One of the most encouraging trends in evangelical church life that I’ve seen recently is the engagement of the older and younger generations of pastors and church leaders. Instead of standing apart from and casting aspersions at one another, current leaders are reaching out to younger leaders, and helping them along.
Walter Price, senior pastor of Fellowship in the Pass Church in Beaumont, California, recently spoke at the California Southern Baptist Convention and gave a terrific challenge to his peers to enfranchise younger SBC pastors. Price, a leader in the SBC, blogger, and a trustee of Southern Seminary, offered the following remarks (passed on to me by one of Price’s trainees, Mark Rogers):
I am not here today to claim the demise of the CSBC. It hasn’t happened…yet. What I am here to say is, ‘There’s an iceberg off the starboard bow and we better wake up.’
What is the iceberg? You already know. You saw it yourselves when I asked you to stand by age groups. The time has come for someone to sound the alarm. I do not purport to speak for the younger generation. They are eloquent in speaking for themselves. But the signs that I see are not encouraging. For all intents and purposes, except for a very few exceptions, we have lost those in their 20’s and 30’s.
If that statement causes you to react against them from under your gray hair, you are way off the mark. These young Baptists are passionate for the Kingdom of God. They are passionate to see people from every tribe and tongue and nation gather round the throne and worship our Holy God. Theirs is not a youthful rebellion. For them it is a matter of (and this is my word not theirs) stewardship. Is this convention the way that God wants me to invest my life, my time, my energy, my resources? I’m afraid many of them are finding little reason to answer in the affirmative.
They love the church. They have resisted the temptation to give up on the church or to be satisfied with a parachurch form of ministry. They love people, love the church, and see the Body of Christ in terms of God’s redemptive purpose. They like the gritty work of the ministry and are not afraid. They understand the joy of authentic Christian community and they give their lives to it. They are recovering a biblical ecclesiology in its fullness. They affirm and practice church discipline. They see the glory of God in an inter-generational congregation of believers growing into faithfulness together.
These are words from two experienced, godly mentors that all young guns should take note of. The older generation is (increasingly) willing to work with us. To cite one of many settings that shows this, this year’s SBC meeting in Louisville included much cross-generational dialogue: David Dockery treated a number of young guys to a meal and listened to their ideas, Baptist21 was warmly received, and Johnny Hunt graciously sponsored the B21 lunch.
Whether you’re a Southern Baptist or not, take note of these encouraging developments. Let’s pray that this kind of dialogue and enfranchisement escalates in the SBC and other settings, and that Paul’s own words to Timothy to “guard the deposit” are lovingly passed, as they have been for thousands of years, from one generation to the next (2 Timothy 1:14).