Dr. Allen Domelle
The future of any organization highly depends on the amount of youth coming up through the ranks. For many years, I have always looked at the balance of age in a church to determine its future. A church that has no youth rarely has the life to continue growing. It is not that those who are older don’t want a church to grow, but they just don’t have the energy they once had to continue growing. In my experience, a church that has no youth is a church that simply tries to maintain what it has.
One aspect I have observed from churches that have a larger staff is that they must have youth (younger men) on their staff if they want to continue to conquer. The younger staff always have the energy and dreams needed to keep the church growing. They tend to push an older pastor to do things he normally would not do. It is very important for the future of a church and church staff to have youth.
Likewise, just as it is important for a church or church staff to have youth, it is equally as important for young men to be stepping into our pulpits across the world. If we discourage younger men from going into the pastorate, we will kill the future influence of the old paths, independent Baptist movement.
What I have observed over many years is the constant discouragement from many well-meaning men who counsel younger men to go on staff for awhile and learn the ropes before they take the pastorate. The problem with this counsel is that many of these men become comfortable in their position and never do what God called them to do in the first place. Another problem I see with this counsel is that if a young man contributes greatly to the growth of the church, many pastors find it hard to let them go because they feel that their departure will hurt the church. We can say this doesn’t happen, but that is just burying our heads in the sand. Too many young men who were called to preach have never followed through because someone distracted them by counseling them to get more experience before going into the pastorate.
The question must then be asked, what is too young to pastor? Is there a perfect age a person must attain before they begin pastoring a church? I believe the Scriptures make it clear if a man is too young to pastor.
1. The only requirement about experience has nothing to do with age.
The only time that God refers to inexperience is found in the word, “novice.” 1 Timothy 3:1 the Scriptures say, “This is a true saying, If a man desire the office of a bishop, he desireth a good work.” The “office of a bishop” is the position of the pastorate. God then goes through several requirements for the bishop. One of those requirements is found in 1 Timothy 3:6 where it says, “Not a novice, lest being lifted up with pride he fall into the condemnation of the devil.” The word “novice” is simply referring to a new Christian. The new Christian is not ready to pastor a church for several reasons; that is why God didn’t want a novice shepherding his flock.
Moreover, being a novice has nothing to do with age. Some people who are in the middle years of their life would be considered novices when it comes to pastoring. Some young men are more qualified to pastor than some older men because they have grown up in the ministry. All I’m saying is that age has nothing to do with whether a person is experienced enough to pastor a church. It ultimately comes down to their spiritual maturity.
Furthermore, a young man straight out of Bible college is probably prepared to pastor a church. If he isn’t, that Bible college has failed. I’m amazed that we send young men to Bible college for four years to learn how to pastor, but when they graduate we say they are not ready to pastor. Not to beat the same statement into the ground, but the only requirement God gives is that they should not be a novice.
2. Younger pastors are challenged not to let their age be a hindrance.
What is interesting is that this pressure for youth not to pastor is not something new. Paul addressed this in 1 Timothy 4:12 when he says to Timothy, “Let no man despise thy youth; but be thou an example of the believers, in word, in conversation, in charity, in spirit, in faith, in purity.” Paul knew that people would attack Timothy because of his youth, so he encouraged him to be a good example and not to let his age be a hindrance to what he was doing for Christ.
I started in the ministry at a very young age. I know what it’s like at twenty-one years of age to preach to people who are twice my age. My encouragement always came from the fact that when God called me, He knew how old I would be when I went into the ministry. You must be careful not to use a person’s youthful age against them. If God called them, they are just as called as a person who is older.
3. The burden is to be carried in the youth.
Lamentations 3:27 says, “It is good for a man that he bear the yoke in his youth.” One of the greatest assets of youth is energy. When you are young, you have the energy to overcome youthful mistakes. I believe that is why God says, “It is good for a man that he bear the yoke in his youth.” The mistakes you make when you’re young are lessons to show you what to avoid when you are older when you don’t have the energy to overcome them.
I recently finished a meeting with my nephew who is pastoring a church just north of Pittsburgh. He is twenty-seven years of age and is doing a great job. Many people have been saved and are seeing their lives changed through his ministry in the year that he has pastored. Imagine all the people who would not have been reached had he used youth as an excuse not to pastor. Though he is relatively young, God is still using him.
My friend, if nineteen-year-old men can give their lives to fight for our country, I would imagine a young man in His twenties who is yielded to the Spirit of God can pastor a church. We must be careful about limiting God’s will and power because of age.
4. Comparing people because of age is an unwise act.
2 Corinthians 10:2 says, “For we dare not make ourselves of the number, or compare ourselves with some that commend themselves: but they measuring themselves by themselves, and comparing themselves among themselves, are not wise.” It is just as unwise to use age as a comparison as it is in any other area. God didn’t say that we can compare with each other when it comes to age. No! Comparing someone in any area, including age, is unwise.
Ultimately, it comes down to the will of God, and not the will or opinion of men. Proverbs 3:5-6 reminds us, “Trust in the LORD with all thine heart; and lean not unto thine own understanding. In all thy ways acknowledge him, and he shall direct thy paths.” It doesn’t matter what man thinks or says; you are to do God’s will and trust Him that He knows what He is doing. If God calls a young man to pastor a church in His youth, we must trust the sovereignty of God that He knows what is best. One of the reasons I believe we are losing this nation is because we have withheld young men from pastoring.
Let’s start trusting God’s will and encouraging these young men whom God has called. If He calls someone, it is our job to send them. Certainly, make sure they are not a novice, but encourage them. God encouraged Joshua in Joshua 1:9 by saying, “Have not I commanded thee? Be strong and of a good courage; be not afraid, neither be thou dismayed: for the LORD thy God is with thee whithersoever thou goest.” Let’s take the same encouraging words and encourage those young God-called men to follow through with their calling. As long as they obey, He will be with them “whithersoever” they go.
“Give me 100 preachers who fear nothing but sin and desire nothing but God; such alone will shake the gates of hell.” -John Wesley