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The Next Generation
The following is 'dated' info but still good and pertinent reading for our present times!

Terry Fullam
"The Faith and the Next Generation" 
Program #3730
First air date March 8, 1994

The Rev. Everett L. Fullam ("Terry") graduated from Gordon College with a degree in Philosophy and did his graduate work at Harvard and Boston Universities. He was ordained in the Episcopal Church and in 1972 became Rector of St. Paul's Episcopal Church in Darien, Connecticut. Under Terry's leadership, St. Paul's became one of the most active Episcopal churches in America. Its focus on parish renewal became widely-known and thrust Dr. Fullam into a much broader ministry. He left St. Paul's in 1989 to devote himself full-time to renewal of the wider church. From his base in Deltona, Florida, Terry travels extensively, lecturing and ministering to churches around the world.
[Biographical information is correct as of the broadcast date noted above.]

"The Faith and the Next Generation" 

Moses was dead. I don't think we could imagine how that would be for the people of Israel. For more than forty years he had been their leader. He had been the one of whom it was described that talked to God face to face. He was the one who had received that mighty revelation, including the Commandments, which really were the fine print of the Covenant. He had been the one who had settled disputes between the people, had instructed them on how to live, what to do, where to go, but now he was dead.

He was followed by young Joshua, a man especially prepared to be his successor, and Joshua led the people for nearly fifty years. He was the one who led them across the Jordan River into the land of promise. He was the one who led them in the conquest of the land and finally, in dividing the land among the twelve tribes. Then, he died.

After the death of Joshua, we read these words about the children of Israel. "After that whole generation had been gathered to their fathers, another generation grew up who knew neither the Lord nor what He had done for Israel."

We are talking about a generation that is one generation away from the Exodus. You remember the Exodus, how the children of Israel had grown to a mighty nation, but a nation of slaves in Egypt, and how at the bidding of God himself, Moses emerged as the leader who led the children of Israel by the mighty hand of God out of Egypt across the Red Sea and to the edge of the land of promise. When Moses led them out and the waters parted, he got up on a rock on the other side and he said, "Never, ever forget this day because today God has shown himself strong in your behalf." But, they did forget. They did forget. How could it possibly be said that so soon after such a mighty demonstration of the power of God in their behalf that a whole new generation arose that knew neither the Lord God nor what He had done for Israel? I am thinking of the few verses before that.

The people served the Lord throughout the lifetime of Joshua and of the elders who outlived him, and who had seen all the great things the Lord had done for Israel. You see, this was a generation that had seen the power of God. Some of these people walked through on dry ground. These were the people who experienced being fed by the hand of the Lord in the wilderness for forty years. These are the people who had received cool, fresh water in the desert. There was no question but what they were guided by day with a cloud and by night with a fire. God had shown Himself strong in behalf of these people. They knew; they experienced; they believed and yet, the next generation knew neither the Lord nor what He had done for Israel.

So you see, people, we are talking about the transmission of faith from generation to generation. This great generation who had seen so much, I would have to describe as the zero generation. It passed nothing on to the next generation. How could it be that a people whose fathers walked through dry ground, who had seen the mighty works of God, how could it be that their children did not even know the God of Israel, nor did they know what He had done for their forbearers? At some point, there was a breakdown. One generation and the people knew not God.

I wonder if you have thought about this at all. Has it occurred to you that at any time in history faith is just one generation from extinction? Consider this. If every Christian in the world were to stop talking, stop sharing, stop witnessing, the Christian faith would die out in a single generation. I would not be here were it not for the fact that somebody told me about the might and power of our God, His love and the grace of Jesus Christ. Of course, somebody had to tell that person who told me, and somebody told the person who told the person who told me, and someone told the person who told the person who told the person who told me. All the way back to the days of the Apostles and even to Jesus Himself. That is the true apostolic succession. It's an unbroken chain of witnesses that has transmitted not only the faith, but the whole culture of the people of God, the history of the people of God, and what had happened, and how God had worked in earlier generations. The scriptures of the New Testament tell us that these things were written down so that we, upon whom the end of the generations have come, might learn about our God and what He had done for His people.

I am turning to the 78th Psalm. It is a powerful Psalm. It is a Psalm which is called in its subtitle, a teaching Psalm. This is the way it begins. You will notice the urgency.

"O my people, hear my teaching;
          listen to the words of my mouth.
I am going to speak to you in parables,
I will utter hidden things, things from of old,
          what we have heard and have known,
And what our fathers have told us.
We will not hide them from their children;
We will tell the next generation
          the praiseworthy deeds of the Lord,
          His power, and the wonders he has done.
He decreed statutes for Jacob
          and established the law in Israel,
when he commanded our forefathers
          to teach their children,
so that the next generation would know them,
          even the children yet to be born,
          and they in turn would tell their children.
Then they would put their trust in God."

You see, it's a faith passed on. Something had happened between the mighty power displayed at the time of Moses and Joshua, and the generation that succeeded them. Somehow the faith was not transmitted; somehow they did not pass it on. Consider this for a moment. If you were to lose your memory through some tragic accident -- to lose your memory totally -- do you know you would not even know who you were. You would have no sense of identity. You wouldn't know your name; you wouldn't know where you came from; you wouldn't know whether you had a wife or husband or children. You would know nothing. You wouldn't know where you came from nor would you know where you presently are. If you lose your memory, you lose your identity, and the same thing is true in the Christian faith. If you lose your memory of what has come before, if there is no filling in on the details of our family -- I am talking about Abraham; I am talking about Jacob, Isaac, David, Moses, all of these great figures of the Old Testament. This is part of our family. As we see what happened to them and how God dealt with them, then we begin to enter into the identity of the people of God.

