Samuel Rodriguez - Generational Integrity, Generational Influence
Samuel Rodriguez: 1 Kings 19:19, Elijah finds Elisha pushing a plow, pushing a plow. Elijah places his mantle, the cloak, across the shoulders of Elisha, and the Bible says he walked away. 1 Kings 19:19. It changed the trajectory of Israel. The legitimate, authentic, and successful transfer of the mantle, temporarily, they took it back, and then Elisha had to follow as you all know. Do your biblical due diligence. He had to go to Gilgal, Bethel, Jericho, and Jordan. And then, of course, the great chariot of fire separating them, the whirlwind picking Elijah up. Next time we find Elijah, he's taking a selfie with Jesus on the Mount of Transfiguration in Matthew 17:2. The mantle. Today, I have one of my dearest friends on the planet. Not just your usual, occasional leader, this is, I love this man. First of all, I used to work for this man, I still do technically. But back in the day, in the 1990's, I was a young buckaroo, he was the national youth director of the world's largest protestant denomination, the assemblies of God. And Doug Clay, he's the general superintendent, the pastor of all the ag pastors. Amigo, gracias!
Doug Clay: Bien! Muy bien!
Samuel Rodriguez: Listen, listen. And it's Doug and Sam here for purposes of this gathering, otherwise, it's the archbishop and Sammy junior, so it's, we're gonna hold back from the titles.
Doug Clay: It used to be Sammy fresh.
Samuel Rodriguez: Sammy fresh. Will prince. You know, will Smith with the fresh prince kind of did, well, no, no slapping.
Doug Clay: Okay.
Samuel Rodriguez: Not today. Different program. Here we are. So, we have an issue, Doug, we do have an issue. I read the Barna study, and it blew me away, it blew me away. It is doom and gloom, and I love Barna. Georgia's amazing. But that study blew me away. Is this the last generation in America committed to our Judeo-Christian value system? According to the study, right now, all things being equal, it is. The millennials have this great angst and consternation regarding truth, absolute truth, and then generation Z, the study really focused on generation Z and the younger millennials. Wow! Where are we going with this? At the end of the day do we have Elijahs? And hence, this conversation. You lead the world's largest protestant denomination in America, you're a global leader of this wonderful, you're a global leader in so much context, but just a mantle of leading the world's largest protestant denomination, what does that look like to you when the next generation looks like it's not even committed? I need to get some input from you. What does that look like? Do we have Elijahs? Is there hope, is there a future, is Barna off, Barna and other studies that kind of undergird the idea, that this may be the last one unless we get it right. What say ye?
Doug Clay: Yeah. Well, I think, first of all, it's a challenge for us Elijahs. David said, "Lord, don't forsake me when I'm old and gray, till I declare your power to the next generation". So, I take some of the current reality is a challenge for me to pass on a workable faith, a healthy Pentecost, a great church environment. Number two, let's fluently define reality. Sam, in our tribe, the average age of an attender in an assembly of God church is 35.
Samuel Rodriguez: Stop! What?
Doug Clay: The average age of an attender in the assemblies of God, U.S.A., is 35.
Samuel Rodriguez: And at full disclosure, I'm hearing this for the first time here. My assumption would have been 62, 58, 65.
Doug Clay: Yeah.
Samuel Rodriguez: Why am I wrong? And I don't think I'm the only one assuming this.
Doug Clay: Sure. I would subscribe to, for years now, we have viewed the next generation not as the church of tomorrow, but very much the church of today, so we're empowering young leaders to step up, have a prophetic voice at the current table of leadership, not at tomorrow's table of leadership.
Samuel Rodriguez: Why the dichotomy between the stats, the surveys, the studies, and the reality in the pews?
Doug Clay: You know, that's a good question. I don't know who was surveyed, I don't know, and I'm not discrediting the survey. I think all of us, we're a hundred and seven-year-old institution, so we got to constantly be looking at how do we contextualize our faith, our mission of focus for the next generation. I think for me, it comes back to, I'm not so much worried about the Elishas, I think they're there, I think there's a generation that wants a cause to live for, I think there's a generation that wants to understand the why behind what we do. It's the Elijahs that will recognize them with a culture of honor and help raise them up to have a prophetic voice in our time.
