Leading, Four Generations at a Time

The Old Testament teaches us to "Honor the presence of an old man ..." (Lev. 19:32, NKJV). Apparently, Timothy did just that. Honoring older people gives us access to vast repositories of wisdom stored up in the souls of seasoned men and women. We "honor" them by admiring their character, inquiring into their insights, and engaging them in meaningful conversation.

Honoring the older generation, however, is more than some Biblical "rule." It's a vital principle that links our lives to something God wants for us, and to something we deeply need. Even Paul urged believers to remember that "you have not many fathers..." (1 Cor. 4:15).

I have found at least three benefits from the time I've spent with older brothers in Christ:

  1. The Faith of a "Father." My developing faith is enriched and built up by observing the faith of an older believer.
  2. Wisdom for Living. I find the insights I need to understand more of life from those who have lived much more of it than I.
  3. The Confidence to Endure and Overcome. The affirmation of an elder in the faith helps me accomplish more in life.   

What role have you given older people in your life? Are you linked to the older generation?

Reaching Your Own Generation

The Second Practice of the Linked Life is seen in Barnabas. He was the one person who risked much to advocate for Paul in the earliest stages of his faith. Since in his earlier life "Saul" had been such a persecutor of the church, when he finally became a believer most Christians were understandably skeptical of his conversion. However, not Barnabas, a leader of the Church at Antioch; he risked his personal reputation to reach someone controversial and distrusted in his own generation, Paul.

In order to live the truly Linked Life, we have a responsibility to reach out to our own generation for the sake of Christ. The Book of Acts cites that David "served the purposes of God in his own generation" (Acts 13:36). What intentional steps are you taking to reach people in your generation?

Teaching/Training the Next Generation

Clearly, Paul lived the Linked Life by consistently investing himself in the next generation. Not only did Timothy benefit from that investment, so did several others, including Titus, Silas, Aquila and Priscilla.

One survey taken of people sixty years of age and older asked the question: "If you could do anything differently in your life, what would you change?" The three top answers were:

  1. "I would risk more..."
  2. "I would reflect more ..."
  3. "I would pour myself more into things that would outlive me."

Paul poured himself into people who would outlive him, sharing his insights, skills and encouragements. That is the Third Practice of the Linked Life. To him, faith and life were gifts of God that had been passed down to him from previous generations and that he was responsible to effectively pass on to the next one. What intentional steps are you taking to do the same?

Linking Your Life

Followers of Christ are not just called to live day-to-day, but generation-to-generation. In order to do so, however, you should ask yourself three questions:

  1. Who is Your "Paul"? From whom are you learning life?
  2. Who is Your "Barnabas"?  With whom are you sharing life?
  3. Who is Your "Timothy"?  To whom are you passing on your life?

Note: For more on the four generations and how our ministries could reach them, see Dr. Crosby's blog or his recent article in The Pentecostal Evangel.

7/5/2011 4:00:00 AM
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  • Robert Crosby
    About Robert Crosby
    Robert Crosby is an author and Professor of Practical Theology at Southeastern University. Read his interview with Bobby Gruenewald, the Founder of YouVersion.com (the Bible App) and related articles at Christianity Today, The New Engagers and The Social Network Gospel. Robert Crosby is the author of the new book, The Teaming Church: Ministry in the Age of Collaboration (Abingdon Press).