General Interest Articles
In his preparation for that traditional New Year sermon last year on “resolutions”, Pastor Doug Olsen from Woodmen Valley Chapel in Colorado Springs, knowing that most resolutions are soon abandoned, decided to challenge his congregation to “expand their view and increase their horizon to a more significant level of impact” – a focus on long term commitment to our legacy. This meant addressing the bigger issues of defining spiritual legacy as a resolution for life and its impact on those who journey with us. Thus, the Pauline expression of life legacy, “for me to live is Christ and to die is gain”, demanded further reflection. This is the second part of this two part series that began with last month’s VOE. (Read Part One of this interview)
CGN: What are some of the important things you work at passing on as part of the legacy you want to leave?
DOUG: There are several things that my wife and I want very much for our children and grandchildren to have as part of our legacy, especially because I did not inherit a great legacy myself. Still, there were some things in the legacy I inherited that were good for me. Knowing though, that there needs to be more, my wife and I determined a few things we felt were very important to pass on to our children and grandchildren:
- To know God through a personal relationship with Jesus Christ
- To have a good marriage model
- To minimize the “baggage” we leave our kids – that is, things we do that negatively affect them; and
- To always have a standard above ourselves -- be committed to the truth
CGN: What would you say to Boomer grandparents and parents who may feel inadequate or incompetent to leave the kind of legacy they want to leave?
DOUG: There are people who have lived a good, strong life in Christ and left a healthy legacy that is powerful and meaningful. There are people who have made enormous mistakes and trashed a certain part of who they are and who their children are who can still have a redemptive legacy. The power of each of those legacies is equally significant though viewed differently. Those who can say “will you please forgive me” can begin a redemptive legacy. Obviously, for children who have been deeply hurt, it may be a little more difficult to take hold of or swallow. We never plan that kind of legacy, but the good news is that it is never too late to begin building a redemptive legacy.
If a legacy is simply the culmination of all you have done in life that you reflect on in the end and pass on, then so be it. I have a more vital, living and organic view of legacy that says it can begin its effectiveness at any point in life. Better a little legacy than no legacy at all.
CGN: What do you see as the primary purpose of legacy?
DOUG: I think it’s heritage, not that which only happens at death when you remind your children what the good old days were like, but a heritage that is a continuance of values and beliefs. Why am I depositing into this person’s life? Why am I establishing a pattern that is consistent in life? It is because I want to see a continuance of values and beliefs.
This is important because no one is independent or immune from the influence of something or someone else. Where will the next generation get their values and beliefs? The parent or grandparent who says I don’t want to force my values, beliefs, faith, ethics or morals on my child because I want them to be a free thinker… well, give me a break! Let’s face it – somebody is influencing your child! So, the question is will their legacy and heritage come from the neighborhood kids, some rock star, an atheist teacher in their school, or from you? It’s foolishness to think you should not be seeking to influence these things in their lives. I feel very strongly about that!
CGN: What do you see are some of the challenges and obstacles for building an effective, godly legacy – that redemptive legacy you talked about?
DOUG: Obviously, the counterculture in which we live – the turbulent, stormy culture that is hostile towards truth and the Christian worldview, is enormously counterproductive to the continuance of a redemptive legacy. So often, almost everything you are saying to them is countered as soon as they leave your presence. It used to be you could keep negative influences out more easily, but now that is extremely difficult unless you build a stone wall around your family and keep out cable TV, the Internet, etc.
There are a few things we can do to help overcome these influences, as parents or grandparents:
- Do not always use the negative – like, “I can’t believe that…” or “When I was young, we…”
- Use situations and balance them with appropriate questions that require evaluation and understanding. For instance, when you watch something on TV or in the news, enter into dialogue with a question like, “What do you think about that?” or “Were you surprised when they used that word or showed that scene?” We may still get our point across but with more influence, because we are engaged in dialogue rather than disagreement. We often miss that as we get older because we are so ingrained on issues and opinions.
- Take advantage of opportunities to relate by finding common ground with them in things they enjoy without compromising your own values. What music do they listen to? What are the clothing styles they like, etc.? Have you taken time to listen, observe and ask questions so that you can engage with them about those things?
DOUG: When you stop learning, you lose your effectiveness as a mentor. There is a tendency as we grow older to think we know it all – that we are the great soothsayers of wisdom for the young. The church is the constant barometer of my legacy. In other words, I need to be reminded of who I am and what I believe. I must be encouraged to stand tall and firm for what is wrong. The church challenges me to measure myself against a standard above myself – the Word of God. If I give up the constant reminder of that standard and do not drink from the fountain of truth found in the consistent teaching of God’s Word, somehow thinking I can do it better myself, I am not being filled up so that I can spill over into my grandchildren’s lives.
Obviously, some churches are doing this better than others. Regardless, when the Word of God is being taught, we are being reminded of that standard above ourselves. The church is NOT the Word of God. I am grateful and take my hat off to many pastors today who recognize the importance of balance between family and “calling” – that they have chosen to intentionally pour themselves into their families, and not just their “calling” as a pastor.
A final thought: I think the increased focus on legacy today, perhaps because the Boomers are graying and this is an important issue to them, is a positive thing. It will bring some good results and start people thinking about things they have not thought about before.
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