If you care about the church, then you care about the future of the church. But today and tomorrow’s leaders aren’t always on the same page. In fact, many of our denominational and doctrinal conflicts are generationally related. To be sure, there are plenty of Pauls and Timothys out there working well together. Nevertheless, when an older man and younger man undergo conflict—an all-too-common occurrence—everyone pays for it.
The breakdown usually happens when one thinks he is the answer and the other is the problem. In reality, it’s hardly that simple. Christians need to see brothers from all generations getting along and working together to think biblically about leading God’s people.
Many young guys have big hearts and legitimate ambition for the kingdom of God. The church of the future will be far better served if young men are guided and shepherded by more seasoned saints.
Speaking as a young pastor, here are four ways older men can minister to us “young guns.”
Listening is a sign of patience and interest, and when we don’t see you listening, we’re quick to write you off. Right or wrong, that’s how men react to each other. If you see error in us, by all means reach out to us, but please listen before you speak. Patiently listen and patiently suggest your thoughts within the context of a relationship. Ask about the preachers we listen to and the books we read. Get to know us. Listen to our past and how we came to know Christ; this will guide you in helping us.
If we come off as know-it-alls, then model humility for us. Offer constructive criticism by asking questions and gently helping us to see things another way.
2. Reflect on your earlier years.
Remember the days when you were green? Who were the Pauls who patiently helped you? You didn’t just roll out of bed at 19 as the man and minister you are today. Wisdom takes time. More than likely you followed the men who respected and cared for you the most, those who didn’t simply talk to you like you were a kid who wanted to be the next Billy Graham.
As young guys in ministry, we don’t know what we don’t know, and we’ll continue not knowing it unless someone spends time correcting us. Using us as an example in a sermon, book, or conference doesn’t count as helping the next generation of pastors. It just pushes us further away. Brothers, pursue the young guys with whom you don’t easily see eye to eye for the health of the church and the integrity of the gospel.
3. Don’t assume we have wrong motives.
There are plenty of guys in ministry with whom I disagree about various things. It can be difficult not to assume bad motives. But often there’s an understandable (even if misguided) reason why a person is doing what he’s doing.
For example, don’t automatically assume every young guy just wants the spotlight. Most of the time he just needs to be taken to lunch and encouraged down the right path. One of the best mentors I’ve ever had rode motorcycles with me, ate lunch with me, and invited me into his home for healthy conversations. He gave me books, asked me questions, prayed for me, and loved me. In a word, he invested in me.
4. Pray for us.
I suggest this one last because it’s the hardest. Praying for others is hard—especially when we don’t understand or agree with them. But the truth is nobody knows the ministry stresses we experience like you do, older pastors.
So pray our idols would be destroyed and our hearts would be close to Christ. Ask God to protect us from the enemy and to guard us from bad doctrine. Pray our families wouldn’t take a back seat to ministry, and pray our own hunger for God would always rise above our next sermon.