Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Are We Leading By Example?

The aged women likewise, that they be in behaviour as becometh holiness, not false accusers, not given to much wine, teachers of good things; That they may teach the young women to be sober, to love their husbands, to love their children, To be discreet, chaste, keepers at home, good, obedient to their own husbands, that the word of God be not blasphemed. Titus 2:3-5 (KJV)

Now that I'm middle age, I feel I can speak my mind on this matter. My heart is heavy over young families that are over burdened in church ministries. In chapter 2 of Titus there is an order of the congregation.  The older men are to teach the younger men, and the older women to do the same with the young women. Much of being "teacher's of good things" to a younger person is living by example. Young families need older women and men desperately in a time where families are struggling.

I remember when I was a little girl going to church with my grandparents. The place was buzzing of older men and women holding babies in the nursery, helping in the office, doing logistics, supervising Sunday schools, initiating evangelistic outreaches, helping the homeless, etc. My grandfather spent his last year of his life in South America helping build a church. Back in the day not too long ago, there was a respect for these older people who were giving themselves to young families, local congregations, communities and even the world. We come to our day, and why don't I see this anymore?

Today much of the ministries in churches are led by young families, especially children's ministries. If they didn't do it, the ministries may not exist. New families especially are being neglected of mentoring and practical help from the older generation like never before. Newly married couples with families need to be in meetings on Sunday in order to be refreshed, learning, gaining strength and encouragement from God's word. They need that time to be taught with their own spouses and children so they can grow for the next generation. I can only offer my own opinion in hopes to make an older person to think and evaluate.

We live in an entitlement age. We are told by our culture we are owed something, and this is constantly drilled into our minds daily on TV, commercials, even "Christian" books, media and music. The Sinatra mantra of doing things "my" way duped millions to believe the unbiblical mindset of retirement. The lie of finally getting to rest and enjoy the rest of our lives promises fulfillment. The children are grown and moved away, and we finally get to enjoy the fruit of our labor. We've worked hard and now it's my time to enjoy! Ok, here is the kicker; where is that in scripture? The last I heard, the church is not supposed to be a retirement club.

Not only have young families suffered from this fall out, but the baby boomer generation also is hurting themselves. Many senior saints suffer from isolation, depression, loneliness, to mention a few maladies. There are many reasonably healthy retirees waiting by the phone for their grown children to call as they watch TV.  If they would only get out of their comfort zone and give a small portion of their time, it would help the church tremendously. Many people who were strugging with an empty nest say that volunteering outside of their home has been a life saver. There is no better living than giving ourselves to the Lord's service.

On the other hand, I've also noticed the lack of honor with young adults. As I become an older woman going into my mid forties, I am astounded at the lack of respect of those older in churches. Young immature people are put in positions of leadership are often treating those who are older with contempt and condescension, that I walk away disappointed at times. This could be a reason why so many older people will not serve in church ministry. I understand, and I hate to say it, but there is no excuse. We are called as Christians to put our boots on, forgive, be the better person and live by example.

“I'll not willingly offend, Nor be easily offended; What's amiss I'll strive to mend, And endure what can't be mended” Isaac Watts

This lack of honor to those older could be a result of a lack of teaching from the parents, or (Don't get mad) maybe we need to look in the mirror. Are we honorable? I'm not saying that younger people should not honor, but are we living by example? Are we honoring those who are older than us? Are we showing love to those who are younger? Are we spending time talking to young people, helping out with their children and showing true sacrifice? In all practicality, respect is not earned, but sown. 
I've also heard a very respected teacher that I love, but I respectfully disagree with on this issue that we are to do what we want. I'm paraphrasing, but he said If we don't want to do a ministry, than that is what God's will is. I found this an odd thing coming out of one of the most renowned expository preachers in our day, especially since most of the people throughout scripture were reluctant participants in what God called them to do. Look at Moses how he wanted anyone but himself to deliver Israel. What about Jonah and not wanting to go to Nineveh and face the most ruthless land of that time? Think of Esther who had risk her own life to go in front of the king in hopes to spare her beloved people. These are just a few among most of the people in scripture who were reluctant at their God given assignments. Even Christ Himself shows intense fear and reluctance in the garden of Gethsemane to the point of sweating blood when He asked the Father to let the cup pass from Him, which was His Father's wrath.

At the same time we have to be careful not to spend too much time in ministry. There is a balance. I speak from my own experience, and I finally had to stop feeling guilty about not filling every hole of ministry, because I still have young children. After spending at least half of my time out of church doing children's ministries as a young married woman with a baby, I look back with a little regret. I don't know if I grew as much as I should of during that time. I'm now learning to say "I'm sorry, but I can't..." more. I've wondered if I was falling into the same pitfall of entitlement as some of my older friends, but as I've studied Titus 2:3-5 over the years, I've become wiser with my time. I've learned by my mistakes by not being such a people pleaser and setting my own pace and calendar given the time that I have available. My ultimate purpose is to please God and obey His word. My work is supposed to be in the home, and the needs of church should not impose on that. There will be a season in my life that I will devote more time to ministry. I always tell young people, if you're stressed to the point of being jumpy and you're snapping at your children, you may need to back off of ministry for a time.

Going back to the point of this post; I wonder what would happen if these young people decided not to do the nursery and children's church. Maybe the crying of babies, and the kicking of pew seats from youngsters during the service would motivate older women to pitch in. Hmmmmm....