Yesterday was a shot in the arm. We had a full day with a room full of pastors, youth workers, parents, and seminary students at the Evangelical Theological Seminary Fall Forum on “Engaging the Soul of Youth Culture.” I typically leave those events wondering if I said things correctly, if my words were clear, if I got in the way in any manner that I should not have, etc. I also treasure the speaking opportunities – like this one – where I leave knowing that I’ve been blessed. That happened yesterday for sure.
How was I blessed? I was blessed by the diversity in the room. We had a full spectrum of folks in that room. Young and old. Suits and ties. Guys who looked like they were modeling skateboard clothes. The contrasts were marked. But everyone was there because they love Jesus and they want to serve Him more effectively by loving and caring for kids.
As the day ended, a man named Levi thanked me for sharing what I did. He was a pastor. Levi was one of the oldest people in the room. I won’t guess his age – I’m not good at that. He was, however, old enough to be my dad, I’m sure. He was dressed the way people used to dress to go to church. Nothing about his appearance seemed culturally relevant in the ways we so sadly understand cultural relevance today. He was sitting in the 2nd row on the aisle. He furiously scribbled notes throughout. Levi’s presence and words blessed me in great ways, and he did so on behalf of dozens of other folks like him in that room.
First, Levi and the members of his generation in that room reminded me that we spend too much time thinking about style over substance/content. We get too concerned about appearances, and we’ve even been led to believe that if it’s not styled in the latest or most contemporary way, it’s not going to work. Not true. Levi and others like him have lots to give. . . and give they do. Why else would a man who (according to our culture) should be retired and playing golf give up a day to learn how to be more effective at reaching and ministering to the next generation? I know lots of kids who have been deeply impacted by guys like Levi. I hope men and woman like him keep showing up.
Second, Levi and the folks like him in that room reminded me of just how counterproductive, dangerous, and wrong our age-segregation practices really are. When marketing has done its job and convinced us that those who are younger need to be separated from those who are older in our churches during worship. . . well, I don’t think there’s anything good that comes from that. Why in the world would we ever want to break up the body of Christ and keep kids from Levi’s wisdom, experience, and knowledge? Why wouldn’t we want to foster and create opportunities for Levi and the kids to connect in ways that are mutually edifying?
Third, Levi and his peers in that room reminded me that we should never stop seeking to learn. In fact, we need to be constantly reminded that the more we know and the more we think we know, the more we should realize how much we don’t know. That’s the person I want to be. It reminded me of the day I graduated from seminary. I had a conversation with a classmate where I verbalized something I had been realizing in the days leading up to graduation: “I wish I knew as much as I thought I knew on my first day of school at this place.” I don’t ever want to lose the perspective that puts me in my place and keeps me humble.
So. . . today. . . thanks so much to Levi and everyone else in that room. Thanks for what you do. Thanks for your passion. Thanks for your example. And thanks for reminding me of things I must never forget.