Codgers and Whippersnappers

When I was younger there was a para-church organization that I really liked being a part of.  It had a large annual event which I normally participated in and got a lot from.  Then, after 50 years (half of which I was involved in) it ceased to exist. 

While it had, in fact, waned in size from its hay day, it was still effective and reaching people in a niche that no other organization I was aware of did.  Every year there were new people coming to it.  It didn’t die of attrition, it died by plan. And the plan, was bad.

The people who had originally started the organization had, of course, all aged and most had died, leaving only a few of the originals “in charge”.  And they didn’t have any interest in handing off the reigns to anyone else.

I had been involved since I was about 10 years old and had been brought in by one of the founding members.  I had spent a few years in my youth doing some of the minor things involved with the “behind the scenes” work.  When I was a man in my early thirties, I had approached those in charge and asked to get involved more firmly.  I was not rebuffed.  I was firmly, and clearly ignored.

I’m not totally sure why.  Perhaps because they had known me in my teens and knew what an idiot I had the ability to be. Perhaps just because I was a youngster in my thirties.

About a decade later it was announced that the next year would be the final year and that, by design the organization would be shut down.  The leaders were too old to keep doing it.  Many younger people (as in people in their 40’s) asked to be allowed to pick up the torch and continue to carry it.  They were firmly told that they were not welcome to do that.  They were told that they could not have access to the records or mailing addresses of the organization and they were forbidden to use the name if they tried to keep things going.  The organization was sentenced to die and there would be no reprieve.

Why did this happen?  It was quite simple.  The very few of the original organizers who were left had decided that only they could decide how to do things and they simply did not trust anyone to be faithful enough to how they wanted it done.  No one.  So they killed it.

In the church I fear there might be a lot of similar thinking going on.  People my age and older can be a bit leery of those who are half our age.  Perhaps we see how they have done some things in the past. Perhaps we don’t like their ideas, perhaps we just don’t trust them to “get it right”.  And so, a lot of folks who are only 10 to 15 years from retirement may, perhaps, be being a bit short sighted for the future of the church.

The best thing that we can do is to train new people in how we truly believe things should be done, patiently explaining why we hold those beliefs, and to do our best to set them in place to carry on faithfully with leading the church true to God.

But guess what?  They aren’t always going to think the same as us, even if we teach them everything solidly.  They didn’t grow up the same way we did.  They didn’t experience the same things we did.  They didn’t even have the same teachers that we did.  No, they had us instead, and I am completely certain that we didn’t duplicate exactly what we were taught.  Why?  For the same reason that they won’t duplicate exactly what we taught them.  There are going to be things each generation thinks differently on.  Even some things we think are very, very important.

The question is; do we trust the Holy Spirit?  You see it isn’t just us who are guiding those young whippersnappers who, someday, will be doing things in the church we don’t approve of.  No, they have the same access to the loving, guiding God that we did as we prayed for God to guide us.  They have the same access to the Bible that we did when we searched it for the truth of how we needed to make decisions about the leading of the church.

Will they do everything the same way we do?  Absolutely not.  Guess what?  I don’t do things exactly the same as the men and women who guided me in the bible and how to lead in a church.  There are some things I do which I am pretty sure the preacher who baptized me would not like.  So why don’t I do them how he would have liked?  Probably because I don’t think those particular things are terribly important.  Would he?  I think he might.  Then again if he were alive today, he might say “Ah, that was just because of the time we lived in back then, that isn’t important for today.  Just preach the truth from the Bible, those other things don’t matter.”

But I am guessing there are a few things of a deeper nature that we would disagree on.  Things of doctrine.  Why don’t I do those as he did?  Because I think he was mistaken on a few things.  My study has not led me to the identical conclusions that he reached.  But I think we were both trying to be true to scripture.  And that, my friends, is key.

Chances are there are going to be some preachers who come up behind me when I decide to retire (should I be so long lived) who are doing things I don’t think are right.  Some will be trivial, and I will just need to get over myself.  Others will be doctrinal, and I will need to, carefully, lovingly, and considerately, address those issues.  Perhaps I will find out I didn’t have it right all along.  Perhaps I will enlighten them to some error on their part.

But this much I know.  We in the “starting to silver” crowd had better be willing to let those half our age step in and start taking the reigns because we aren’t allowed to plan the deliberate death of the church just because we don’t trust any of these youngsters to get it 100% right.

They may, in fact, mess some things up.  I would be shocked if they didn’t.  I know I made my fare share of disastrous blunders (and I still might).  But I trust God to step in from time to time and make some course corrections when people get the ship on the wrong heading.

Is this scary?  Oh, yeah!  When I look at the travesty that some “preachers” of my age have committed over the last few decades I am terrified of what the next batch will do.  Who knows, maybe Jesus will return next year, and I won’t have to worry about it.  In the meantime, we need to be willing to let them lead and help them through the blunders when we can.  Who knows, maybe they will even listen to a grouchy, old, codger who tries to put a hand on the wheel once in a while.