Next month I will be 36. I am not young. Most of my hair is grey (and all the hair I have is on my face). But I know what it is like to be a young leader in the halls of power. I am thankful that early in my professional career I was surrounded by mentors that sought to discover strengths rather than age alone. Many people would be prone to expecting that wisdom only comes with age, and I understand the sentiment. But it that we true in the market place we would only have old inventors and institutions would never change. Our culture doesn’t work that way but sadly, too many of our churches do.
Whether you are young, inexperienced or at the least perceived as either, many churches have no place for you. Certainly not in leadership. So young leaders plant new churches and generational divides broaden. The more disturbing thing is that in many churches the young are overlooked out of insecurity rather than a lack of wisdom (but that is a whole other subject and sin all together.)
David Mathis at Desiring God has a post on making room for young leaders. Mathis interacts with the need for young leadership and the fear that we sacrifice wisdom to have it. He quotes Larry Osborne on the mentality that the first generation of the church is the best, as he puts it in terms of school and an ever diminishing class of incoming freshman. “The seniors never graduate (at least not until they’ve become literal seniors and start dying off). They hog the leadership table, shutting out the next generation. It’s one of the main reasons that most churches stop growing and lose their evangelistic touch (and cultural relevance) around the twenty-year mark. (Sticky Teams, 114)”
But most poignant for the church is the discussion on youth and wisdom. Of this Mathis says:
“A generation ago, on Sunday morning, August 29, 1982 — with the first of the Millennials still in diapers — 36-year-old Baby Boomer John Piper took up Job 32:7–11 and preached on the young man Elihu. The sermon title was “Let the Young Speak.” That night the church would be ordaining 27-year-old Tom Steller, and Piper wanted to prepare his congregation of gray heads for laying hands on such a spring chicken. The key verses were Job 32:8–9: “It is the spirit in man, the breath of the Almighty, that makes him understand. It is not the old who are wise, nor the aged who understand what is right.” Said Piper, The lesson Elihu teaches us here is that it is not age that brings wisdom but the Spirit of God. There is no necessary correlation between gray hair and good theology. There is no necessary connection between a wizened face and a wise heart. . . . Of course, there is, then, no necessary connection between youth and wisdom, either. What Elihu has done is remove age as the dominant consideration in deciding who is wise and understanding. He teaches us that there may be folly in the old and folly in the young; wisdom in the young and wisdom in the old. When we search for a source of wisdom, we do not end our search with the question, “How old is he?” We end it with the question, “Who has the Spirit of wisdom and understanding?”’
Read the whole article here.
HT: S. Hanson.