The past three days, I have been privileged to spend time at a marriage retreat led by young pastors and relatively new churches. Call them younger leaders, millennials, generation whatever—the labels are irrelevant. What I marvel at is the moving of God’s Holy Spirit through these godly pastors and their kind! I hope I encouraged them, but I’m certain that they encouraged me MORE! I couldn’t wait to sit down and write out thoughts about what I see in these young pastors that I so admire! Truly, I want to be like them “when I grow up!”
Young leaders have their critics. I’m not one. I’m in awe! (I’m sure there are young leaders who are comprising doctrine, flaunting liberty, and scorning others—but there are older leaders with that spirit too. Age is not the issue. Spirit-filling is. It’s a Spirit-filled heart that I so cherish and admire in godly men.) This post is simply about the young leaders I know who are getting it right! I applaud them! I esteem them! I am SO excited for the leadership they will provide to the Bible-believing Christianity of my grandchildren!
Hats off to YOU, younger pastors! Here is why I admire you—up close, and from afar!
You love the gospel—Your life mission is learning how to live immersed in the gospel! You love it, preach it, live it, and lead others to gospel-centered, grace-based, truth-driven lives.
YES! Keep on! You are on track! Perpetuate the mission and stay focused on the moving of the Holy Spirit in your life. Follow God, get godly counsel, but don’t be a hostage to the opinions of men. (Prov. 29:25)
You see the gospel as comprehensive—To you, the gospel isn’t merely how to be saved. It’s how to live. It’s the story of all of scripture and God’s purpose for the ages. It’s inexhaustible, and the deeper you understand it, the more gracious, humble, and authentic you are comfortable being; the less threatened you are by man-made fear tactics; the less you compare or crave personal identity in other things—like church size or social network followers. (James 4:6, 10)
Gospel saturated Christianity is REAL Christianity. Hold fast to this biblical approach!
You are anchored to sound doctrine—I love that “what you believe” is not debatable or experimental. Compromise is a deeply meaningful word to you, which you define doctrinally, not preferentially. Thank you for refusing to dilute Bible doctrine with extraneous commands of men. Thank you for drawing clear lines between Bible doctrine and personal standards or preferences. Thank you for truly obeying the teaching of Romans 14.
RIGHT PATH! This is the oldest path! This is the New Testament path. Keep on, hold fast, press on! You are passing along a sound doctrine to the next generation!
You are reaching and discipling new believers—Jesus said our fruit would reveal our substance. Thank you, young leaders, who are pastoring GROWING churches, thriving with NEW LIFE. Thank you for showing the world that brand new Christians can still be born and discover the basic truths of the gospel of Jesus.
The incessant sprouting of new Christians definitively MUTES a multitude of your critics! I know you have critics, but the sound of your new believers’ heart-felt worship is so loud, I can no longer hear them! Keep showing us that the gospel still has power.
You are not fearful of healthy change—Some things never change (like the faith ONCE delivered.) Other things MUST continually change—like my heart! Growth is change. A healthy life and a healthy church is in a constant state of healthy change. You refuse to define all change as “bad.” You refuse to be held in bondage or to restrain or restrict the gospel. You refuse to hide the gospel under the bushel of a bad spirit.
You are discerning. You embrace biblical wisdom. You seek to “prove all things” and hold fast to that which is good. (1 Thess. 5:21) You make the Bible your standard, and measure change by God’s Word not others’ opinions. Keep on this Christ-focused path!
You value and esteem each other—I’ve been exposed to plenty of bad spirits in Christians over the years. There is not shortage of those who “despise” one another. You guys are tired of that contention—with good reason. And you truly love one another and encourage one another (and those like me who are privileged to call you friends.) How admirable. How biblical. You refuse to compare and measure and judge one another, and you stand in one spirit around the faith of the gospel.
Essentially, this is how I see you. You gather together at the foot of an old rugged cross. There you are changed. The sight of your Saviour’s sufferings so captivates you and humbles you in love and worship, that it effectively blinds you to your brothers’ faults and your critics hurt. This is a true model of gospel grace.
You are humble—You are not about title. You love when some uses your first name. You follow the model “He must increase, I must decrease.” (John 3:30) Your humility is centered in the gospel and allows you to be willing to lose an argument to preserve a relationship. Your humility makes you authentic, loving, gracious, teachable, hungry, and follow-able. Your humility looks a WHOLE LOT like Jesus! You are true servants who respect God’s flock and revere God’s truth.
Again, in light of the cross, you can’t imagine why anyone would glory in anything or anyone else. Jesus keeps you humble. Jesus keeps you courageous. Jesus keeps you loving. Thank you!
You are conversant—thank you for being well-read, unafraid of intelligent conversation, and humble enough to know that there is a lot that we all don’t know! You don’t know it all, and you know that none of us do—which makes you easy to talk to, and easy to learn from. You know what you believe and why—because you have studied the arguments and arrived at your position by thinking deeply, not by “not thinking.”
