They say a picture is worth a thousand words, but I’m not sure a single photo can capture the beauty of what we experienced at NextGen! Men and women, young and old, diverse cultures and ethnicities, in their own heart languages, joined together, as one household (oikos) of faith! How incredibly beautiful is this! Only God could create such an artistic masterpiece! It was “glorious,” as Dr. Jim would say.

NextGen reminds me of the relationship of honor, love, and trust between the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, and we had the joy of being drawn into this heavenly relationship with one another. What sheer beauty it was in that space. It was the complete antithesis of today’s hedonistic, atheistic worldview of alternative metaphysics, anarchist ideology, generational hostility, and religious pluralism, designed by Satan himself, who is the great deceiver and destroyer. What we learned in that place challenges us to seek opportunities to build relationships where we can share the blessings & shalom we received in a world that so desperately needs Jesus!

As I have reflected on the great privilege of being part of NextGen, I noticed something in Scripture that I may have missed if not for what I have learned in that experience. In Exodus 18, we find Jethro coming to visit Moses in the wilderness, bringing his daughter, Moses’ wife, Zipporah, and their sons, Gershom and Eliezer. We find in this encounter multiple generations, different religious practices, diverse cultural experiences, and converging ethnicities. Moses, a Jew from a slave family, grew up as an Egyptian prince, with the cultural experiences, religious practices, and false gods of Egypt. Jethro was a Midianite priest from a pagan nation, a shepherd living in the mountainous desert of Midian. Zipporah was the daughter of a religious leader, serving in a sparsely populated desert, whose religion conflicted with the true God of Israel. Their children were born into a mixed racial marriage with religious and cultural conflicts and were often separated from their father for reasons unknown to us.

The most fascinating thing I observed in studying this passage is the relationship of honor and love between Moses and his father-in-law, Jethro. This is not a typical family relationship, but a deep friendship with a father-son component, that had been missing in most of Moses’ life. Moses hears that his father-in-law is coming and comes out to meet him, welcoming him with open arms. After expressing genuine concern for each other’s well-being, Moses invites his father-in-law into his tent so that they can talk privately. Moses shares with Jethro all that the Lord had done.

It is obvious that Moses and Jethro had become close over the years. As they are reunited the love and genuine friendship is evident. Jethro listens to all that God has done and believes in God. This is a transformational belief to the God of Moses. We know this because Jethro confesses that “the Lord is greater than all the gods” and offers a burnt offering and sacrifice to YHWH. Moses invites Aaron, the high priest of Israel, and all the elders to worship with them. No one condemns or judges the Midianite priest for sacrificing to their God! Amazing! In the past, Jethro, as father/mentor taught Moses to be a shepherd and then released Moses to do what his God told him to do. Now the mentor listens and learns from his son-in-law, coming to believe in God because of his relationship with Moses and the testimony of what God has done!

The next day the mentor resumes his role and observes Moses as he leads God’s people. Jethro gains understanding through observation, and THEN he speaks into the situation with correction and instruction. Jethro’s humility and willingness to learn from Moses now provides a level of credibility to teach Moses to become a better, more effective leader. “So Moses listened to his father-in-law and did all that he had said.” (Exodus 18:24)

A friend of ours asks this question before presenting the Gospel or seeking to offer advice, “Can this relationship bear the weight of truth?” Obviously, Jethro and Moses had such a relationship! Most of us can say that we experienced these types of relationships at NextGen!

What a beautiful picture of oikos! May we continue to practice building loving relationships that can bear the weight of truth as we honor one another, listen well, act in grace and humility, bless one another, and practice Shalom in our own homes, ministries, and communities.