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The schizophrenia of age


Methuselah was old. Timothy is thought to have been young. Moses did his most significant kingdom work well past eighty. Jesus made child-likeness a kingdom virtue. There's biblical honor to a grey head and significance in remembering our Creator in the days of our youth. One generation is charged with the commission to speak the words and actions of God to the generations who follow. These are all to conclude that age is a significant identifier in Scripture. Afflicted as we are with the schizophrenia of age we must discern the navigational hazards as we journey through our own personal generational map. Knowing how age figures into the roles and expectations of those entrusted with the graces of spiritual leadership is at least a beginning point.

Of course, age is also one of the mind game psyche jobs that throw so many spiritual leaders off course along the way. I know a very youthful looking pastor who grew a beard so his congregation would think he was older. There is also the older guy who darkens his hair so he will appear younger. Or worse, the middle-age colleague who wears skinny jeans and a plaid hang-out shirt that doesn't quite hide the bulge around his growing waistline. These are mere snapshots of church life being guided by the personality cult of twenty-first century America. We're obsessed with age and all the human stuff that we associate with it, looks being at the top of the list.

So, what's the deal about age and spiritual leadership? Why is this suddenly a significant issue? There are a couple of thoughts that have influenced my study in this area and the resulting development of a personal generational map for spiritual leaders----

1. The secularization of the nation.

Equality and fairness are the cherished icons in the secular world, regardless of

age classifications, earnings, experience, or value to society. So, age means

less in a world with few moral absolutes.

2. The rise of the personality cult.

Appearance is everything in this new world, and I'm not just talking about your

personal looks. What you appear to be here is the totality of your presentation,

from your body, the way you dress, how you interact with others, where you

go, and what you do when you get there. Glamour is the deal here regardless

of your age. Success is the common denominator. Hollywood works here

because it gives the appearance of mega success.

3. Popular associations of age.

The thirty-second sound bite portrays the ages in stereotypical fashion. Older

people have Alzheimer's Disease, must have reverse mortgages to live, and

suffer from disorders requiring major medications with horrid side-effects.

Young people are bad drivers, ride skateboards into middle age, and live in a

constant party state. Middle aged people are planning for retirement,

purchasing long-term care insurance, and getting their hair colored. Lost in

these broad assumptions is the powerful interplay of the ages and the need to

perpetuate values from one generation to the other.

4. The American spiritual landscape.

Spiritual leaders are passionate about communicating truth to those

who live outside the parameters of faith. Demographic research indicates that

millennials and the cohort that follows them, yet to be named, are the farthest

removed from spiritual influence. Many believe only the younger cohort can

reach them. So, age enters the pulpit and teaching place every Sunday.

5. Lowered developmental expectations.

Most educators and social scientists indicate that young people are growing

up slower these days. Many younger Americans leave college with enormous

debt and must live with their parents longer than previous generations and

enter marriage and adult living arrangements later in life as well.

In total, these and other factors add several layers of stress to the high calling of spiritual leadership. It may be one of the reasons so many pastors, church staffers, and others in traditional church leadership call it quits every month, the schizophrenia of age that rocks so many religious institutions and churches.

So, here's a retired guy who wants to lay it out this week. Join me tomorrow in a consideration of what the Bible teaches about aging and spiritual leadership. And, remember what the Spirit led King David to write---

So teach us to number our days that we may get a heart of wisdom.

Psalm 90:12, ESV

And, perhaps not be so schizophrenic about age.


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