You are willing to land on “I’m not sure…” if the Bible isn’t definitively clear. You aren’t afraid of the mysterious nature and awe of our incomprehensible God, and you aren’t insecure with biblical ambiguities. You trust God enough to let Him remain incomprehensible. (Psalm 92:5, Isaiah 55:8)
Continue the conversation! Keep your unpretentious, approachable heart, and keep showing us how to stand for truth with a gracious spirit.
You aim to please Jesus—you’re not playing to a constituency or politicking for speaking engagements. You aren’t perpetuating a pep-rally or seeking to merely please men. You have declared Jesus as your TRUE and ONLY Lord. You follow Him. You love everyone, honor those who helped you to where you are, and yet you serve only one master. How purely biblical!
In the words of Lester Roloff, “Don’t ever let your ministry be held hostage by another man.”
You refuse contention—To you social networking is about advancing the gospel. You embrace maturity and use your communication to exalt Jesus. You are secure in Jesus. Your identity is deeply rooted in the gospel. You are not easily drawn into someone else’s box. You stay away from divisive, devouring spirits, and you perpetuate a joyful, abundant, grace-saturated brand of Christianity. (Galatians 5:15, 2 Timothy 2:23, Titus 3:9)
You reveal a Jesus who is deeply attractive. No wonder people are coming to Christ in your churches! Keep magnifying Him!
You appreciate your heritage—You seek counsel, you welcome insight, you honor those who walked before you. You do them the greatest honor—not merely revering them, but actually perpetuating the good doctrine that they gave you. You give the greatest compliment to those who preached Christ to you—you actually PREACH CHRIST! Keep preaching Jesus!
You refuse man-worship—You are wisely avoiding “thinking too highly” of yourself or other men. (Romans 12:3) You refuse to compete with Jesus for His glory. You are not building yourself, but others. You are not establishing your own fame, but HIS. You are willing to be criticized by a few that you might give greater honor to Jesus and to a larger “many” who were faithful before you!
Don’t get drawn into the trap of proclaiming your own greatness or goodness—keep proclaiming His. (Prov. 20:6)
You embrace Jesus-worship—You truly worship! In singing new songs, in singing old songs, in serving others, in living generously, in honoring Jesus from the heart—your worship is not contrived, entertainment-driven, or pharisaical. You avoid both dead church and carnal church. You are real, and really in love with Jesus!
You are not stuck in a time-zone or an era, but rather you have embraced timeless truth and a timeless Saviour in your time. Being around you makes me LOVE JESUS more with my whole heart!
You are visionary and full of faith—You refuse to accept the notion that it can’t be done. You are grateful for good days past, but you are eager and faith-filled about good days RIGHT NOW and going forward! You see today as the “good days.” You believe the gospel still transforms hearts in real-time, present day. You haven’t allowed time, trials, or trouble to scar or callous your heart. You haven’t allowed negativity to skew your vision. Your heart has not grown cynical or scornful. You reject sarcasm. You have chosen to NOT fight other Christians that you might indeed fight the real enemy in the good fight of faith!
I admire you. In truth, in heart, in spirit—I, and many others, applaud you. Lead on. Preach Jesus. Live in the gospel. Be gracious. And thank you for courageously carrying the gospel forward to the next generation—may my grandchildren’s children (if Jesus doesn’t return by then) embrace your genuine faith.
I believe with all my heart that the Holy Spirit KNOWS what He is doing. He is moving mightily among you. The doctrines of our faith do not rest on our preferences, our standards, our laws, or our personalities. The future of the faith is not contingent upon “my way.” The future of our faith, as always, is safe and solid in the hands of God Almighty. Truly the Holy Spirit of God is working in you and USING you to bring many into the kingdom!
I admire that you are not Lording leaders, but loving leaders. You are widely read and wisely read. You are contending without being contentious. You preach grace without abusing it. You respect heritage without worshipping it. You discern healthy change from compromise. You major in majors and minor on minors. You refuse to set at naught those who have set you at naught. You let the Bible say what is says, not what you want it to say. You lead the lost to Jesus and give them a safe environment in which to grow and enjoy Him.
Don’t let negative voices discourage you. Don’t let leadership failures derail you. Don’t let bad spirits dismay you. Don’t let pride crush you or fear hinder you. Be not afraid, neither be dismayed… be strong and of good courage! (Joshua 1:9)
There are a whole bunch of us, on Earth and in Heaven, giving you a heart-felt STANDING OVATION! Pause for a moment and let our applause cheer you on in God’s grace and in a lifetime of faithfulness for the gospel!
Thank you younger leaders! You are EPIC!
Press on in the gospel of grace, and know… YOU ARE NOT ALONE!!
PS—Much thanks to my friends Pastor Josh Irmler and Pastor Josh Teis for refreshing my spirit the past few days! I’m humbled to know you.