Samuel Rodriguez: Let's break this down a little bit. I wanna create discourse, split screen between Elijah and Elisha. Elijah, prior to 1 Kings 19:19 as you well know, had this moment. Elijah had a moment. His ministry's success, of course, covered in 1 Kings 17 and 18, the great mount Carmel moment, right? Confronting Ahab, the God, the true legitimate God will answer via the conduit of fire. We know all the great successes: drought, fire, rain, prayers: the guy prayed, God answered the prayers. But then he went through a bout of depression, anxiety, fear. He let go of the ministry, technically, told God, "I'm out," where, verbatim, the Bible says that God found him, mountainside, hiding in a cave, and said, "What are you doing here"? When God asked the question, "What are you doing here"? You're probably in the wrong place. So, what are things from our generation that we need to be mindful of that we do not necessarily want to transfer over to the next generation?
Doug Clay: Yeah. I think we don't wanna transfer over an inability to take care of your soul. You know, when Elijah was under the juniper tree, he had suicidal thoughts, and it's interesting the way the Lord tended to him, he let him sleep and he fed him. He didn't send him off to some revival, he didn't send him off to be delivered. So, I know at times that can be a crutch, but I do think soul care and dealing with the emotional tar is huge, and that's gonna be important as we pass this mantle on.
Samuel Rodriguez: We've written on the true battles between your mind and your mantle, the true battles between your mind and your mantle. The true battles between the thoughts that run through your head, and the calling upon your life.
Doug Clay: And you know, Sam, anxiety has an ability to cause you to say and do things you would never do, and perhaps, cause you to talk to yourself too much. I mean, think about it. When David was anointed supernaturally by Samuel, even though Saul was still in place, the Bible says 1 Samuel 27:1: "And he thought to himself". Well, that thinking to himself caused him to actually run and hide out in the Philistine. And I'm going, "Wait a minute! You're called to lead your people from the oppression, and now you're hanging out there"? Free-floating anxiety, when not dealt with biblically can cause you to do things and say things you'd never otherwise do.
Samuel Rodriguez: Whew! You just blew me away. In growing up in one of our churches, a beautiful church, but the issue of pastors, and ministers, and leaders, even disclosing bouts of anxiety, depression, it wasn't that it was against the policy and the by-laws, it was culturally a taboo. And the fact that you're a, that's what's just brilliant. Even the idea of speaking to oneself out of anxiety. In addition to making sure we don't transfer over anxiety over, not anxiety, but to not caring for one's soul, what are other elements that we as Elijahs need to be mindful of as it pertains to what we transfer over with that mantle?
Doug Clay: Yeah. I think giving space on a platform.
Samuel Rodriguez: What does that mean?
Doug Clay: You know, I think at times, we like to showcase a younger generation by being in the audience, but already on the stage, do we give them an opportunity to have prophetic relevance versus just "I'm in attendance"? We just had our next generation conference and 17-year-old m.K. Speaking, and there was some gifts of the spirit in operation, and my assistant superintendent was on one side of the plat, miles on the other, he started to walk up and I shook my head, and I just said, "No". And it was amazing to watch the next generation lead through that spiritual activity, could be a little clunky if you were trying to rate it on polish, but I feel giving them the opportunity not to just be trophies to be seen, but participants in actually doing ministry is huge, and that's what's given assemblies of God this youthfulness. We do believe that young people that have a call of God on their life can be used in our ministries.
Samuel Rodriguez: Again, the battles between your mind and your mantle, the battles between the thoughts in your head, what you reference regarding David blew me away, never heard that before. That's a spirit-inspired revelation, and...
Doug Clay: And here's another thing.
Samuel Rodriguez: You just blew me away. Thinking to oneself...
Doug Clay: When he was hiding out in the Philistines, when he was overcome with anxiety, he never composed to Saul. So that tells me: you lose your identity and you lose your purpose when you don't know how to deal with anxiety redemptively.
Samuel Rodriguez: So, first of all, we're writing this book together, and now, at least I'm writing the foreword 'cause that's brilliant, and the truth behind it. Why are we hearing more about anxiety, even from millennials and generation Z than even in generation x or boomers? Why?
Doug Clay: Well, I think culture has brought that up, COVID has brought that up. You know, the attractional model of doing church was shut down, and now we had to be a deployment model and the isolation. Plus I think gen z, millennials, they don't worry about a stigma: if they're anxious, if they're nervous, they're gonna call it what it is. We used to think that was somehow a spiritual taboo, and they're just saying, "No. This is an emotional reality I'm dealing with".
Samuel Rodriguez: Well, they're willing to post anything, and I don't say that in a derogatory way. They're willing to be very transparent: transparency, authenticity. Sometimes I think it's a bit too much by the way, there are boundaries.
Doug Clay: Sure.
