Jump Start # 2677
Ecclesiastes 1:4 “A generation goes and a generation comes, but the earth remains forever.”
My wife and I took a recent road trip to visit a dear friend several states away who is battling cancer. Our youngest son came along because she always meant a lot to him. We were in the car more than we were visiting our friend. My son did the bulk of the driving, which included listening to his music. He was brought up on good music, such as Andy Williams and the Oldies and he had several selections from them, but then he had some of his favorites. His list included groups and songs that I have never heard of. Once in a while, when he was getting weary of driving, he’d put on what he called “head banging music.” It’s loud drums and someone screaming as if their fingers are being cut off by a chain saw. It keeps you awake, that’s for sure.
In all of this, our verse came to my mind. A generation goes and a generation comes. The passing of the torch. What one generation likes, often the next generation doesn’t. And, this led me to thinking about a new phenomenon in many congregations today. Many, many now have two preachers, one older and one younger. I’m in such a situation and I’m the old guy. And, I thought I’d share some thoughts about “a generation goes and a generation comes,” as it fits two preachers in the same congregation.
First, the younger guys often do things differently than we older guys do. I’m a book person. My shelves are stuffed with books. So many books that I have two rooms that are lined with bookshelves. Younger preachers have that many books, but they are all electronic. Their entire library is on their laptop. Everywhere they go, they take their library with them. Many of the younger preachers like to sit in coffee shops and write articles and develop sermons there. Not me. I’d get nothing done. I’d be watching the people and be too distracted to think. Are coffee shop sermons wrong? Absolutely not. It’s a generational thing. I like to have everything done by Friday. Lock, loaded and ready to go for Sunday. That’s me. Many are still writing their sermons on Saturday night. I’d be in a frantic mood if I did that. It works for some and that’s fine. A generation comes and a generation goes.
The trouble is when one generation tries to change the other or believes their way is not only the best way, but the only way. That will cause trouble. What works for one doesn’t work for the other. We older preachers, while giving advice, must not appear that we have the corner on how to write a sermon. We don’t.
Second, the younger preachers are often better than the older preachers. OUCH. That’s true. That’s true where I’m at. And, as an older generation goes, and a newer generation comes on, the audience will tend to relate to the younger preacher more. His illustrations about shows and social media are to the times. We older preachers must lay aside those stories about Mayberry, John Wayne, and Gunsmoke. Most in the audience do not know what we are talking about. As the congregation transitions from one generation to the next, the people will naturally turn to the preacher of their generation. Weddings will be done by the younger preacher. More will bring their questions to the younger preacher. And, in a healthy environment, that’s what we should want. The older preacher is not being booted out, but it is natural to talk to someone who has children around the ages of your children rather than a grandfather.
This has the potential for trouble as well. The older preacher can become jealous. His relationship with the younger preacher can become strained and difficult. Rather than working together and helping each other, they seem to be fighting for the same spot on the starting lineup.
Here are some suggestions:
- This is not a competition about who is the “best.” Some shallow brethren make matters worse. I’ve heard some say, “Well, I like the other preacher better.” We are all in this together and it’s not about which preacher is best, it’s about growing the kingdom and bringing glory to the Lord. We are to be humble servants and we need to get over the idea of “who is best,” or, “who is most liked.” I’m thankful anyone shows up when I preach.
- The shepherds can do a lot about putting a lid on this or making this situation worse. The jealousy issue usually won’t linger very long. If not carefully handled, one or both preachers leave. Jealousy will do that. That shouldn’t be. When members make comments about liking one more than the other, right then and right there, the shepherds need to let it be known that they are both needed, both loved and both doing powerful work there.
- The spirit of the younger preacher can help or hurt this as well. Some are aggressive. Some lean a little too much to the arrogant side of things. If they view that the older preacher is holding them back and that they want him out of the way, things will blow up. If they undermine the older preacher and try to rally all the young families around him, things will back fire. Just don’t do that. Be mindful of the years and years of service and the battles the older preacher has fought and how he got the congregation to where it is now. The best cheerleader can be and ought to be the older preacher to the younger preacher and vise versa. There ought to be a respect and genuine love between both of them.
Third, our world moves fast today in technology. Many young preachers thrive in that. Many of us old preachers don’t understand that. Don’t stop progress. Don’t be a stick in the mud because it is different. Learn from each other and help each other.
It is a blessing when two preachers of different generations work well together. Their styles, though different, compliment each other. They realize each other’s strengths and there is a strong bond of trust and goodness between them. I know this, because this is what I have with our preacher Jason. Younger, stronger, more talented, and an amazing thoroughbred that I just need to let him run as fast and as far as he can. I have been the younger preacher. Now, I’m not. A generation goes and a generation comes. A healthy congregation will see that nothing misses and nothing slips when that one generation is gone.
I found myself actually liking someone of my son’s music, that is except for the ‘head banging’ ones!