November 2011 - Vol. 54
Working Across Generations

Paul Jordan converses with John Keating on Joshua, Moses and Adelante…

PJ – So John there’s a lot of talk these days about working across generations – Baby Boomers, Generation X, Generation Y. It’s hot news in the business world! We have the most diverse workforce of all time… etc etc. I was born in 1974 which puts me slap bang in the middle of the Generation X world. But – forgive me - I’m guessing you’re more of a boomer?!

JK – You’re guessing well…

PJ - If you don’t mind me asking, how old were you when you got involved in the whole renewal communities movement?

JK– 18. I was a “freshman” in university. You know it’s funny but it’s pretty much exactly 40 years ago in fact when I went to University of Michigan – that was when I got involved. So you’re right, yes, that puts me right in the middle of the boomers!

PJ – 40 years is a long time. Things probably looked a bit different back then.

JK– Certainly did!

PJ – <laughter> But it’s also a biblically significant number – a generation no less. You made some reference to this fact at the Adelante conference this summer.

JK– I did. One of the main figures on the Adelante stage was Joshua. I was asked to speak about Joshua but I also had some spiritual sense that there is a word from the Lord in this – about the younger generation more clearly taking their place as Joshua took his.

PJ – It’s a strong image – and if you don’t mind me saying – not without its consequences. I wouldn’t mind drawing out some of those lessons for the Joshua Generation and the Moses Generation. As you prepared the presentations with the younger generation in mind – what were some of the key lessons the Lord impressed on your heart?

JK – Well, Joshua is a young man at the point that we first meet him, a trusted servant from his youth.  He doesn’t just get off the bench when his number is called. He’s very active as a young man already. He’s serving. He’s fighting.

PJ – He’s not just waiting to get elected or something like that. 

JK– No, absolutely not. He’s one of Moses’ chosen servants from early on. In fact he’s not voted in by the crowd at all. If there is any election it’s God who elects him. It’s interesting to chart his story and see where he was active and present.

PJ – What strikes you?

JK– A couple of things in particular. Joshua knows Moses and he knows the Lord. He is with Moses on the mountain when Moses receives the law. In fact, he is with Moses in all of his encounters with the Lord in the tent of meeting. So he knows how to serve Moses – in fact that’s his title at the beginning of the book. But he is also a man who is intimately familiar with the courts of the Lord. Interestingly when Moses returns to the camp, Joshua remains in the tent of meeting.

PJ – And what’s the lesson exactly?

JK– Don’t hang around waiting! Get into the action and above all learn to serve the Lord. This is Joshua’s apprenticeship from an early age. It’s also striking that he doesn’t participate in any way in the false worship of the golden calf.

PJ – Right – he stays clear. It’s interesting – he’s probably the only figure in the Old Testament that seems to be without any particular weakness or foible. A kind of special holiness. 

JK– Well it’s no accident that he has the same name as the Lord Jesus himself and there is a real way in which the mission of Joshua points directly to Jesus’ mission later.

PJ – Yes, it helps us understand the Lord Jesus as a warrior himself – a truth I find lacking these days. But Joshua’s commission at the beginning – what do you make of it?

JK– The most striking thing about it is Moses’ exhortation to Joshua: “be strong and of good courage.” This is mentioned several times in the Book of Joshua. It’s clear that what God is asking of Joshua will be something that will require him to continually be strong, to not be afraid, to not give into dismay, to hold fast to God’s law. 

PJ – Which he seems to do…

JK– He does… one of the more striking stories earlier on of course is the spying out of the land when the spies come back with the evil, cowardly report. It’s only Joshua and Caleb who return with a faith-filled perspective about what obedience to the Lord can produce in battling the “giants of Canaan” (Numbers 14). Because of that of course, only he and Caleb are the ones who will enter the promised land. The rest don’t make it.

PJ – Indeed. The Lord takes it very seriously. I hope God doesn’t wipe out our Moses generation, John!

JK– Ha! Well I’m pretty sure that isn’t always the Lord’s preferred pattern for intergenerational transfers of leadership! There were special reasons why all of the original generation was gone by the time Joshua and Caleb led the people into the Promised Land.

