Every generation goes through their version of tug-of-war within who has the right answers, and who is wrong. There has always been this mindset within an older generation and within a younger generation. The battle is nothing new as it has occurred throughout the years. However, I do write this as I recognize that in the Body of Christ we are dangerously embarking on alienating a very important aspect from one generation in favor of another. Today, we have a multitude of young voices who are emerging to the forefront and sharing a lot of advice, wisdom, and ideas. We see the sudden emergence thanks to the platform of social media. Personally, I have gained a lot in my life and ministry from the easy access of social media. I love the fact that we can follow and connect with others throughout the world. I love the fact that we can build (through conversations) with others in the Body of Christ. And, I especially love to see many young men and women of God rising up in this hour.
With that said, I will have to be honest in saying that I am concerned with what I also see through social media, within the Body of Christ. At the moment that I write this, I am 41 years old. I am too young to be considered a part of the older generation. Yet, I am too old to be considered a part of the younger generation. I know that I am not from the Baby Boomer Generation and not a Millennial. Oddly enough, I cannot ever remember what Generation I am defined as. I have to look it up to know that I am defined as Generation X, and/or Xennial Generation (whatever that means). I share this as I understand that I am in the middle of generations right now. I remember vinyl records, cassette tapes, and cds. Yet, I also know Digital downloads and the current technology advancements. I did not grow up with smart phones, social media, and a home computer. Though this was the case, I now have all three as a part of my daily life.
It truly is an odd phase of life that I am in. I know enough about technology to be accessible, but not enough in which I can be dangerous. I am not an old man, yet I am not as young as I once was. I share these things to try and expound where I find myself these days. I have so much to learn, and I have learned so much already. I don’t know everything about life and/or ministry, yet I do know many aspects of life and/or ministry.
Here is the thing, we have an abundance of advice and wisdom, but not from the voices of experience. The abundance seems to be coming from a younger generation. I see these individuals whom I respect and sincerely appreciate who they are and what they bring to the Body of Christ. However, I cannot help but wonder if we place too much of an emphasis on someone because they appear to be fresh and new, therefore have some kind of amazing revelation in life. Now, each time I share a concern about the a young leader (in the Body of Christ) having a lack of experience, someone comes back at me with, “Despise not thy youth”. Let’s clear the air on the meaning. What did Paul actually say to Timothy? 1 Timothy 4:12–“Let no one despise your youth, but be an example to the believers in word, in conduct, in love, in spirit, in faith, in purity.”
Let no one despise your youth…Paul is telling Timothy to act in a manner in which he can be respected in spite of his youth. Paul wrote in Titus 2:6-8–“Likewise urge the young men to be sensible; n all things show yourself to be an example of good deeds, with purity in doctrine, dignified, sound in speech which is beyond reproach, so that the opponent will be put to shame, having nothing bad to say about us.” The word “example” that Paul used, means to “become a pattern”. In other words, Paul was saying in Timothy and in Titus that there is a true way of making men not to despise (slight, or disregard) someones youth. But how is this even possible? One word…Faithfulness.
1 Timothy 4:9-12–“Faithful is the Word, and everyone should accept him! For the sake of this ministry, we toil tirelessly and are criticized continually, simply because our hope is in the living God. He is the wonderful life-giver of all the children of men, and even more so to those who believe. Instruct and teach the people all that I’ve taught you. And don’t be intimidated by those who are older than you; simply be the example they need to see by being faithful and true in all that you do. Speak the truth and live a life of purity and authentic love as you remain strong in your faith.”
The reality is this…Faithfulness does not occur overnight. It is something that must be demonstrated and produced through the passing of time. Paul is telling Timothy that in order for no one to despise his youth he will need to be faithful and be true to his word. Paul is telling Timothy that if he will adhere to what he believes and demonstrates those things in life, an older generation will embrace him in a manner in which they will pour into like a Father. An older generation will help Timothy establish a pattern of faithfulness, but that generation must see the signs in a young person’s life to invest within it.
That’s the key right there! Are we honoring, respecting, and appreciating those who have gone before us? Have we lost the ability to listen to those who have wisdom through experience, or are we embracing the fresh and relevant words of an individual that sounds in tune, yet lacks the example of faithfulness? I am in no way implying that the younger generation cannot teach, cannot share advice, or cannot express words of wisdom. That’s not what I am saying at all. What I am saying, is that in our efforts to embrace sons, we have forsaken fathers. We have become a generation who long to sit at the feet of sons, yet no longer have the time to listen to the fathers. I am generally excited to see the hour of the sons, but I am also heavy hearted to see the light growing dim on the fathers. We need to turn our attention back to the fathers (and mothers) in the Body of Christ. We need to learn to listen to their words again. We need to learn to embrace their wisdom once more. We need to hear their messages and learn from their travails. Don’t continue to be a generation who becomes enamored by words, yet neglect the value of experience.