In this episode of TGC Q&A, Al Mohler and Bryan Chapell address the question, “What will define the next generation of pastors?” They address:
- Concerns about the next generation of pastors (0:29)
- Depreciation of commitment to denominations (1:00)
- Maintaining gospel centrality in a pluralistic culture (2:24)
- Deny Scripture or not talk about it (3:15)
- Fighting for cultural relevance (4:07)
- The speed of cultural change (4:55)
- Keeping the gospel first (5:49)
Explore more from TGC on pastoral wisdom and theology:
- Pastoral Theology: Theological Foundations for Who a Pastor Is and What He Does
- Pastoral Wisdom for the Next Generation
The following is an uncorrected transcript generated by a transcription service. Before quoting in print, please check the corresponding audio for accuracy.
Bryan Chapell: What do we have in terms of concerns about the next generation of pastoral leaders and what encourages us? I think this presumes that we’re old people now that we have concerns about the next generation.
Al Mohler: Well, we’re both grandfathers now so I guess we qualify. And my first thought is that it takes a certain amount of hubris for someone who’s almost 60 to talk about my concerns about the younger generation. But I guess there are people who had concerns about us, and that’s rather inevitable too. I think with my first concern, it would be something I’ve been thinking about over time. And that is that there has been a depreciation of commitment to certain structures and traditions, most importantly, you could say denominations. And that’s something that I think over time is going to reveal some real material weaknesses, perhaps some theological weaknesses as well.
Al Mohler: There’s a reason why those denominational forms are in place. First theologically and then for ecclesiology and missiology. And as much as mainline Protestantism has been in decline for decades, if you look over the history since the Reformation, those denominational structures have been really important. And I think in a world of even less cultural support for Christianity, and in which all of the social structures are more fragile, I think the loss of that kind of denominational structure and support and long-term investment is going to be a big problem.
Bryan Chapell: For all of their difficulties, the denominations and the institutions were guardians, not just of a tradition, but guardians of truth. And without some way of being able to lock our arms together, like you just become yourself on the battlefield, which is not a very strong position. And I would say something very similar that it seems to me, my greatest concern is that pastoral leaders are highly vulnerable in terms of maintaining a gospel centrality in a pluralistic culture. I mean, for all the reasons that we respect these young leaders, they’re swimming upstream of the culture, and they do so with love for family and friends and community, and deep joy of standing for the Lord.
Bryan Chapell: Nonetheless, that’s a very vulnerable position to say, “Every day, I’m trying to establish credibility for the faith.”
Al Mohler: Right.
Bryan Chapell: And you’re always tempted to compromise in ways you may not even know. The central truce of what you believe about the Lord. And about Scripture. Scripture is always the first casualty and, you and I know because of where we’ve stood that, you can say you’re standing for Scripture and yet have certain presuppositions that erode it pretty quickly.
Al Mohler: And there are two different ways to abandon Scripture. The first is kind of the historic Protestant liberal way, which is just to deny it, to criticize it, to subject it to scrutiny, and then dismiss it. The other way is just to start talking about something else. And so you’ve got a lot of people who wouldn’t dare say anything derogatory about the Bible, they just don’t talk about the Bible. They really don’t cite biblical authority and I now think that’s the operational issue. Does the church, the congregation, whatever it’s called, does it sense every time the church is in worship? The binding authority of scripture? And I think if it doesn’t, then it’s going to be very, very difficult to bring the Bible in when all of a sudden you think, “I need it now.”
Bryan Chapell: Very much so. I think a generation might look at our generation or our church fathers and say that, “You were fighting so much for the acceptance of your tradition and so you’re bound to a traditional approach.” And our concern would be that persons might be saying, “You’re fighting so much for the acceptance of your culture, or even your peers” that the push to relevance, to cultural acceptance, to be with it, to be hip may mean that just to win that hearing you may end up not talking about the things that would deny you a hearing in a culture that doesn’t find you acceptable. And so that scriptural acceptance becomes compromised without even really knowing you’re doing, you’re saying sometimes not talking about it, sometimes talking about it, but emphasizing other things.
Al Mohler: That’s right. And you know, as you’re thinking about cultural change, and I agree with you wholeheartedly, the context is changing so fast. One of the things we have to understand is that cultural velocity is now a multiple of what it was in the past. So cultural change has always taken place, but has been a fairly slow process, modernity speeded that up. But we’re now in something human beings have not experienced before. So if you actually want to be on the cutting edge, you’ve got to meet in very fast motion all the time. There’s a parable of this in Hollywood, or even in politics where someone trying to be on the edge is going to have to keep moving further and further, because in the age of social media, digital media, the velocity of change is so fast. There’s no way anyone can actually, I think strategically be as relevant as any one of us wants to be.
Bryan Chapell: And I recognize that for you and for me, what we believe we’ve given our lives to, and what we hope another generation does give its lives to is, Jesus died for your sin, and he rose the victor, and he’s coming again in glory, and as traditional as that may sound, it is the priority. And if you love Christ, you will love what and whom he loves, which will keep you relevant. If you’re loving what and whom he loves, he loves the outcast, he loves the poor, he loves the unlovely. If you love that, you will not only stand for Christ. You will be relevant with the priorities that he made most important.