It is necessary for wisdom to be shared from one generation to the next. When generational wisdom is shared, mistakes can be avoided and lessons don’t have to be hard-learned. Older and more experienced individuals can be advisers to a younger generation, but often feel that younger people don’t listen to them enough. Sadly, the younger generations many times do not seek out advice from the older, and generational wisdom is often lost. This generational wisdom gap needs bridged. I have been told that is terrible to feel that your contribution has no value. Instead of contributing as they once did, older individuals feel that they contribute less than they did before, and this sometimes makes them feel as though their contributions do not matter. As I think about these things, at least two points seem clear:
1. The younger generation runs the world. They must seek out wisdom from the older; the initiative falls to the youth. 2. The older generation must be so eager to share that they are willing to meet the youth on any level necessary to do so when asked. Finally, I feel that I am personally in a transitional age. At 38-years-old, I am not a kid any longer, nor am I greatly seasoned with wisdom. I am eager to share what I know, but am I as eager to ask for wisdom from my elders?
1“You must teach what is in accord with sound doctrine. 2Teach the older men to be temperate, worthy of respect, self-controlled, and sound in faith, in love and in endurance. 3Likewise, teach the older women to be reverent in the way they live, not to be slanderers or addicted to much wine, but to teach what is good. 4Then they can train the younger women to love their husbands and children, 5to be self-controlled and pure, to be busy at home, to be kind, and to be subject to their husbands, so that no one will malign the word of God. 6Similarly, encourage the young men to be self-controlled. 7In everything set them an example by doing what is good. In your teaching show integrity, seriousness 8and soundness of speech that cannot be condemned, so that those who oppose you may be ashamed because they have nothing bad to say about us.”-Titus 2:1-8
“Some of my [church] members are as stubborn as mules”, a pastor friend of mine said to me recently. I had to laugh. In my nearly 20 years of ministry I have visited with more than one pastor friend who has given me a similar rendition of the same story. In fact, we pastors, myself included, can be pretty stubborn ourselves. So, let’s talk about stubbornness.
As my friend stated, mules are stubborn. They are also very strong animals. Mules like to go where they want to go, when they want to go there. And once they decide where and when to go, they have plenty of strength to pull whatever wagon they are hitched to, and they can pull the heavy load for long distances without great strain. Strength is not the problem. The problem is getting the strong mule to pull the heavy weight when and where the driver wants to go. My pastor friend is exasperated with some of his church members because he is experiencing difficulty getting the lay leaders of his congregation to move together under his leadership.
Some may say, “But doesn’t God call people sheep, not mules?” That’s not exactly true either. In the Bible, Christians are called sheep. Godly people are sheep, but not all people are Godly. The ungodly people are called goats. But the Scriptures are full of comparisons of groups of people to animals. Christians are to be wise as serpents, while the Pharisee’s were called a brood of vipers. We are to be as gentle as doves while also instructed to fly like an eagle. Comparisons always break down eventually but are given in context to help carry a point to the ears of the listeners.
And context is important when describing the sometimes turbulent nature of the relationship between entrenched lay leadership and the pastor trying to lead them. Each church is blessed both with talented and hard-working lay leaders and also a God-called and spiritually-gifted pastor who desires to lead them. In my experience, the context of that working relationship is a difficult union to master. In the church we are all Christians, and therefore deserve the designation of sheep. But perhaps sometimes both pastors and lay-leaders remind God a lot more of the south end of north bound mules.