I recently attended an event where a number of young ministers were accepted for training. I found the whole event inspiring and encouraging. It gave me hope for the Church of the future.
Looking at their youthfulness, brought to mind the often heard, but factually unfounded idea that younger ministers “should go away and spend some time in the real world” before they work for the church.
The overtly negative effect of this is to cut the number of years that a minister will serve, (if they come back at all), reducing the amount of ministry available to the Church.
But I’m more concerned with the mistaken attitudes underlying the idea. Here are eight hidden assumptions which show why the statement is so damaging.
- It assumes that the Bible is wrong. Paul tells Timothy Don’t let anyone look down on you because you are young. I expect he could have said something different if he wanted to. David, Gideon, Samuel and Mary were all young when called by God. If you’re called by God, you’re old enough.
- It assumes the atheist worldview that the Church isn’t the real world. If Christianity is true, then the Church is involved in the new reality of eternity, and it is the secular world which is trivially trying to increase quarterly widget sales by improving Search Engine Optimisation. If Christianity is false, then we don’t need ministers anyway.
- It assumes that older people are the norm. If it were suggested that black ministers should be more white, or that women ministers should be more male, there would quite rightly be outrage. So why is it OK to suggest that we only want older people to lead the Church?
- It assumes that what the mainstream Church needs is a “safe pair of hands”. I would assert that the last thing the Church needs now is a safe pair of hands, any more than people on the Titanic needed somebody to assure them that if they stayed where they were, everything would work out alright. What the Church needs now is holy risk takers, entrepreneurs, leaders ready to change the world. Andy Stanley, the founder of Northpoint, said that when he started, all the clever people knew that what he was trying to do was impossible. He was too naïve to realise. The result? The largest church in America.
- It assumes that the mainstream Church knows better than everybody else, and other vocations have got it all wrong. Young doctors, police officers or teachers aren’t told that they should go away and get more experience. Do we think their professional bodies are mistaken? If the Church was doing spectacularly well then such hubris might be justifiable, but it doesn’t seem to be working.
- It assumes that we have nothing to learn from people younger than ourselves (which in Church terms is most of the general population).
- It assumes that younger people can wait until they are old in order to have role models. Could it be that the shortage of people in their twenties in the pews which the mainstream Church laments as the Missing Generation, is caused by the Church’s previous deliberate policy of restricting people in their twenties from the pulpit?
- It really assumes that the Church is just for old people and that young people should keep quiet and wait their turn. This assumption becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy.
What do you think?