I had a long dinner conversation with my friend, Mike Glenn, Wednesday evening, when I was in Nashville to speak at New Room. This post is the kind of wisdom I have come to learn from Mike every time we are together.
Most parents have experienced the humbling moment of realizing they can’t beat their children in some games unless they cheat, whether it’s Monopoly at the kitchen table or basketball in the driveway. (We won’t even talk about video games). One of life’s most discouraging/joyful moments is watching your child raise their hands in triumph and knowing you can’t do anything about it…but cheat.
I had a couple of those moments with both of my sons over these last several days. Recently, my son, the CPA, was promoted to be the CFO of a hospital in Jacksonville, Florida. He works for a large hospital corporation based here in Nashville, and being willing to move is one of the requirements of the job.
While we were celebrating his promotion, I began to ask him about what he does. He answered me, I think, but I didn’t understand one thing he told me. Once he got past budgets and profits, I was totally lost.
It’s a humbling moment when you realize your son is smarter than you.
If that wasn’t enough, our other son is an attorney. The other day over breakfast, he explained to me the legal reasoning behind a recent Supreme Court decision. Once again, I smiled and nodded a lot, but I’m not sure I caught everything he said. OK, I admit it, I didn’t.
Both of my sons are smarter than me. They play golf better than I do. They dress better than I do. It’s sad, but I’m totally outclassed by my sons.
It’s no better at church. I have the privilege of working with several campus pastors. They are younger than me, and while they may have less experience, they are smart, wise and very gifted. On more than one occasion, we’ve been in discussions about ministry or discussing a sermon when one of them has offered a very good suggestion. In fact, it wasn’t just a good suggestion. It was brilliant. Not only brilliant, but his suggestion caused us to totally rethink one of our most important strategies.
Yeah, it’s that obvious. Truth be known, one of these young pastors will take my place. That’s what happens. Senior pastors move on. We retire or take another position, and the next generation takes over.
The best of us know this. It’s a humbling reality, but on the other hand, it’s kind of fun when you think about it.
Think about it. Twenty, thirty years after I’m gone, one of these young pastors is going to quote me. He’ll be talking to someone, somewhere about something, and he’ll say, “It’s like Mike always told us…”
And the person hearing the story may not even know me, but I’ll be there.
In some small way, God will let me be part of the future. Like King David so long ago, maybe it’s not my privilege to build the future as much as being sure everything needed – including leaders – are ready when God begins to build the future.
I go to work every day thinking about where our church will be in two years, five years, ten years and twenty years. A lot of people are negative about the future of the church in North America. I’m not one of them. People, no matter how sophisticated we become, will still be answering questions only Jesus can answer. Our technology will soon open up for us opportunities and choices we are not wise enough to consider. We’ll need a wisdom beyond ourselves. When we look for answers to the existential questions of meaning, value and hope, we’ll be asking religious questions – and the church will have to be there to help people work through this.
Now, I’m convinced it will be a very different church in the future. Future church will be anchored around small groups (recreating the family unit) and small worshipping communities (recreating small neighborhoods). Intergenerational groups will provide the life skills and encouragement we need to be our best selves.
So, I’m working now to train ministers and design systems that will make up the structure of the future church. I’m pouring my life into young ministers who will one day be the leaders of this future church. We’re training people to have gospel conversations in the everyday moments of their lives. We’re coaching our people how to recognize those moments when God opens the door for us to share about who Jesus is, what He came to do, and what He CAN do through His Spirit in our lives.
I’m doing my best to impact a future I won’t be part of, and that’s a good thing. The future will need somebody better than me. The kingdom is coming. The church is on the move to a God shaped future, and that future will require leaders who are better than us.
Pray God will find us faithful in getting them there.