In recent weeks there has been a great discussion within the denomination that I am apart of about “getting younger”. This idea was brought up by one of the prominent pastors within our movement, and he was attempting to show how that we as a church had to allow the younger ministries to have a voice. I listened as many agreed with him and then listened as many disagreed and even took offense, believing that he was trying to push aside the older ministers. Personally, I do not think that was his intention. Now I will say here that I am in full agreement with my brother that we need to allow the younger ministers to have input, but I think there is more to it than just that. What this did was make me begin to think about what the Bible says about the young and the old when it comes to church?
As I began to study the scripture I was taken to the book of Acts chapter two where we find the birth of the church. Here we see where through the baptism of the Holy Spirit the Apostle Peter preaches this powerful message. He begins this message by quoting Joel 2:28 that says “6but this is that which hath been spoken through the prophet Joel: And it shall be in the last days, saith God, I will pour forth of My Spirit upon all flesh: And your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, And your young men shall see visions, And your old men shall dream dreams: Yea and on My servants and on My handmaidens in those days Will I pour forth of My Spirit, and they shall prophesy”. In this verse, Peter through the prophecy of Joel shares with us what the church should look like generationally. They both share that there is not only a place for every generation but in order for the church to function in the correct way, there has to be involvement of both the young and the old.
So from here, I wanted to know what the writers truly meant and what role each of these groups plays within the framework of the church. So I began to take a look at the grammar of each of the texts, Acts 2:15-17 and Joel 2:28.
Young men have visions
Now the Greek word for vision here is όράσειζ and it has two meanings. Externally it means the act of gazing; internally it means inspired appearance. The word is only used two other times in the New Testament, and both are found in Revelation. The first is talking about when John was describing seeing God on the throne in chapter four, and the second was when John saw the horses in a vision in chapter nine. In both cases, the vision that John saw was of things that were to come. Therefore we could understand the young men have a vision for what is and for what is to come. God allows them to see things with an eager anticipation and with the energy to move forward. Vision is vital to the health of a church, and it must be allowed to grow and prosper within the church. Any church body that is not looking toward the future and casting new vision is not just dying but is already decomposing. The Bible is very clear that without vision we cannot last. Therefore if God, as Peter and Joel stated, is given vision to young men then it only makes scents that we allow the younger generation to have input into what is going on within the church. I remember a few years ago I was with a group of preachers and we were talking with Pastor Gerald McGinnis of the Parkway Church of God in Knoxville, TN. At the time Pastor McGinnis had been at the church for many years and had been very successful. He shared with us that as he got older he comes to realize that he had to hire younger staff. I thought this was different, to say the least, but then he explained that by hiring younger staff it kept the church on the cutting edge of methodology. In other words, the methods that he used to grow the church were no longer relevant to a younger generation, and he needed younger minds to help him think of new ways that would draw a new and younger crowd. In doing this he was preparing not just for the present but also for the future that was to come. So we do need to get younger in the church.
Old men dream dreams
Now if we stopped there we would say that the church should get younger, and that is it, but that is not where either of the two writers stopped. They both included old men and the fact that they dreamed dreams. Now as I looked at this I realized that in the Hebrew the word dream חלם that means, “to bind firmly”, or it can mean, “well rounded”. In the Greek, the word is ένυπνιον that means simply, “vision while sleeping”. This means that old men should be well rounded in what they believe and in life. Because of experience, they see what had happened, and they see what is taken place today. They understand through victories and failures things that only experience can offer, and through that experience, they bring a perspective to the church that cannot come from the young because they have not lived as much life. According to the grammatical understanding, age has no determination on vision, but only how we receive that vision and how we act on that vision.
What I come to realize is that we need both in the church. We need the energy, the passion, and the eagerness of the young. We also need the experience and the wisdom of the old. These two have to come together if the church is going to succeed. Each one has to become humble and understanding of the other, and we have to work together to make sure that the kingdom of God is moving forward. Each generation has to listen and respect the other generation and nowhere should that occur more than in the church. There is something that happens when theses two groups come together for the purpose of building God’s kingdom. As Christian, we must aware that we are a family, and family needs passion and wisdom if it is going to grow and reach its full potential.
As I have gotten older I have realized this more and more as a pastor. A few years ago I started a college and career life group at our church. Working with these young men and women have given me a deeper understanding of just how important it is for all of us to work together for the good of the kingdom. I have realized that these young men and women have a lot to offer and if they are given a chance and if they listen they will in return give respect and honor the older generation. So let’s work together and let’s allow God to unite the young and the old.