Samuel Rodriguez: Transparency in front of an audience is not necessarily spiritually mature to help you deal with whatever you're transparent about, it may actually be something...
Doug Clay: But I think it's healthy. I think it's healthy 'cause my generation knew how to put on a mask.
Samuel Rodriguez: But this generation has no mask.
Doug Clay: Exactly.
Samuel Rodriguez: With the exception of COVID.
Doug Clay: So, our generation at age 60 drowns in shallow water: their generation deals with it early, and sometimes we gotta learn how to deal with that honesty and transparency early.
Samuel Rodriguez: We're talking about the angst between the Elijah generation and Elisha, using 1 Kings, the narrative of Elijah and Elisha, but modern text, modern day Elijahs and Elishas as a metaphor. Elijah transferring over, making sure you transfer the mantle, but making sure soul care, the issues that we had in our generation, I love all of that, and I'm gonna have to just hit a little bit on Elijah. Creating space on the platform, I get all that. Making sure the next generation goes to Gilgal, and Bethel, and Jericho, and Jordan.
Doug Clay: I'll throw another one out to you. Fathering this generation, spiritual fathering is sort of a trendy expression, but I do believe this generation needs some spiritual fathers who know what it's like to draw the best out it, believe in them for who they can be, not who they were. You know, oftentimes, we grew up, we had to prove ourselves, we had to achieve certain things, and I think this generation Elishas need spiritual fathers.
Samuel Rodriguez: Differentiate between fathering and mentoring.
Doug Clay: Well, I think mentoring, okay, mentoring would be, "Let me coach you, let me evaluate you after your performance. Let me", spiritual fathering has the ability to see you for who you can be, not just who you are right now, so they have a dream for your future, they see the potential versus just critiquing what you're currently doing.
Samuel Rodriguez: Elijahs, Elijahs. You have this Uber optimism, not unbridled, but maybe just uncensored optimism regarding the Elijah generation.
Doug Clay: I am.
Samuel Rodriguez: Like, you are the poster child of "Don't drink the Kool-Aid".
Doug Clay: Well, and I think for two reasons. Number one, I'm allowing myself to be reverse mentored, I'm allowing some Elishas to mentor me. I'm allowing...
Samuel Rodriguez: Stop! Stop for a moment. What in the world did you just lay out? Elisha mentoring Elijah?
Doug Clay: So, for example, our director of communications, who you know, is probably close to half my age, but when it comes to critical statements that I need to make on cultural issues, he's my number one go-to, and when I'm quick to wanna come out and have it be a certain way, I am learning a way through. And I think, as Elijahs can be mentored by Elishas, the body of Christ is gonna be stronger.
Samuel Rodriguez: Do you realize you just completely flipped the script, I mean, you just broke the internet right now. That declaration, no joke, no hype, is so powerful. It requires what? What sort of rubric, be it cognitively, spiritually, from a maturity standpoint, what sort of virtues and values must I adhere to in order to permit an Elisha, so, it's humility, I'm assuming it begins with humility.
Doug Clay: Sure. Humility, spiritual security. What if their idea is better than yours and they're half your age?
Samuel Rodriguez: Isn't that the angst?
Doug Clay: Sure.
Samuel Rodriguez: Even in churches, and communities, and ministries...
Doug Clay: Corporate world, it's the angst. So I think it's coming to a place where you become secure enough in who you are. And I gotta tell you Sam, my worth is not in my title, my worth is the fact that there hasn't been a trumpet blast yet. The church is the primary instrument that God is using to expand his kingdom, and since he hasn't taken us out, we must have purpose, and that purpose to me says next generation. I don't look at them as doom and gloom, I look at them as they're probably the generation that's gonna complete the great commission.
Samuel Rodriguez: Doug, in some of the studies that came out, there was this issue that somehow, we extrapolated from the studies, and I'm not necessarily doubling down on the issue, I'm just laying it out for your consideration. Elijahs, when they asked generation x-ers and boomers, we know, about the emerging generation, and Christianed them, what's the biggest angst? And it's not what you think. I would have assumed it was, even in the church culture now, this was church culture specific, more relativism, sort of the embracing of cultural nuisances regarding sexuality and so forth, the number one issue was lack of honor.
Doug Clay: Yeah, yeah.
Samuel Rodriguez: Help me out. Is that generation, is the Elijah current, is our generation wrong in looking at a generation emerging with a lack of honor or not necessarily knowing how to honor, is that an issue?
Doug Clay: Well, you can edit this out if you don't agree.
Samuel Rodriguez: No, please, I love this.