The problem in our day, I think, is even people who find faith in Jesus Christ in quite wonderful and miraculous ways sometimes have no identity as the people of God. You see, they haven't had the background. They haven't heard. Nobody ever told them. This is what the Psalm continues to say about this generation.

               "We will teach our children
          so they may tell the next generation
          even the children yet to be born,
          So that they will put their trust in God."

Why did not that succeeding generation following Joshua put their trust in God? Well, they hadn't been told. Now, how could that happen that people who saw the power of God themselves did not tell their children? Yet, it happens today.

Another reason that is a sign for this calamity is described in another part of the scriptures. It is describing Israel in their lowest period. This is what it says about them. It is just a comment by the writer. It says, "For a long time Israel was without the knowledge of the true God and the law." How could they be without a knowledge of the true God? They were God's people. He was bound to them by eternal Covenant. It says, "And for a long time they were without a teaching priest." Maybe there was a failure there in those who were supposed to transmit the message and the understanding and the knowledge and even the experience of God. Maybe that is where it broke down.

Dear people, I can tell you something. You never, ever will have a strong faith in God until you begin to gain some understanding of what has happened before. Why do you read the bible? Jesus says, "Because in them we find eternal life." The New Testament says, "In them we find how God has dealt with His people for centuries." Discovering that, then we learn something about ourselves. We find something that is true. It helps us interpret our own experience because others have walked this way before. When we are faced with perplexing questions, not only about life but about God, wondering why God does this or does not do something else, we find that we are not the first generation to have had those problems and we are able to enter into their experience. Stupid is the man or the woman who is unable to learn from the experience of those who have gone before.

In Chapter 10 of I Corinthians, St. Paul says, "All of these things happened to them and were written down for our sake so that we could learn through them." You see, if the generation that comes after us is going to be a generation that knows God, loves Him, serves Him and walks in His way, we are the generation that must transmit them. If we do not, then they will not know. It is possible, even in a single generation, for those who once knew God, experienced His might and power, understood His truth, and sought to walk in His ways, to be followed by a generation that does not know God, cares nothing for His word, and has no idea of what His will or His purpose is. We are the generation in the middle. Who is going to tell them if we don't? Where are they going to learn it if we do not tell them? It will not be taught in schools these days. Where will they hear? Well, the church is one place, but I think perhaps the most effective witness that brings a little one into an understanding of who they are in the people of God, where they stand in the purpose of God, will be parents in the home, and leaders of that sort.

I am thinking of Psalm 48. A wonderful Psalm, really. It speaks of the generations who knew and loved the city of Jerusalem. I have been in that city more than forty-two times over years and years of time, taking hundreds and hundreds of people. I always want to start my tour on the Mount of Olives overlooking the city and listen to these words: "Why would you come to Jerusalem?

Walk around Zion, go about her,
          count her towers,
consider well her ramparts,
          view her citadels,
Why, that you may tell of them
          to the next generation.
That this God is our God for
          ever and ever;
And, He will be our guide even to
          the end."

God bless you.


Interview with Terry Fullam

Interviewed by Floyd Brown

Floyd Brown:  Thank you for an inspiring message. You raised a question in my mind. After fifty years of powerful leadership, how could the message of faith and the experiences go out of existence?

Terry Fullam: It's a mystery. That is why I call them the zero generation. It did not impact the succeeding generation even though it says that while Joshua was alive, they served the Lord and they remembered what he had done, but immediately afterwards it all went away. Somehow they hadn't transmitted it.

Brown: In today's times of mass communications, are we propagating the faith better with our modern techniques?

Fullam: Well, I think we certainly have the opportunity to because the modern ways of communication are so marvelous and ubiquitous. They are everywhere, so the opportunities ought to be vastly greater and the effectiveness ought to be greatly increased. I am not sure whether it is.

Brown: That was my question. What message are we really giving as we propagate the faith today? Are we giving the same message that Joshua and Moses brought forth, or have we modernized it until maybe a clear message isn't coming through any more?

Fullam: Well, I think what you have just said is true in lots of places. We have forgotten what God has done. We have substituted a kind of ethical faith perhaps, or something. We haven't passed on the family story, and so even what happened to Jesus on the cross, and the mighty resurrection and the ascension, all of that lacks relevance. It is something that maybe happened, etc., but what is the connection between that event and our lives?

You see, you can only understand that against the whole purpose of God as it has been revealed over centuries. There has to be an introduction into our family history to understand. If all you had was the Old Testament, you would be frustrated because it is constantly pointing beyond itself. If all you had was the New Testament, you couldn't understand who Jesus is, the long-expected Jesus, you see. There was a preparation for Him over hundreds of years. Somehow, I think, probably the home is the most important place for that kind of communication to go on.

Brown: What should I be doing at home with my family?

Fullam: I think we need to learn our story. It is not just my personal witness to Christ, it is our story, how people over centuries of time have responded to the living God, what He expects of us, and how to avail ourselves of the grace that He offers, how to be a light in our day. It is still possible.

Brown: It's wonderful. That's a powerful message and we appreciate it. Thank you for coming with us.