An Open Letter to Younger Men in the Ministry

By Dr. Charles L. Dear
Editor, The REVIEW

Surely we pride ourselves in being up to date with the computer age by our obsession with Blogs across the internet, especially those that debate and pontificate on subjects dear to Fundamentalist Christianity--ministries, schools, etcetera. Even the most obscure student or pastor can be read worldwide; but what we have seen seems like so much Blog blather, where misinformation, uninformed commentary and gossip are freely exchanged between younger people who listen more to each other than to some of the greyer heads they seem to ignore.

I am reminded of a text in II Corinthians 10, verse 12: "For we dare not make ourselves of the number, or compare ourselves with some that commend themselves: but they measuring themselves by themselves, and comparing themselves among themselves, are not wise."

When we hear the complaint in the IBFNA that there should be more younger men in the ministry participating, I heartily agree. However, it would be a rush to judgement to say that we should be offering what younger men in the ministry want to hear, rather than offer what they really need to hear and understand. Like a Ziggy cartoon from years ago, "If you don't see what you want, maybe you want the wrong things." Too many know what they want but not what they need, which is much like thinking we have all the answers when we don't even know all the questions.

Even a cursory reading of a typical Blog would demonstrate that there is a vacuum of history, experience and vital instruction that breeds inaccurate analyses and conclusions. The flaw is an inter-generational gap (a "disconnect") created by those who are content to "measure themselves by themselves" and compare "themselves among themselves," and the Apostle Paul calls them "not wise." It is a mark of conceit to presume we cannot learn from anyone else or that our elders cannot teach us anything we do not already know. The accumulated experience and wisdom of ministry veterans in the IBFNA is a wealth of resources and knowledge that would benefit younger men in ministry far more than just brain storming with their peers, which leads me to a bumper sticker: It is good to learn from your mistakes, It is better to learn from the mistakes of others.

Perhaps our younger ministers could learn from the mistakes of Rehoboam, as we read back in I Kings 12. When Rehoboam became king, Jeroboam and the children of Israel appealed to him for some "tax relief." Rehoboam wisely called for the old men who counseled Solomon, to hear their advice, which was to offer some relief and earn the love of the people. But their wisdom, experience and learning was not good enough for Rehoboam who squandered their advice, and so we read in verse 8:

"But he forsook the counsel of the old men, which they had given him, and consulted with the young men that were grown up with him, and which stood before him."

By preferring the counsel of his peers and contemporaries, Rehoboam, who thought to make a name for himself greater than his predecessors in fact, alienated the love and loyalty of the people he was supposed to serve before God. His preference for clever words above sagely wisdom marks well the sharp contrast between his leadership and the Apostle Paul whose preaching was ".. not with enticing words of man's wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power: That your faith should not stand in the wisdom of men, but in the power of God" (I Corinthians 2:4, 5).

Nowhere in Scripture do I find any compelling instruction to the Timothy's of the ministry to seek instruction on how to "push the envelope" in Biblical ministry. Neither do I hear any Apostle chiding us for not keeping up with the times in which we live or with the methodologies of the world. Nevertheless, too many of our younger men gravitate towards a brinkmanship that asks "How close can we come to the unbelieving world and still consider ourselves Fundamentalists?" "What appeals to the fleshly natures of men are justifiable by the pious goals we hope to attain?" "If it works, why can't it be good?" Somehow we have cultivated a generation of Rehoboams who have swallowed the sizzle and thought it was steak.

Part of an old Arab proverb puts it this way: "The man who does not know, and knows that he does not know is ignorant - teach him. The man who does not know, but does not know that he does not know is a fool - shun him!"

My appeal to younger men in the Gospel ministry is not only to be teachable, but also to learn from the veterans of the ministry, whose experience and learning your peers cannot begin to match. Far more can be gleaned from them than from all the books recently written and all the seminary classroom instruction you can acquire. Beware, lest your ignorance of history condemn you to repeat its mistakes. Blog discussions such as those debating Fundamentalism, Conventionism, Separation and New Evangelicalism reveal a barely superficial understanding of the battles valiantly fought for the Truth. Many of those points in our history have been either glossed over or revised for the sake of compromise or less controversy. Lastly, the "old paths" (Jeremiah 6:16) are still the tried and true answer to doing the Lord's work in the Lord's way. What has stood the tests of time cannot be replaced by ministry fads whose lifespan can almost be measured by an egg timer.

"Thou shalt rise up before the hoary head, and honor the face of the old man, and fear thy God: I am the LORD." (Leviticus 19:32)