China is a 1st generation Christianity country. What I mean is that I hired 48 Christians in one job and all 48 were raised in non Christian families. So while my context is China, I think it relates to all first generation faith.
We in the West are nearly 20 generations beyond Martin Luther (1517) and 9 generations from Jonathan Edwards and GeorgeWhitefield(1750) who were the first evangelicals.
First generation people know the darkness. They care about evangelism more. They know the shallow empty world they have been saved from. Pagans raised them.
I knew the recent college graduates best, and if you asked them to describe their childhood family, they would use words like terror, meaningless, war, rejection, and criticism. It was shocking to hear at first, but gradually I saw these people came to faith as they needed a savior more clearly than others.
As I looked about the people, I saw that 47 out of 48 needed counseling and later realized actually it was 48 out of 48.
Do you use the word terror to describe your childhood? That is a lot of darkness.
I saw that a lot of non Christians were better and needed less counseling then these 1st generation Christians. God loves these lost souls.
What is 1st Generation Christianity Like?
1st generation Christians usually have no concept of a Christian family and what it could or should be like. They enter a whole new world but carry a lot of baggage. Their new families have less terror, but you cannot say they reached heaven. I believe it was Watchman Nee who said you cannot see the best of the kingdom until the third generation. His Open Brethren thinking and mine are quite similar.
I am also a first generation Christian who grew up outside the Kingdom. This did give me a little fire that others who grew up in the church did not seem to have. It also meant my childhood lacked some things that my Navigator friends had in college. They actually knew what a Christian family could be, and I did not.
I spent time with good Christian families before I was married and started to have a better vision of what a family could be. Still, like the Chinese Christians I knew, I had a non faith background. I remember the darkness.
Are Believers the Best People?
What I observe is that first generation Christians are not usually the best people to be around. They had a lot of relational gaps like me. Some of them carried bad habits like heavy drinking or immoral behavior.
Second generation people of faith get hurt some by their first generation parents, but definitely get faith thought from their passionate parents. Third generation kids have the cleanest record but have a hard time knowing what they are saved from. They grew up well and with faith, but fuzzy on sin and the darkness.
Fourth generation may give up on faith as see no need for a savior. By the sixth generation the pendulum may swing, and the situation may again be bad enough that people turn to faith, and the cycle starts over.
The people of Israel showed some group issues of this.
China is in a precious time with 1st generation Christians making up the vast majority of all the churches. My wife and coworkers are all 1st generation. So am I, though I came from a Christian cultural background. They have not. I love being among them and seeing something different than what I saw in the West.