Doug Clay: The younger generation knows how to honor the older generation better than the older generation knows how to honor the younger generation.
Samuel Rodriguez: You're blowing me away.
Doug Clay: I'm just telling, and I get it. Culture of honor can be kind of a trendy expression, but my observation is that young, that z and millennial honor our generation more than we honor theirs, and again, we've gotta become reversed mentored in that.
Samuel Rodriguez: Mutual honoring. We usually don't depict the whole honoring component to be some sort of symbiotic element.
Doug Clay: Right.
Samuel Rodriguez: It's usually, you know, that younger generation must honor Ephesians 6:1-4, spiritual moms and dads, and so forth. How do we honor the next generation?
Doug Clay: Well, I think first of all, we believe in them, and it's not a sappy belief, it's a real belief. Think of the Elijah's in your life, what was it about them that caused, that launched you to be where you're at today?
Samuel Rodriguez: Yeah.
Doug Clay: "They accepted me, they believed in me, and they kept affirming that I got this, oh, God. God, you've got your hand on dougie clays life. Oh, I know the plans that you have for him". They spoke, they almost prophetically, and then even practically spoke me into ministry relevance, and so I think we have to do that. The other thing, practically, don't get put off by their questions. In fact, a millennial generation will tie into your uniquenesses if they think if there's a cause willing enough to give themselves to, and if you'll, they'll listen to you. That generation doesn't necessarily need to have their way, they just want their way considered. They wanna bring their way to the table without feeling like they're a rebel without having to ask why.
Samuel Rodriguez: When your integrity is more important than your influence, nothing can stop you. You know, integrity over influence, integrity over influence. It is argued that the Elisha generation is obsessed with influence, is that the case? And what you've seen in your travels across the country and around the world, is that the case?
Doug Clay: Yeah, I think integrity should always eclipse influence.
Samuel Rodriguez: Indeed.
Doug Clay: It always should. You know, integrity is something... Excuse me. Influence is something I do to try and cast how you perceive me.
Samuel Rodriguez: Right.
Doug Clay: So we dress like twinsies today.
Samuel Rodriguez: We're twinning.
Doug Clay: You know, do I do a sport coat when Sammy's here? Do I do a soft jacket?
Samuel Rodriguez: Why do I feel like I'm Danny devito and he's Arnold Schwarzenegger?
Doug Clay: So that's all about influence, that's all about, you know, but integrity is who your kids will describe who you are.
Samuel Rodriguez: Absolutely.
Doug Clay: Integrity is who are those closest to you? And I do believe next generation, my own children who are fourth generation Pentecostal preacher's kids, they don't care if my sermons are alliterated or all end with shun words or all that. How real, how real is that person, and how open can they be to having real conversations, that's another thing. Growing up when I was a teenager, I wouldn't dare talk about some of the things that the millennial generation talked, you know? I just kind of frayed. Whether it was human sexuality, whether it was personal, so, not being shocked by their ability to wanna talk.
Samuel Rodriguez: The denomination, the assemblies of God, historically speaking, back even during the time of World War II, you're complete privy to this and cognizant to the fact. The assemblies of God, even for a while, had this very non-intervention, very separated from political engagement, and they looked, back in the day, even back to World War II, as political engagement was some sort of egregious maleficence, it was a negative activity, but that has changed, of course, in independent churches, districts, and so forth, not just the assemblies of God, but other denominations, even the Baptist, other Baptists and so forth. How politically engaged, and that's another issue between Elijah and Elisha. The Elishas don't wanna be labeled with one particular party label politically, and many Elishas see churches too politically affiliated with one stripe. How do we deal with attention, the whole political cultural labeling, and the emerging generation?
Doug Clay: Yeah. The assemblies of God and particularly, worldwide, because as you know, we are ten times bigger overseas than we are here.
Samuel Rodriguez: Right.
Doug Clay: 95% of the assemblies of God resides outside of the United States, so I would say we have taken...
Samuel Rodriguez: And again, according to Vincent Simon, the world's largest protestant denomination, that's pretty amazing.
Doug Clay: I would say this. I would say this, Sam. We take an apolitical position when it comes to persons, we take a biblical position when it comes to cultural issues.
Samuel Rodriguez: That's brilliant.
Doug Clay: So, apolitical, I think I've heard somebody speak about a donkey and an elephant, and its pretty powerful, so as long as we're bringing scripture, what's God word about human sexuality? What's God word about politics? Romans 13. I think you can answer all the why questions of culture by not quoting your favorite social media blog or conservative or liberal, you can quote scripture, and that become the basis for how we address issues.
