One of the greatest phenomenon of our times undoubtedly is social media. Social media has grown into one massive village where we get to see how people think and process realities. I am a preacher and as a result I subscribe and follow those who articulate the Holy Scriptures and those who shape the framework of operations for the 21st century church. Bible School in the early 2000 exposed me to the thinking of qualified individuals, social media on the other hand exposes me to the thinking of ordinary individuals and also fellow labourers in the vineyard of God. Social media gives us a variety of opinions and perspectives. One area concerning the 21st century church that plagues me is the way The OLD GUARD and THE YOUNG GUARD of church relate to one another. I am in my mid 30s now, considered too old to relate with those in their mid-20s and considered too young to sit in the circle of those in their early 50s. I think it is a privileged position to be in between these age groups because it gives me a balanced perspective.
Most of the time when I consider the very complicated relationship between the Old Guard and the New Guard I am often embarrassed because what I often see is not doctrinal differences but personal differences. I have come across several social media posts where a young man has no malicious intent and an older preacher would bring “correction” just for the sake of it. On the other hand I have seen younger preachers blasting older preachers with no regard for their age or experience. The question we have to ask is: How did we get here?
1. We are dealing with strong traditions not necessarily strong biblical positions
In the year 2010 my
apostolic covering with a team of elders ordained me into the office of
apostle. I was in my late 20s. For a season I would not walk in the identity of
apostle, primarily because I knew in the African context everything is
qualified by age and experience. The
Apostle Paul in his epistle to the church in Corinth speaks about abandoning
certain convictions temporarily for the sake of those who are weak in their
faith, I did exactly that. I did not debate it or tried to prove it because I
knew some were weak in their faith shallow in their understanding. I left the
cynic to be cynical and I left the foolish to be foolish. When the season of
accommodating the traditionalist passed I stepped out in greater boldness and
embraced my apostolic call in its fullness. I did not apologize for it and
whoever had an opinion about it I educated through scripture and history. We must give the traditionalist a chance to
see the difference between scripture and tradition but we must not be afraid
after a season to confront wrong thinking and to correct erroneous positions.
The problem often with the old guard is that they want to hold the new guard
ransom with traditions that have no biblical precedence and that wrong thinking
must be confronted at some stage. The
young generation must be patient but the old generation must also be repentant.
They must repent from wrong beliefs and allow the younger generation to walk in
the freedom of their call if it is well within the boundaries of
scripture. Since then I have had several
very senior spiritual leaders confirm and affirm the apostolic call upon my
life. What helped me was my patience and tolerance for those that lacked a
biblical view on spiritual matters.
2. We define our calling by our ability to control people not by our spiritual identity
It is a known fact that as we grow older we start panicking when we see our control over people fading. Most spiritual leaders build their ministry on principles of control. Control gives us a false sense of confidence and strokes our egos. We fail dismally to manage individuals who ask questions and who have the boldness to challenge the status quo. It is for this reason why we should never allow the numbers and the possessions to define who we are. We should allow the anointing on our lives and God’s divine calling to shape that and give meaning to our lives. In Luke 10 when Jesus sends out a group of disciples it is of interest to note that he does not send them with any possessions and servants. He sends them away with nothing. The principle he was teaching them was that ministry is built on the premise of Him (Jesus) sending them. It was not built on materialism and not on how many individuals submit to them and serve them, the call stands alone.
Herein is the challenge, when we as ministers lose that control over a period of time we start picking unnecessary fights with people to prove our authority and seniority. King Saul picked on David because he was losing control and He needed a fight to prove seniority and authority. Some of the fights happening between the old guard and the young guard are purely driven by ego. God calls us God anoints us and God sends us, this should be good enough for us to overcome our insecurities.
3. Relationships are no longer spontaneous, they are predefined
A scary thought in the 21st century church is that some clergy will only relate to one another in a predefined hierarchal structure and will not give a relationship any chance of developing spontaneously. We struggle to meet with one another as fellow labourers in the vineyard we want to meet as senior and junior and father and son. We first want to negotiate who sits where on the table before we actually sit down at the table. I fully understand matters of rank and seniority and I respect that. I also relate and submit to a spiritual father.
With that said there are certain individuals whose mind I love but I have no release to submit to their structures or join their network . The unfortunate reality in the 21st century church is that we are selling networks we are not building relationships. God is changing that dynamic and more and more individuals will build the work collectively as friends and not this flawed and archaic framework that bullies people into submission instead of embracing them as friends. Jesus said to his disciples in John 15:15 “……today I call you friends…” I am convinced that the silly issues between the old guard and the young guard will fade into oblivion if we value friendship more then what we value position.
4. A generation obsessed with popularity
The Achilles heel of the young guard is the obsession with popularity. This is a generation that will do the unthinkable for attention. When such silliness is left unchecked it evolves into our new normal. It is preposterous for the young guard to think older men will say nothing. Sadly the young guard is untouchable and interpret all forms of correction as hate and jealousy. In fact the most popular slogan amongst the young guard is “haters”. For the life of me I can’t understand how is it even possible that men who have built credible ministries, raised up sons, led countless numbers to the saving grace of Jesus Christ can hate a young man who possess only a mic and a sermon. The young guard must stop it with seeking popularity and start working at being sound and solid. The unfortunate part is that the young guard do not know the difference between cool things and biblical things. Our cool effect gives us following, but that following is often so shallow and sadly that shallow following seems to validate us. Authentic ministry validation always comes from a place of seniority not from our juniors. Everyone in scripture was endorsed and validated by the top down and not the bottom up. Get some seniors around you for guidance and just park the popularity project for a short while. The need for popularity is robbing this generation from being doctrinally sound and it is good that the old guard is correcting this.
5. Peer level ordinations is a concern
I believe that there is a biblical precedence for ordinations in the book of Acts. In fact the premise for all ordinations was threefold: The call of God, The Testimony of the elders, and The Testimony of the congregation. Today we are experiencing the crazy model of peer level ordinations, ministry colleagues ordain each other. This radical shift in how ordinations are done continue to gain ground because of the young guard wanting to exist and run ministry without any form of accountability. The young guard must learn to value process and stop it with pursuing convenience. Process builds credibility and it is critical that we have credibility in the office that we stand. This blatant disregard for process continues to aggravate the old guard and rightly so. If anyone is called into a sacred office few people can dispute that, but the process is always up for discussion. The church of Jesus Christ has the right to ask any minister of the gospel how he got to that place. If you got there the right way that question is very easy to answer, if you got there the wrong way that question will be very offensive.
These are challenges we have to confront in the 21st century church. If we can honestly answer some of these questions and do a critical introspection of our own hearts we might actually be able to establish a good working relation between the young guard and the old guard. The old guard must never forget that they were once young and the young guard must not walk through life as if they will never be old. This awareness is good for humility and continued introspection. Our walk as clergy is one of continued introspection and self-correction. We must allow Holy Spirit to correct our walk for the sake of the church and build generationally...
By Brandon Bailey