By Chuck Lawless
Two weeks ago, I posted my thoughts on “10 Things We Need to Hear from Young Church Leaders.” I’m grateful that post gained traction, as I strongly believe my generation needs to listen to younger church leaders. At the same time, I also think we older leaders have something to say to younger leaders. So, here is the other side of that conversation.
Of course, nothing I say here can be applied to every older leader. We older folks are as diverse as the young generation to whom I direct this post. With that understanding in mind, here are some thoughts I hope young leaders will hear from older leaders.
- We were young once, too. It may have been a few years ago, but we remember the passion and idealism of our young days. We also know experientially what happens when our zeal overshadows our commitment to lovingly guide those we shepherd. In many ways, we’ve been where you are going – and we want to help.
- We grieve the state of the North American church just like you do. We know the church is not growing. Some of us, in fact, remember when churches did make a difference. Sometimes when we speak longingly about yesterday, it’s not because we just want to go back to days gone by; it’s because we remember days when the church seemed healthier and the world seemed more willing to listen.
- Many of us must admit we were not discipled well. We are often the product of churches that evangelized without a similar commitment to discipleship. If we don’t think as deeply or as theologically as you would like, sometimes it’s because we’ve not been taught. Lead us humbly and patiently, and you may find us quite ready to learn.
- We need each other. To put it simply, we need each other to fulfill the 2 Timothy 2 and Titus 2 call for older believers and younger believers to learn together. We need you to help us navigate a rapidly changing world, and you need us to help you make wise choices in that world. At the risk of being too pragmatic, we also need our combined resources to accomplish the work of the Great Commission.
- Education can increase your knowledge, but life experience can increase your wisdom. We want you to be educated. We know from experience, though, that education itself doesn’t fully prepare us for leadership. What you think you will do is not always what you actually do when dealing with real people and real problems. We want to help you avoid the mistakes we made.
- Our opposition to change is not always opposition to you. Think about it. We might be now facing life-altering change we can’t stop. Age forces us to retire. We can’t remember as much as we did. Our friends and loved ones are dying. Health declines. With all these changes happening, the one place we hope to find things the same is our church. Wanting to hear a hymn again may be a cry for anything that reminds us of a seemingly safer, calmer world.
- We want you to be effective and successful leaders. We may struggle at times with change – but we don’t want to be obstacles as you lead us toward healthy church growth. Others helped us when we were young, and we want to do the same for you. When we call you our “young preacher,” we often do that with pride. Love us, and we can be your best friends.
- Godly obedience does not get easier. We were sure life would eventually be less chaotic, and we’d have more time to devote to God. Surely temptations would eventually lose their power. If that time comes, I’ve not yet reached that age. Some battles are different now, but some have never changed. I’m as dependent on the grace of God today as I was thirty years ago.
- Decide today to end well. We’ve seen too many Christian leaders fall. Truth is, we’ve been some of those leaders. For that reality, we ask your forgiveness. We want you to hear what we’ve learned, though: no fallen leader leaps into a fall. We slowly, sometimes imperceptibly, slide into a fall. No marriage or ministry falls apart overnight. Please put the boundaries up now to avoid such a fall.
- We love you and pray for you. We really do.
Older leaders, what would you add to this list? Younger leaders, what have you learned from older leaders?