Samuel Rodriguez: Final question regarding this, and then we're gonna pivot with a closing declaration. I'm gonna ask you to speak prophetically about the Elisha generation. We're in California so I pastor in California. It's officially known now, if you Google it, the coo-coo for cocopuffs state. So, I Googled it. So, it's California, it's difficult to pastor in California, it's difficult terrain. And you travel across the country, you travel around the world, are you satisfied with preaching content? Are we preaching gospel? Let me explain. And I don't want to put you in a predicament where, and of course, we're not speaking to any particular church or pastor. Are we preaching the gospel or are we preaching some sort of psychotherapeutic, narcissistic, self-absorbed, Instagram, "Get your blessing and your breakthrough, it's all about you, smile, smile, smile, happy, happy, happy", without ever covering truth? My issue is: I look at the studies, and the next generation, even in Christiandom is questioning "What is truth? Where did we miss it"?
Doug Clay: Oh, Sammy, you've teed it up for what is really passionate to me. I'm afraid, about 25 years ago, we shifted in our preaching from what you know to how you feel. And preaching...
Samuel Rodriguez: Say that one more time, that's brilliant.
Doug Clay: We shifted from preaching about what you should know to how you should feel.
Samuel Rodriguez: Oh, wow!
Doug Clay: And I think what happened...
Samuel Rodriguez: Oh, wow!
Doug Clay: Biblical illiteracy became an early casualty of that. We're now recognizing that that's been the contribution to a lack of a biblical world view, but I'm encouraged because I think this next generation, particular millennials, there is a return to expository preaching that I am really, really excited about. Most of our current church pastors would be preaching expository. My pastor, I attended church where a pastor's in his 30's, he's going through the book of Mark, he just preaches expository. That has become, I would say, 25 years, we now see the biblical illiteracy because we went with "How do you feel"? Versus "What do you know"? And I'm grateful that that's making a comeback.
Samuel Rodriguez: And what you know is always greater than how you feel.
Doug Clay: Ooh! That's good.
Samuel Rodriguez: Brilliant, brilliant, brilliant. Speak prophetically into the Elijah generations. We are confronted with the spirit of Ahab, and again, I'm using 1 Kings as a metaphor for our current reality.
Doug Clay: Yeah.
Samuel Rodriguez: We're confronting the spirit of Ahab. The spirit of Ahab, 1 Kings 16:34, Ahab was crazy, Ahab was actually the first king to ever authorize the rebuilding of the walls in Jericho, of something God brought down, so even some of the angst and tensions we see in America re-emerging, it's the spirit of Ahab. Jezebel, it's that intimidating, sexually perverse, corrupt cultural spirit, intimidating those that carry prophetic legitimacy. And then we have Baal, the false God, the spirit of violence against children, demanding, you know, children to be sacrificed, but it's violence in the womb and in the streets, and like recently, we saw in Texas, which just breaks my heart. These spirits are alive and well, and all of a sudden, you have an Elijah and Elisha saying, "We will not be defined by Ahab, Jezebel, and Baal". What do you foresee? I mean, what do you see in your spirit? What do you see in your spirit? Is there enough? Help me out here Doug Clay. Is there a revival? Is there an awakening? There's so much tension, even in the spirit of the power of the world, about the eschatology, things are gonna get darker, food shortages, stack up, you know? Versus there's an awakening coming that will shake the nations and more people are about to come to Jesus. Which one is it?
Doug Clay: Yeah. I don't know. But I know this. To every Elisha that's watching this, Ephesians 2:10: "You are God's workmanship created in Christ Jesus to do good deeds that he's prepared in advance for you to do". Those good deeds are not my deeds, they're not Sammy's deed, they're you're deeds, and God knew what he was doing by placing you in culture for such a time as this. So, as you discover your workmanship created in Christ Jesus, and those good deeds that he's prepared in advance for you to do, that's the sweet spot of living.
Samuel Rodriguez: Elijah, Elisha, the transferring of the mantle. After speaking to you, I'm walking out with this super latte, triple shot espresso of optimism. There is a generation emerging.
Doug Clay: Absolutely.
Samuel Rodriguez: That will literally shine the glory of the risen Christ.
Doug Clay: Absolutely.
Samuel Rodriguez: And you really believe that?
Doug Clay: All my heart.
Samuel Rodriguez: I believe it likewise. You are one amazing leader, and I know we have a great friendship for many years, but I honor you, I respect you, love you. I am grateful.