Use or lose

Is the Christian church losing young people because it isn’t using them?

Some of our grandchildren are already ministering to older people – helping with the homeless, praying for healing, and giving words of encouragement through prophecy. By prophecy, I mean it in the sense of encouraging, strengthening and building up others as the apostle Paul says in 1 Corinthians 14:3. I believe there is a close link to blessing as a result of God-given insight into what God desires in another person’s life.

This gift could easily be squashed by older people. I am thankful that is not happening in the lives of my grandchildren.

But are we older Christians wary of giving leadership roles to teenagers and young adults? Would young people feel more committed to the organized church if older people gave them responsible roles to fill?

I have just finished reading Wikichurch by Steve Murrell, a book about making people disciples of Christ.

When Murrell and his wife took part in a month-long mission in Manila 30 years ago, they realized the many young people who became believers had no one to lead them after they left. So, out of necessity, they gave the new believers some rapid training and made them leaders of new small groups.

With adjustments over the years, this is still the model of Victory Church in Manila, now a church of 52,000 spread out in many congregations in this large city in the Philippines. New believers are discipled in groups led by disciples not much older than themselves. And then they go out and reach others for Christ and form groups.

Murrell says he now realizes that he and the other leaders must simply work themselves out of their jobs, turning over leadership to new people. In the long run, our job as older believers is to prepare the way for new leaders.

It is interesting to me that God tapped David on the shoulder as the future king of Israel when he was a shepherd boy. It is true that David did not become king for a number of years afterward. But God ensured that he got the preparation in leadership that he needed. He was an active leader long before he became king of Israel.

Jesus astonished men in the temple with his wisdom when he was only 12.

I must say that, as an older Christian, I am wary of standing aside and watching silently as young people make the same mistakes I have made in life. I do believe we need to advise, counsel and give correction where needed.

But can we not begin by giving our young people increasingly responsible roles – actively helping others, leading events and church organizations, and providing ideas?

What young person would want to leave a church that is like that?


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