Young and Old

I was young and now I am, well, not

Sometimes it seems the church is being sliced and diced up by age. The “youth group” activities, the “Young Adults” Class (a very loosely defined group, I have noticed), the “Baby Boomers,” and so on. There is nothing wrong with arranging an activity specifically for young people, or women, or those of us who are more “mature.” Yet I have noticed that some try to exploit these differences in age by seeking to form a “church within a church,” or worse, by culling young people out of the church and forming their own group. We need each other!

Remember John addressing “children,” “fathers” and “young men” (1 John 2:12-14)? Remember Paul telling Titus to teach “older men,” “older women,” “younger women” and so on (Titus 2:1-6)? The church is a family, and we are not a family unless we work together and associate with each other. The church needs the idealism and energy of the young; it also needs the wisdom and reflection of the mature.

Here is my appeal to older Christians, parents and grandparents: I believe our young people expect authentic Christianity on our part. We cannot fool them indefinitely. If we sit at church and act as if being there is as rewarding as watching paint dry, our children will take note. If worship does not change our lives, sweeten our attitudes and deepen our spirituality, they will notice.

But I am not hearing young people say, “Interpret Scripture as liberally as you can,” or “surrender your biblical convictions.” Instead, they say, “When you worship, you should really mean it. It should change your way of life. It should filter into your words and actions.” I think they are looking for leadership, for genuineness, for discipleship. They have a right to expect this.

Here is my appeal to younger Christians, teenagers, college students and young couples: When you observe your older brethren, do not assume that they are doing nothing just because you do not see what they do. They do a great many things for the Lord’s cause, and they care deeply about his church and the spread of the gospel. How do I know this? Because they have dedicated a lifetime of service to these things!

Young person, when you have dedicated forty or fifty years to serving the Lord, come back and talk to me about what people “ought” and “ought not” to be doing! Learn an appreciation for the heritage of deep biblical study in churches of Christ. Older saints are not asking you to lose your zeal or sense of discovery. They are simply asking, “Before you make wholesale changes in the congregation we have worked a lifetime to build, please undergo deep Bible study on the issue.

Make changes that are thoughtful, edifying, but above all, biblical. Please do not exchange the restoration plea for the shallow slogans of “Evangelical Christianity,” or the popularity contest of “church growth movements.” They are passing the baton on; you receive a precious heritage. Could there be a more precious heritage than a fellowship that speaks where the Bible speaks and is silent where it is silent? The answer to the church’s problems is not to abandon biblical authority for mushy feel-good clichés but with deeper Bible study.

When God calls on us to praise him, he calls on us all, “young men and maidens together, old men and children” (Psalm 148:12, ESV).

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Stan Mitchell

Stan has preached since 1976, in Zimbabwe, California, Texas and Tennessee. He serves as preacher for the Red Walnut Church of Christ in Bath Springs, TN. He is currently Professor of Bible at Freed-Hardeman University. He is married to the former Marjorie McCarthy, and has one daughter, Tracy Watts. He is the author of four books: The Wise Get Wiser, the Foolish More Foolish: The Book of Proverbs, Give the Winds a Mighty Voice: Our Worship in Song, and Equipping the Saints for Ministry. He has recently published another book, "Will Our Faith Have Children: Developing Leadership in the Church for the Next Generation.

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