honor

Each generation is more advanced technologically and educationally than the previous one. It’s easy to feel as if we are better equipped than our predecessors; more in touch with today’s world. However, each generation must learn to honor the preceding generation.

The faith we possess in Jesus has been preserved and passed along through faithful generations who have taken up their cross and followed Him. I often tell my congregation, “The older you get, the more valuable you are.” The follow-up thought is that God is always working His will to form a masterpiece of our lives.

So every day, we get closer to the completed work of grace. That makes us more valuable with every year that passes. To bridge the gap between generations, it is first paved with honor.  We owe it to the faithful servants who’ve come before us.

Empowerment

As a younger generation begins to assume Kingdom responsibility, they need to be empowered by the generation before them. Paul was a master at this in his relationship with Timothy, Titus, and others. When he was getting ready to transition from this world, Paul said, “I have kept the faith” (2 Timothy 4:7).

This does not only mean that Paul continued trusting God; it is more about how God trusted him with the Gospel. He remained true to “the faith,” preserving it and passing it along. Some of his last words encouraged and empowered a younger generation to walk in the fullness of their ministry potential. He did not feel threatened or set aside. He was filled with joy and a positive pride in the investment he had made in the lives of those in the next generation.

No generation should ever see themselves as opposition to another—just the opposite! We are all on the same team. The generation that is passing the baton of ministry still has a role to play in God’s kingdom, one of great grace and wisdom. However, as the sun rises on a new generation, the previous generation should be vocal and visible cheerleaders. We must take joy in the Kingdom successes of every generation because it ensures the faith will continue in the earth until Jesus returns.

The process of honor and empowerment is found in a mentoring relationship. To be transparent, I didn’t always know how to properly honor my father. And there were times I am sure he struggled in empowering me. Sure, we had differences of opinions about how ministry should be done. Our initial mistake was to try to force each other to do ministry the way we each thought was best. One day, we realized we’re not supposed to do it like one another, so we shouldn’t find fault with one another.

My dad is a consummate shepherd. He will leave the 99 and go after the one. I’m more of a rancher, seeing the big picture and reaching a larger group. God gifted us differently. Like Moses, Dad led with a shepherd’s staff, giving individual care to the sheep. Like Joshua, I lead with a spear, taking ground for the Kingdom. I had to learn to value who God called my dad to be. Through the years, I have seen more and more that he is a treasure to the body of Christ. I aspire to his character and his compassion for people. He genuinely represents the heart of Jesus.

When I learned the principle of honor, my dad began to empower me to lead. I’m a third-generation pastor, leading an incredible multi-campus church in middle Tennessee. God has done amazing things! But I didn’t get here alone. I owe it all to God’s grace and a father and grandfather who loved Jesus and led His people.

“Dad, you’re amazing! Thank you for trusting me with your mantle. I will preserve it and I will pass it on!”

This is my life scripture: “Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen” (Ephesians 3:20-21 NIV).

Barry Smith is lead pastor of Generation Changers Church in Nashville and Lebanon, Tennessee.