Growing up

OK, all of you who are getting older, can we all agree to not be the kind of older Christian who torpedoes the zeal and love of young Christians?

Sure. Stand for biblical truth.

Also, sure, provide the wise advice that should come from an older Christian.

But can we please draw the distinction between biblical truth and things that simply don’t matter in eternity?

There is nothing that destroys the spirit quite so much as being that older person who threatens to leave a church because the pews are too far forward, or someone forgot to include aunt Jennie in the bulletin sick list, complain about the image on a power point, or the attire of a young man at the Lord’s Supper.

The young person will listen to your tirade, will not verbally respond. Then, beloved, he will leave the church.

In the name of all that’s good and holy, is that what you want?

It seems crazy to have to say this to older Christians, but, please, grow up!

The Bible insists that we are supposed to grow up. “Speaking the truth in love,” the Apostle declares, we are to “grow up in every way” (Ephesians 4:15). “But grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and savior Jesus Christ,” Peter says (2 Peter 3:18). Please note that growing in Christ is a command. Of course it takes time to mature. But that is exactly the point. By the time I have been a Christian forty years or more, I should have matured!

And yet, there are those who are chronologically old, but not mature.

I am not talking about abandoning biblical teaching on baptism, singing in worship, or biblical leadership. If we want our young people to take up the baton of faith when we grow weary and infirm, then we will need to foster growth on their part, not stifle it.

And, for whatever it’s worth, I fall decidedly in the range of elderly, not youthful saint. If we want our young people to behave in a considerate and helpful manner, perhaps this behavior could be modeled by those of us who are mature. We have worked too hard to build the church, too hard to provide our children with faith to subsequently destroy it by disillusioning them.

Please ask yourself, is it possible, is it conceivable, that I am that older Christian who has disillusioned or discouraged someone else by raising petty criticisms or demanding actions that are extra biblical?

The Lord took the Jewish leaders to task for holding the “teachings of men” over the “commandments of God” (Mark 7:3-8). Do not assume that we are immune from human tradition. Furthermore, take care not to disillusion a young person over that tradition. As always, back to the Bible is the wisest and most sound advice. For the sake of Christ and his church, let’s live up to that ideal.

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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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3 thoughts on “Growing up

  1. Very important concept. How many people can each of us older Christians name who were so offended or discouraged that they became unfaithful, or perhaps never obeyed the gospel.

    I am currently mentally wrangling with opposite concepts regarding Christians’ freedom to protect their property, etc. It seems to me that the principles used to uphold this concept are quite similar to those once used to justify owning slaves.

    I would like input from others regarding this idea.

  2. One of the most important articles for older Christians. I will share your article with my brothers and sisters.

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