What To Do With “Young Whippersnappers” and “Old Coots”

“I wish my letters may be a bridle to you and yours a spur to me.”

Those words came from the pen of John Newton to a much younger John Ryland, Jr.  Newton was almost 50 when he wrote these words, and Ryland was only around 20.  Ryland was just beginning in the ministry and Newton had been converted and laboring for the Lord for almost as long as Ryland had been alive.

It seems to me that Newton’s relationship with Ryland should be one that is emulated all throughout our churches.

Those that have been believers for quite some time can and engaged in ministry for a decent season can have a tendency to get calloused and thereby complacent.  They (am I at the point of saying “we”?) sometimes need to be spurred on by those young whippersnappers that have zeal, youthful vigor, and really crazy ideas.

Those that are just setting out in living the Christian life and in engaging in Christian ministry can have a tendency in their zeal to act to hasty, think too black and white, and many wear themselves out quickly.  We (yeah, I’m still going to claim to be a young whippersnapper at only 30) need more seasoned men and women to bridle us.

Every Newton needs a Ryland.  And every Ryland needs a Newton.  It takes humility for both parties to see this.  I pray that the Lord may raise up many relationships like this within our churches.

He may not appreciate being the “seasoned minister” but my friend Terry has often been my Newton.  There were many times that through email correspondence he would “reign in” my youthful vigor with seasoned words of encouragement.  I owe a good amount of my Christian growth and irenic spirit to not only folks like Newton but men in my life like Terry.

If you are a Newton I encourage you to pursue a Ryland to pour your life into and also one to be spurred by.  Allow yourself to be rebuked by his/her passion and boldness.  Have patience with his youthful zeal—commend it, but reign it in.

If you are a Ryland I encourage you to pursue a Newton to learn from.  Allow yourself to be trained and seasoned by these gracious men/women.  Do not be so arrogant to think that you know things far better than someone that has probably already lived your life.  But also do not be afraid to ask questions and spur this man/woman on in the Lord.

One last thing of note.  Newton pursued a young Ryland via letter writing.  He called him on his youthful arrogance but encouraged him with warm affection.  The Newton’s of the world will probably need to be the ones that pursue the Ryland’s…it seldom will work the other way around.


  1. Max says

    A church is healthy only if multi-generations are present and striving as one man for the cause of Christ. We need the wisdom of age, coupled with the energy of youth. Whippersnappers to speed things up, old coots to slow things down. Iron sharpening iron.

    “Do not rebuke an older man harshly, but exhort him as if he were your father. Treat younger men as brothers” (1 Timothy 5:1).

  2. volfan007 says

    This is one of the reasons why I’m glad that my church has people from all generations in it. We have a great mixture…but it seems that here lately we’ve had a lot of the young, whippersnappers have been joining. We’ve got a lot of people under the age of 30 in our church….lots of children, too….amen and amen.

    One of the reasons that I got into blogging was to be a voice of a middle aged Pastor…trying to give reason to the younger guys in the blogs…..the other reason was to combat some errors and extremes that I saw prevalent amongst some bloggers.

    Also, I have been blessed to be “spurred” as well. Many times, I have been challenged to think long and hard on some things….

    David (a 49 yr old, who has been in the ministry since 1981)

    • Christiane says

      If you don’t believe me, go visit the catacombs and you will sense that there were once people who honored Christ who came there to pray and bury their dead.

      Time and age is nothing to the Church. Neither does death sever the bond between us and all of those who have died in Christ.

  3. says

    I never use language like “Old Coots” or “Young Whippersnappers” as I regard them as equal to the kind terminology used of Black folks in years gone by. Such terms are demeaning and reprehensible. Christian Love demands and requires courtesy, something I strive for and admittedly fall short in accomplishing. However, it is the desire of my heart to act toward others in a manner consonant with Agape love. I have found that people, regardless of age, talent, lack of talent, education, lack of education, are here for a purpose even the purpose of the Almighty, and woe betide the person who forgets that fact. We might express our disagreement with some behavior, but it must not be applied to the person as one to be derided. One of the techniques of family counseling, and really for all kinds of counseling, is to get the individuals to stop making generalizations and to be specific, when it comes to disagreement. E.g., I think that action is wrong. I do not approve of it, etc. Do not apply epithets such as, “your dumb or your ignorant or whatever.” I have found that people have something to contribute, regardless of their training or lack of training or experience or lack of experience. Do you all ever plead the promise that the nations shall beat their swords into plowshares and learn war no more?