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  • Writer's pictureDwight Smith

My Prayer For Younger Leaders (Younger Than Me!)

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As I have crossed my 75th birthday, I am acutely aware that the responsibility for things that I have highly valued over my lifetime have passed to others. Reflecting upon these others and their awareness, intensity, willingness to sacrifice, even suffer, at times brings me great hope, at other times great concern. Recently, a colleague closer to my age reminded me of what I said in the past.

All Christian leaders are stewards of something that does not belong to them. The message is not theirs. The calling to represent the message is not theirs. The gifts needed to fulfill that calling are not theirs. The opportunities into which the Holy Spirit has prepared that the message is to be declared is not theirs. And, the results are not theirs.

So, be humble, be careful about taking yourself too seriously, and definitely not as seriously as others around you will try and esteem you.

DA Carson sounds, I think, a similar thought. “In many societies of the world, the leaders are so much above the people they lead that efforts are made (by themselves or their courtiers) to exempt them from the troubles of the lesser breeds.

Not so among the people of God. Here it is frequently the leaders who are called to suffer the most. How could it be otherwise? We serve a crucified Messiah.” (Excerpt From How long, O Lord? (2nd edition) D. A. Carson)

If I am right in my assessment that following Jesus is not going to be easier in the years ahead, it is going to be more difficult. Then, the cost will become greater for Christians, who live in the midst of a world where the name of Jesus and His Father is hated. Those who stand with Him will be called upon to be more spiritually resilient than they might have otherwise anticipated.

Jesus tells us, “Whoever hates me hates my Father also. If I had not done among them the works that no one else did, they would not be guilty of sin, but now they have seen and hated both me and my Father. But the word that is written in their Law must be fulfilled: They hated me without a cause.’

A leader’s calling, use of their spiritual gifts, effectiveness with God’s people, even the faith or non-faith of their children, will rise from the depth of their daily walk with God, in His word, submissive to the Holy Spirit.

The need for affirmation, importance of self, becoming the person they have a “right” to be, etc. will need to die the death of a life learning to be defined as an obedient child of God. The sovereign God who makes no mistakes with our lives, will carry each of us uniquely into the completion of His eternal promises.

As this maturation goes in leadership, so it will follow in the people of God for whom they have taken responsibility. The rising tide of nominalism, theological confusion about the basics of faith, what it means to be a follower of Jesus, are all challenges created by church leadership. They will need to be solved by leadership. Or, worse, God will leave us to ourselves.

There are things that can be done. They will not be easy. They are not shortcuts to quickly eliminate the weaknesses in leadership in my generation, now imposed upon a younger generation. We, parents and church leaders have left them unprepared for the hostility into which they have entered.

I am hopeful that there are still among us older leaders who will give time and effort to the task of the spiritual formation of younger leaders. I am hopeful that there still are a few younger leaders who are wanting formation.

As my days fade into the past, this is my prayer, for church and leadership! “I look at my children, and I wish for them enough opposition to make them strong, enough insults to make them choose, enough hard decisions to make them see that following Jesus brings with it a cost—a cost eminently worth it, but still a cost.” (Excerpt From How long, O Lord? (2nd edition) D. A. Carson)


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