To the Seventh Generation

by Lisa Allgood, Executive Presbyter

Many are the plans in a person’s heart, but it is the LORD’s purpose that prevails.   ~ Proverbs 19:21

How does your Session – your church – your congregation – make decisions, or make plans?

Is there debate?  Discernment? Brainstorming?  Scripture reading, study, discussion, seeking new ideas? Lots of Bible, lots of prayer, ample meditation time with God to listen to what He would have you do?   Do you understand and consider the needs of your community and find ways to meet them?

Or is it business as usual?  The way we’ve always done it?  I don’t like change – how fast can we get out of here?

My guess – my experience – is mostly the latter.  So here’s my challenge – to the Presbytery, and to every church and congregation within it: consider a prayerful variation on the Seventh Generation Principle before every decision is made.  Well, maybe not which donuts to have on Sunday, but – you know what I mean.

The Seventh Generation Principle is based on an ancient Haudenosaunee (Iroquois) philosophy that the decisions made today should result in a sustainable world seven generations into the future. The first recorded idea of the Seventh Generation Principle dates back to the writing of The Great Law of Haudenosaunee Confederacy, written somewhere between 1142 – 1500 AD. The Great Law formed the political, ceremonial, and social basis of a Five (later Six) Nation Confederacy (the Mohawks, Onondaga, Cayuga, Oneida, Seneca, and Tuscarora), and is thought to have influenced the American Constitution, due to Benjamin Franklin’s great respect for the Haudenosaunee system of government.

It’s a great tool to think about the long-term impact and consequences – intended and unintended – of the decisions we make about our environment, certainly. 

But –

What if we applied it to the decisions we make for our churches? 

What if we thought about those decisions as ones we make, not just for our short-term Sunday “this is the way I like it” comfort, but on behalf of God’s plan for His Kingdom? 

What if we considered Kingdom consequences, instead of budget or committee or
don’t-rock-the-boat consequences?

What would change about the decisions we made, if we wanted the Words of Jesus to thrive and live at least until seven generations into the future – because of something we decided and put into motion at this evening’s Session meeting? 

How would your ministries and missions change?

‘Cuz friends, I’m pretty sure Jesus didn’t come to make us comfortable.

One way to get at the heart of the Seventh Generation approach is to ask the question “why” enough times to understand the uncomfortable truth behind a decision. 

“We do Fellowship hour after church.” Why?

“To bring our congregation together.” Why? 

“Because we don’t see each other often enough.” Why?

“Because we’re only here on Sunday.” Why? 

What would happen to the faith of your congregation if you had other times together – Bible study, friendship groups, dinners?  What would happen if that faith took your witness and your prayer and your mission out into the streets around you – who might you win for the Kingdom?  How might you save someone – literally?

Or –

“We do Fellowship inside in the Fellowship Hall, not outside on the grounds.” Why?

“Because it’s uncomfortable outside. And we don’t want to have to feed outsiders.”

SCREEEECH – Wait – what? Why? 

“Because we might have to feed a homeless person.” (Yes, this was an actual Session conversation.) 

Let’s read that parable about the sheep and the goats thing again… who did Jesus ask you to feed? (Matthew 25:31-46.  Read it more than once.)

Seven generations out.  How might you and your church and your neighborhood and the Kingdom transform?

Seven generations out.  What does it look like for you?

For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.     ~ 2 Corinthians 4:17-18