Letters to a Young Preacher, Pt. 2

In all my years of studying the Word (I’m being facetious; said years number in the single digits), I’ve gathered that Paul was an equal-opportunity toe-stomper. One important rule of ministry he never learned was “Thou shalt never offend old people.” While it is true that he implored Timothy and Titus to honor the senior saints (something I expounded upon in my previous post), he was not above saying what needed to be said to those too set in their ways. In that spirit, I respectfully and humbly believe that what follows is something that needs to be said. Yes, there are some ways that the senior saints could do a better job in serving the church. I feel terrible even writing those words, but it's true. Take it as coming from your precious grandson. Take it as coming from a young preacher who is ruggedly handsome, albeit slightly overweight. All I ask is that you simply take it to heart. Previously, I asked the question: “What does the older generation need from me?” Today, I would like for you to consider this question: “What does the younger generation need from their elders?” They need…

my LOVE, not a LASHING

I know the older generation means well, but the 70s hit from .38 Special applies here. You have to hold on loosely. I once witnessed a well-meaning senior saint give a severe lashing to a young preacher. That is uncalled for. He may be young enough to be your grandson, but he’s not. Before he is your preacher, your grandson, your employee, or whatever, he is a brother in Christ. The same goes for every young Christian. They may be a member of the generation who, in your opinion, will end up destroying the church or Western civilization as a whole. They may one day be responsible for the destruction of everything you have built. Fine. Just remember, in the midst of your little tongue lashing/power trip, that he/she is a brother/sister in Christ. What the younger generation in the church needs more than a lashing is your love. On the flip side, I have seen young people do extraordinary things for senior saints when the latter’s love for the former was palpable and real.

Paul wrote: “And this is my prayer: that your love may abound more and more in knowledge and depth of insight, so that you may be able to discern what is best and may be pure and blameless until the day of Christ,” (Phil. 1:9-10). I take that to mean that, as I draw closer and closer to being a card-carrying member of AARP, my love for my Christian brethren (young and old alike) should develop a maturity and “depth of insight.” Are you frustrated? I can understand that. Are you fearful of the future? You’re not alone. But do you seriously think that any good will come from dressing down the younger generation? This isn’t the military. I’m not saying that love never requires us to have a difficult conversation, but lighten up and love.

the TRUTH, not my TRADITIONS

If you were tempted to skip over this point because you thought, “Here we go again,” I understand. But it still needs to be said. You do the younger generation no favors by insisting that they cling dearly to your traditions. You like to sing How Great Thou Art. They like to sing How Great is Our God. Is there not room for both in our song book, much less the church? Fond of a particular translation of the Bible? Fantastic. Don’t get bent out of shape because the youth minister uses a “perversion” rather than your favorite version. If you’re honest, you broke with a few traditions in your own youth. You fought the good fight against women having to wear dresses every time they darkened the church’s door. And we won’t even get into fellowship halls and orphans' homes. My point is that what is “fresh” and “contemporary” in one age becomes traditional or the norm in the next. And if you are patient, some of us whipper snappers will jump into the waters of newness, swim around a bit, realize it’s not for us, and come back to the fold. We may think sacred cows make great hamburgers, but a few of them give us indigestion from time to time. Be patient. You’ll be surprised.

In Rom. 14, Paul engages in an extended discussion concerning Christians getting along with one another. “Therefore let us stop passing judgment on one another. Instead, make up your mind not to put any stumbling block or obstacle in your brother’s way,” (Rom. 14:13). Early in the next chapter, Paul concludes his thought with this command: “Accept one another, then, just as Christ accepted you, in order to bring praise to God,” (Rom. 15:7). Truth takes on a tangible and appreciable quality when we all think back to how God graciously accepted us when we were toxic spiritual waste to him. That reality, the reality of his grace to us, should give us fresh eyes to see others with, especially the younger generation. If I am living my life with a perpetual appreciation for God’s grace to one so unworthy, then the Truth I want others to see is easier to accept. When the younger generation looks at you, I hope they see the fullness of God's Truth rather than the emptiness of your traditions. What the younger generation needs from you more than your traditions is the Truth. And before they hear the Truth from you, they need to see the Truth lived out in you.

my PRAYERS, not my PETTINESS

The young are not alone in falling down on the job of praying for the other generation. You senior saints have an obligation to pray for us. We need your prayers and covet them sincerely. With each passing day, it becomes more difficult to live the Christian life in this world. You no doubt remember those days in your youth when life seemed more than you could bear; yeah, well, we’re there now. So, again, we could really use your prayers. What we could do without is your pettiness. Admit it: you sometimes exhibit an attitude we could all do without. Don’t get me wrong: we can be moody as well. But when the younger generation has to be the adult in the relationship, you should be ashamed. You’re supposed to be the spiritually mature one. Act like it.

To both young and old in the church, Paul wrote: “Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than yourselves. Each of you should look not only to your own interests, but also to the interests of others. Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus,” (Phil. 2:3-5). From there, Paul went on in a famous passage to describe just what kind of attitude Jesus had (Phil. 2:6-8). If Christ’s attitude had been, “I’m better than them and there is no way they deserve for me to die for their sins,” we would all still be on the highway to hell. Thank God that his attitude was one of humility! To that end, young and old should be fervent in prayer, not in pettiness. We are should interact with one another as if the other is better than us, regardless of what we may personally thing. We owe that to one another as Christian brethren. We owe it to Christ.

If you consider yourself a senior saint and are still reading, I thank you deeply. If you were offended by some things I have said, I sincerely apologize. I know that what I have said does not apply to every member of your generation, and I assure you that I meant it in a respectful manner. But these things are true, if not of you, then of someone else. Please take all of this in the spirit it was intended. We may not show it at times, but we are eternally grateful for the things you have done and will do for the Kingdom of God. At the end of the day, we love the same Lord and are journeying to the same destination.

Heavenly Father, I pray that you will, in a powerful way, bridge the generation gap in the church. Help us, the younger generation, do a better job of honoring our senior saints. Help them, as those who have served you for many years, to set a powerful example for us to follow. In all things, remind us of your son’s example on this earth. Help us to, in all things, love one another. In Jesus' name.

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