the shape of leadership

Crossing the Political and Generational Divide

How to find common ground and love like Christ

Kent Ingle on November 28, 2022

America feels more polarized than ever before. Our nation is divided by political parties, each believing it offers the best solution and that the other will do harm. The Church in itself is dealing with the tensions of politics, the aftermath of the midterm elections, and the differences between generations. 

Within the past few years, millennials have been known to be the most liberal group of voters. Recent studies indicate that millennials and Generation Z have similar outlooks on politics. Millennials and Gen Z's are also less likely than previous generations to have a religious identity and say they believe in God.

It can be difficult to walk the fine line of appeasing each generation’s concerns in our congregations. Instead of concentrating on the differences, we have to find common ground in what Scripture teaches us.

I’ve found that as a whole, the Church is filled with people who want to serve others. And, the next generation of Christians is more willing to serve those around them than previous generations.

We must push past the generational tensions and political agendas to focus on the Church’s heart to care for others as Jesus did. Throughout the New Testament, we see Jesus reaching out to individuals who were marked by society as outcasts — the Samaritans, the lepers, women, and the poor.

In Luke 5:12-14, Jesus heals a man with leprosy. As the leper calls out to Jesus, “Lord, if you are willing, you can make me clean,” Jesus does something remarkable. He not only tells the leper that he is healed, but Jesus also reaches his hand out and touches him.

The problem is not
that we can’t find
common ground,
it’s placing issues
over people.

Jesus wasn’t afraid of social stigmas. Rather, Jesus demonstrates how we should treat others.

When we look after those around us, we do it for our Father in Heaven. It’s our charge as Christians.

“For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me” (Matthew 25:35-36).

Further along in the parable, it says, “The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me’” (Matthew 25:40).

The illustration of this parable reminds us that we will be held accountable for our actions. If we care about others as Jesus did, we must be willing to help those in need — even when it is inconvenient.

One of the things I love about being a college president is seeing the willingness of the next generation to serve the world around it. These young people are the first to jump on a social issue because they deeply want to make a difference.

Each year, I watch hundreds of our students volunteer in the community and serve around the world. I see a generation that has the same passion as we do for reaching the lost.

We all know the two greatest commandments to be “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’ The second is this: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no greater commandment than these” (Mark 12:30-31). But, do we truly live this out in our lives?

As leaders, we can bridge the generational gaps in our churches by focusing on what we have been called to do as Christians. It’s time to learn from the younger Christians in our congregations and step out to help those around us.

The problem is not that we can’t find common ground, it’s placing issues over people. Instead of seeing discord, focus on the heart and example of Jesus. Lean into the desire the Church has to serve those around it.

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