By Joe Shrader, PhD
East Carolina University
Note: Dr. Joe Shrader is the editor’s brother. He received his Ph.D from Michigan State University and is an associate professor at ECU in Greenville, North Carolina.
The sin of this generation is selfishness. It manifests itself by the disrespect shown the church elders. The arrogance of this generation in ignoring the elders of the church is not only wrong, it is sin. God commands us to listen and show respect for the elders of the church.
The leaders in today’s church, in many cases, are young, ignorant of experience and scripture, and in the “warrior” stage of life. They are not elders. They disrespect the real elders in the church. They make decisions for the church based on business models, books written by “successful” Christian leaders, but not on THE book. The elderly are systematically excluded from the planning and decision making process. They can be outvoted, even shouted down at business meetings. The elderly know it is wrong to act that way and so they refuse to participate in the fighting. They believe it is better to be wronged than to offend their younger brothers. So the young get their way.
God commands us to listen to our elders. He commands us to seek wise (Godly) counsel from them. These men and women have experiences that this generation has never even thought about much less had to deal with. They have been to war and watched their buddies die. They have killed men in defense of their country. Even worse, they have sent their sons to die. They have watched and helped as illness and disease have taken their brethren and family members. They have taken second mortgages to help a struggling church get started or get through tough times. They have dealt with church discipline and sin in the church. They have put their faith in God in difficult times. This is the group who mowed the lawn, trimmed the bushes, even cleaned the church as a part of their ministry.
This selfish generation thinks that difficult times is building their new $400,000 house. “All those decisions to make, it just wears a person out.”
This generation knows nothing of sacrifice. In or out of the church. They have money, though they usually spend themselves into oblivion on things). Instead of getting involved in the ministry of helps, they hire someone to do all these things for them. They hire associate pastors for youth to teach their children, associate pastors of music to entertain them, and seniors pastors so they don’t have to get too involved with the old people, and even more pastors for anything else that the church might want. Heaven forbid that they would get involved in a ministry or the life of some needy family that might need for them to give up something in their busy schedule. This is the generation that puts their children in daycare and their parents and grandparents into nursing homes. (OK, assisted living.) They hire someone to do it so they can spend Saturday at the river without feeling guilty. After all, someone is taking care of it. This generation is too busy working to pay for all the toys and their place at the river or lake. Oh, the impatience of youth. “Got to have it all now.”
This generation uses the current business models to grow the church. Target audiences become the rich young couples with children. They will grow the church and pay for all the associate pastors. They will attract even more young, upwardly mobile, couples so we can pay for more associate pastors to do their ministry for them. They don’t go to the highways and hedges, they go to the upscale neighborhoods.
This generation spends much more money on buildings, entertainment and programs, than on sending missionaries to a lost world. They misunderstand the whole Christian culture of sacrifice and helping others fulfill the Great Commission though their parents still understand it well. How many of these young people would encourage THEIR children to go to China, Africa or some other country as a missionary? Or would let their daughters marry some young preacher boy. “What kind of a choice is that? I know it has to be done, but . . . just not my child.”
Can you imagine this generation recruiting seniors to their church? Seniors are far too high maintenance: they need time, companionship, even transportation to church, the doctor’s office or grocery store. We can hire a seniors pastor for that. Old people are on fixed incomes, they may even have trouble paying their heat and electricity bills. How much can they give to help the church build that new playground? We might even have to help them pay their bills! You can’t build a church on the elderly.
This generation has replaced spirituality with sincerity. “We really believe this is best for the church so it must be what God wants. Why would we all agree if it isn’t God’s leading?” All of this while ignoring the clear teachings of scripture because “it feels right”. Selfishness!
This generation has no concept of the Christian church family (I Cor. 12, Acts 2). “If the old people don’t like it, they can just leave,” I have been told. “We need to purge the church of the negative people” (i.e. those who disagree with them). “For every family that leaves, there will be others to replace them.” With young wage-earners no doubt. Sorrow is not in this generation’s paradigm. People leaving is just part of the business of the church.
So this generation goes on its merry way, sincere in their ignorance, making the same mistakes their elders may have made. They ignore the wise voices available to them that would help them avoid making the same mistakes. They are too busy recruiting more young, arrogant sheep who will perpetuate their sin, all the while assuming success and God’s blessing because they have more people attending, and more staff, and a new Family Life Center . . .God help us!
Daniel wouldn’t eat the meat. Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego stood their ground. Paul told Peter he was wrong “to the face”. Popular is not always right. Our fathers did not decline to disagree with church leaders when they are demonstrating this selfishness.
It is not too late. Commit to spending some time with your elders. Find an elderly saint, sit down and shut up! Listen to what God has done for them for 70 to 80 years. You might be amazed what God might teach you about faith, ministry and perseverance.