From a Younger Leader to my Elders: Thanks, but . . .

Let me begin by saying that I feel so blessed and privileged to be a part of the Lausanne Younger Leaders here at Cape Town 2010.  I applaud my elders who have made it a point to intentionally ensure that a significant portion of this Congress consists of the participation and contributions of Christian leaders under the age of 40.  Let me start there.  Thanks, truly humbled, truly grateful — this is changing my life.


Last night we were treated to a Younger Leaders Reception following the third plenary.  I was inspired and blessed to see so many delegates of my age group and to hear Michael Oh and Doug Birdsall’s words of encouragement and affirmation.


Doug said this, “My generation looks at things as they are and says, ’Why?’ But your [meaning younger leaders] generation looks at things as they could be and says, ’Why not?’” [Pause for applause, some of which are mine].


That’s not the full picture. I mean I get what Doug was saying and I agree to an extent and felt excited and clapped my hands and have been doing that very thing much of this week.  Still, I think it is important that we are also the generation that so often looks at everything and simply says, “Whatever.”  We are a generation that is also often marked by arrogance, complacency, triviality, unhealthy cynicism, and an often too critical spirit.  Some of us have noted this in our conversations this week.  We are a generation that needs our elders to not only applaud us, but rebuke us, speak into our lives, shepherd us and sometimes even kick us in the teeth.

I have a friend that I love who isn’t here.  He had a spot.  He deserved it.  He’s someone you’d probably know.  But he gave it up for someone else.  Someone younger.  Who hadn’t, like him, had the chance to be at Lausanne stuff – something he’s been privileged to be on the inside of often.  His decision was noble and probably from God, but when he was sharing with me about his thought process I told him my perspective.  ”What about the young leader that ends up at your small group table, who is thus privileged to interact personally with one of the great mission thinkers in the world today, who never forgets it and is forever changed by it?”

What I was really saying was, “What about me?” I’m really grateful for my elders here at Cape Town 2010 who have made us younger leaders feel that we really belong at the table.  Truly, deeply grateful.  But please don’t forget that we still desperately need you.  We don’t like to admit it.  We will often resist and resent your rebukes, but please, please rebuke us anyway.  Correct us anyway.  Shepherd us.  Lead us.  Listen to us, sure.  We have some things to say, but we desperately need your wisdom, experience, and maturity.

Proverbs 20:29 preserves the intergenerational tension nicely, “The glory of young men is their strength, but the splendor of old men is their gray hair.”

So I have an especially deep appreciation for someone like my new friend, Knud.  An older leader who doesn’t need to be bothering with me.  But last night, he just saw me and sat with me and ate dinner.  Here’s a man who’s seen the world, been a leader in missions for years, is now experiencing his 3rd Lausanne Congress.  He sat with me, talked, encouraged, subtly challenged.  It is what I need.  It is what my generation needs.  I also appreciate deeply Alvaro, whom I’ve already mentioned, Pastor Tek, and others that have taken the time to wisely speak with me and into my life.  Please don’t forget that we need that.

We tend to kick at the goads.  But mothers and fathers, please goad us anyway!

We will not hide them from their children, but tell to the coming generation the glorious deeds of the LORD, and his might, and the wonders that he has done.
(Psa 78:4)