A week or so ago I made a comment about the “older generation” needing to “pass off the torch to the younger generation and go quietly into the night.” Needless to say, this didn’t set well with everyone. Therefore, I want to try briefly to clarify this statement and also attempt to add some ideas into the mix as we head to next weeks convention meeting in Louisville.
First, I want to lead with the positive. I fully affirm what Paul teaches in 1 Timothy 5.1. As such I should be more careful in using phrases that do not convey the appropriate respect to the older men. Paul makes no qualifications here for respect, and so regardless of my frustrations I should not either and for that I am sorry.
That said, I would like to elaborate on the issue that I take with some of those in the older generation that I feel are stifling young leaders and being unnecessarily critical of them instead of discipling and encouraging them to take on the leadership of the church. If you would, I want for us to take a look at Ezra 3:
And when the builders laid the foundation of the temple of the Lord, the priests in their vestments came forward with trumpets, and the Levites, the sons of Asaph, with cymbals, to praise the Lord, according to the directions of David king of Israel. And they sang responsively, praising and giving thanks to the Lord, ‘For he is good, for his steadfast love endures forever toward Israel.’ And all the people shouted with a great shout when they praised the Lord, because the foundation of the house of the Lord was laid. (vv.10-11)
Here we find the people of Israel, fresh out of exile, laying down the foundation of the new temple. This was the deliverance and new temple promised to them by God (cf. Isaiah 44.28, 45.13), and so in light of his faithfulness, the people “sang responsively, praising and giving thanks to the Lord.” But then look what happens:
But many of the priests and Levites and heads of fathers’ houses, old men who had seen the first house, wept with a loud voice when they saw the foundation of this house being laid, though many shouted aloud for joy, so that the people could not distinguish the sound of the joyful shout from the sound of the people’s weeping, for the people shouted with a great shout, and the sound was heard far away. (vv.12-13)
Many in the older generation, distraught by the lack of visible glory in this new temple, harkening back to memories of the grandeur of the temple of old, weep “with a loud voice.” They wept so loud in fact that it caused confusion among the people, as they “could not distinguish the sound of the joyful shout from the sound of the people’s weeping.” This was a problem. We see that by looking at Haggai 2.1-8 where the prophet addresses those who lament, declaring to them that God has never left their midst and that his future glory is going to be even greater than the former one they are currently weeping over.
This is what I see happening many places within our convention today. Some within the older generation are weeping because they don’t see the glory that they remember from the former days. They are weeping and their weeping is so loud that it is creating confusion, becoming indistinguishable from the sounds of praise elsewhere within the church. This is not okay. They weep as if the glory of the Lord rested upon what was in the past, lamenting what they see now, forgetting that God has always been and always will be within their midst.
Proverbs 20.23 says, “The glory of young men is their strength, but the splendor of old men is their gray hair.” We need both of these. There is a generation of young men with much strength ready to take the torch of God’s everlasting glory and run with it into the future. We may be brash, at times immature and in need of correction, but we ask that that is what the old men with their “crown of glory” will give us (cf. Proverbs 16.31). Please don’t create confusion by lamenting some perceived loss. See the strength of those in front of you. Know that God has never left. Build us young men up. Cry not against us, but sing with us in praise of the One who is good, whose steadfast love endures forever!