By Rev. Tom Greene
I’m not really sure when it happened. As a matter of fact, I didn’t realize when it happened. I just know that it did.
I’m speaking of the day that I was no longer the younger ‘Timothy’ observing and interacting with the older ‘Paul’. It seems that suddenly the pages of life have turned toward the back of the book and I find myself to be the older leader in the equation.
I am indebted to the men and women of God who willingly poured themselves into me as a young minister. It was rare that they actually sat me down for one on one teaching. It was a God ordained mixture of role model, occasional advisor, and generous availability. The Pauls in my life came in the form of lead pastors, administrative leaders and godly laymen that saw in me what I didn’t often see in myself and determined me to be a worthy investment.
For a number of years now, the role has been reversed. I now possess the opportunity and responsibility to be the Paul in the life of young Timothy. But only if and when Timothy is confident that this veteran has experience and knowledge that is worth receiving.
Please bear with me as I share a few principles (or perhaps pet peeves) that I have gained along the way for today’s versions of Paul and Timothy. I will let you decide if you are Timothy or Paul or in the transition stage of both. I am confident there is no magic number as to age or experience that determines it. I do know that I plan to keep a few heroes in my life to ensure that learning never ceases for me personally.
1. UNDERSTAND THE REQUIREMENT THAT YOU INVEST IN THE NEXT GENERATION OF LEADERSHIP.
I have been troubled for many years when I see lead pastors who hire staff to ‘do their job’ without seeing the opportunity to use those years with a younger leader to prepare them for a lifetime of service.
2. THE HARD TIMES OF OUR MINISTRY SHOULD BE A SEED FOR THOSE WHO FOLLOW US TO BE MORE EFFECTIVE.
“It won’t hurt him to go through the same hardships I did”, said the lead pastor of his youth pastor. Personally, I would like to think that the challenging days that my grandfather endured are what paved the way for me. He preached in the days of brush arbor Pentecost so that I might preach in the finest churches in America. His family survived the ‘keep the preacher poor’ mentality so that I could be free to pursue my dreams without starving my children.
3. STOP LOOKING FOR THE FINAL CHAPTER OF YOUR LIFE.
“Well, I’ve just about done my time.” We speak of ministry as though it is a prison sentence…as though our age is a deal breaker. Paul ‘pressed toward the mark’ and didn’t declare himself useless to the ministry until his personal acknowledgement that the ‘the time of my departure is at hand’.
1. SEEK OUT THE HEROES THAT WILL PREPARE AND EQUIP YOU FOR GREATNESS.
As a young man, I developed an insatiable hunger to look to, learn from, and live in the shadow of those that were going before me. And thank the Lord I chose heroes whose lives raised the bar for me. I sat across the desk, the lunch table or in the passenger seat many times and received what could not be taught in a classroom. And yes, I would often learn what not to do from their mistakes. Nevertheless, I was still learning.
2. DON’T JUST CRITICIZE THE PAST, DO IT BETTER.
You will never offend me by taking what I have attempted and doing it more effectively. However, attacking and trashing the traditions of the past will never validate today’s leader. Believe it or not, what you determine as old school was actually edgy at the time. You may even be shocked to discover that what worked in the past may still have relevance when done well. ‘New and improved’ is often better than ‘never proven’.
3. YOUR BIRTH CERTIFICATE DOES NOT GUARANTEE YOU A PLACE OF LEADERSHIP.
I am convinced that my birth date does not disqualify me from being effective. I am as committed to relevancy as I have ever been. Perhaps my experience can even contribute to such. However, I have witnessed some of my peers that refuse to pursue what God is doing today. Likewise, Timothy, please know that your youth does not give you a pass. Take advantage of Pauline wisdom, today’s techniques, and the ever relevant Pentecostal power and be the best generation of leadership ever.
Today’s church cannot rest on its past. On the other hand, the church cannot assume that the best is yet to come. However, in a world where half the population is still waiting for an adequate presentation of Christ, we have no choice. With Holy Spirit direction and empowerment, we must pursue the greatest days of the Church. This might be a good time to read Paul’s letters to Timothy. Paul and Timothy working together. What a great idea!
Tom Greene is a founding partner of the ministry advancement group of Greene&Raley. He previously served in positions including National Director of Men’s Ministries, National Director of Youth Ministries and Oklahoma District Youth Director for the Assemblies of God in addition to several local churches. Greene may be reached at: firstname.lastname@example.org.