PJ – I’ve never thought about it that much but I’m guessing Joshua’s job was made more difficult by the absence of Moses.

JK– I think you’re right. I don’t think it was an easy task at all. Not only was Moses and his generation dead but all the leaders of Joshua’s own generation were also dead, with the exception of Caleb of course. It would have been a lonely fight for Joshua. No doubt he felt a bit over his head. That’s probably why the Lord told him so often to be strong and not to give in to despair! 

PJ – You mentioned that from an early age he is serving and he is fighting. I noticed that it’s at the end of the book that he receives the title servant of God (Joshua 24:29) – at the start of the book he’s called servant of Moses. It’s almost like the title of servant of God is something that has be earned or grown into. But with regard to the fighting: it’s very striking that Joshua was mainly a warrior.

JK– He really was, yes. And he grew into that role too. He is a warrior before the people, and leads them to victory time and time again. The battle against Amalek is particularly interesting. Joshua has to fight as part of a team. His own leadership role is crucial, but you know Israel would likely have lost the battle were it not for Moses’ role of intercession.

PJ – But that’s interesting. No? – this role of intercession – do you think that is a word for the Moses generation?

JK– I think it is, yes. I think it’s one of the most important things in fact. 

PJ – What else would you say to the Moses generation?

JK – Well, the first thing that comes to mind is that there is no retiring from the Lord’s service – that’s clear. Our specific service roles may change with the years, but we should never be looking to “hand off” the life of service to which God has called us, and drop out of continuing to give all that we have to the Lord…

PJ – So, no retirement plans?

JK – <laughter> The Lord can choose to remove us from the scene, but, no, we shouldn’t just retire to live a quieter life of ease! On the other hand, we do need to make room – now – for the new generation of leaders.

PJ – What do you think that looks like?

JK– Well it can’t just mean getting them to enter the current ranks of the leadership and teaching them how to lead like we do. It might mean some of that. It often begins like that in fact. 

PJ – A kind of apprenticeship model – I suppose that’s what was going on for Joshua as he accompanied Moses around.

JK– Yes - but we also must be creative in finding the ways in which the Lord wants the newer generation to serve and to lead. They need to be given room to make mistakes, and even to repeat some of our mistakes if for some reason they aren’t able to learn from our experience. And there could be good reason for that.

PJ – When I hear you speak, I’m struck that this is a significant time for us as a people. There are bound to be tensions and difficulties…

JK– Certainly. It requires humility and submission before the Lord from the Moses generation, as we may not always fully understand what he is asking of the next generation, nor fully appreciate their own way of responding to his call. 

PJ – It sounds like there are a lot of unknowns

JK– Yes – but it’s key to remember that the work is the Lord’s, and the responsibility to guide the next generation of leaders will be primarily his. We have to trust him.

PJ – One of the questions this all raises for me is if the Lord is asking the young Joshuas to do something new then what is that exactly? What does it look like? It really was a different thing - what Joshua was asked to do compared with Moses. 

JK– Well, yes and no. It’s clear that Joshua was a warrior. That was his role. It’s true his task was somewhat different from Moses’. And indeed I’ve sensed the Lord saying that the new generation will face challenges and opportunities different from those that our generation has faced. And who knows what’s in the land. That’s part of the challenge of this word - uncertainty. It will be up to the younger generation to respond to his grace and his guidance.  But on the other hand Joshua was simply asked to serve God and hold true to his law in the same way that Moses was asked. In fact that was probably the main thing that Moses had to teach Joshua.

PJ – To be faithful until death.

JK– Exactly. As older sons and daughters of God, our own ongoing faith, hope, and love, our continued zeal until death for the Lord and for his kingdom, our lifelong love for our people and our call, mission, and way of life will be a crucial contribution of the founding generation - until the Lord calls us home.

PJ – Which is indeed how Joshua’s story ends. The great rally in the last chapter of the book. It’s a fantastic account. The back and forth with Joshua and the people and the famous – “as for me and my house we will serve the Lord!” (Joshua 24:15).

Thank you, John – and thank you for showing the way…

[John Keating is Vice-President of the Sword of the Spirit and an elder in the Servants of the Word. Paul Jordan is the Director for Kairos in Europe and the Middle East.]

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