5 Things I Learned from Young Pastors
Meeting regularly with a group of young pastors, mostly church planters, was when my personal learning curve ratcheted up most noticeably. The correct perspective about the monthly breakfast meetings was clarified for me when a colleague complimented me about them. He said it was admirable that I spent time coaching the younger cohort. That's when the reality of what was happening hit me with the most profound force: I'm wasn't coaching them, they were coaching me. Instantly I knew that the generational thing works both ways.
There are two sides to the generational dynamics that are trending right now. Us boomers tend to major on the contributions we can make to the future by sharing our experiences with those who are following us. All well and good. That's the drift of my own personal passion verse, Psalm 71:18 (ESV)---
So even to old age and gray hairs, O God, do not forsake me until I proclaim your
might to another generation, your power to all those to come.
Those mornings with five or six man half my age taught he other other half of the influence thing. Suddenly I realized they were mentoring me. And, in reflection over the past year or so, those lessons have become far more strategic that I thought. So, I've summarized what I learned from these younger spiritual leaders into five lessons:
1. Bible truth is what resonates with younger congregations.
Eight or nine years ago demographers started doing the landscape on the
millennial cohort. For the most part they were by-passing traditional churches
and many of my builder, boomer, and Gen X colleagues were searching out
ways to connect with them. We imported stage sets, lights, contemporary
music, skinny jeans, plaid hang out shirts, and cool series titles. Then, these
younger guys taught me that they were focusing on biblical exposition, that is,
truth, to help millennials deal with their real life problems. Knock me down!
2. Growing the Kingdom is more significant that growing a church.
In our several years of meetings I never heard one of them talk about growing a
church. One of them said over and over again, our aim is not seating capacity,
but sending capacity. Every one of them had a Kingdom heart. Their churches
were healthy and growing too. But, it was a Kingdom focus that captured
3. Staging authenticity is the height of pretense.
About that time authenticity became the buzz and we were all scrounging the
depths of cultural religion to be more real to these younger groups living in the
mission field down the street. One of the breakfast guys said, "Just be yourself.
If you have to talk about it or plan it, that's pretense. And, it won't fly." Knock
me down again.
4. Wisdom isn't an age differential.
How foolish to believe that grey hair equals wisdom. That's urban legend if
there every was one. Sitting around the table with these five or six wise men
was a smack down at times. They taught me James 1:5-8 again. it reminded me
how many childish gray haired people I know. Me too at times.
5. Connection is contextual.
Many of us older spiritual leaders have been looking for a silver bullet to open the doors of church growth and usher us into the hallways of effective mission.
These younger men taught me, again I might add, that mission is contextual
and what works in one place may not work in another. The side-bar they
underscored every meeting was that Bible truth is the constant and must be
the center of church mission
2 Timothy has become precious to me since those younger pastors invested in my ministry over the years. While Paul offered so much instruction and guidance to his younger friend Timothy there is evidence of Timothy's influence over Paul as well. In his letter to the Philippians he had written, "I hope in the Lord Jesus to send Timothy to you soon, so that I too may be cheered by news of you. For I have no one like him, who will be genuinely concerned for your welfare" (Philippians 2:19-20). Paul's personal letters to Timothy contain line after line of Paul's gratitude for a younger, committed friend.
The recent book United: Connecting Generations for Kingdom Expansion by Matt Rogers, Will Browning, Lee Clamp, David Sons, Don Brock, Curt Bradford, and Marshall Blalock, with forward by Chuck Lawless, is a fresh look at this generational thing. It's a reminder that the generations work both ways, like the mentoring five or six younger men gave me. WOW!