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So, Two Arrogant Punks Walk Up to a Seasoned Professor in Church: Youth, Respect & Ageism

ageismI had an over the top experience in a congregation yesterday after preaching a message on a Biblical Theology of Holiness, called “Whole Life Holiness.”

I have grown accustomed to the fact that an exorbitant number of Millennials have a rather narcissistic view of their own qualifications to lead, believing that their own youth and inexperience is not a hindrance, but an actual advantage in their designs for gaining power and authority over others… a virtue which in and of itself makes them more qualified than other people who have actual education and experience.

Equating knowledge with information, it is common for today’s youth to imagine that their ready access to Google on their phones is a worthy counterbalance to their teachers’ years of schooling, study and practical training on the job.

They have even coined the phrase “Ageism” to describe anyone who disagrees with them.

Ageism, as applied by many Millennials, is a label of prejudice against those who have the unmitigated gall to think that maturity, instruction, and years of involvement in any given field demands some level of respect from those who have none.

Even so, while I was not completely surprised that two young men imagined that their complete lack was equal to my abundance, I was shocked to discover that they had the audacity to pull me aside after my message to chastise me for “pride” and for imagining that interpretation and application of Scripture were dependent on actually studying Scripture in context rather than on listening to the whispers of the Holy Spirit whose leading nullifies (they think) the need for study and knowledge…Whispers which they are perfectly tuned to hear.

The second accusation is easily confronted. I’ve dealt with such stupidity often in my years in the ministry. I need do no more than hand them a Greek, Hebrew or Aramaic text and ask them to tell me what it says… for them to pray to the Holy Spirit to tell them what it says.

Now the Holy Spirit could do so, if it was His wont, but life and the testimony of Scripture itself suggests that He is little inclined to circumvent the spiritual discipline of study.

The greater concern, given that these two twenty-somethings have ambitions for leadership in their congregation, is that they showed such a lack of respect for a guest speaker whose qualifications for ministry so RADICALLY outstrip their own.

“OH!!! That PROVES it!!! You really are proud.”

Touché… That’s the beauty of the accusation. If one seeks to defend himself against the accusation of pride, he, as a matter of course, proves it. The only way to disprove it is to sit silently and take it without self-defense… allowing these two out-of-order infants to walk away smug and victorious in their own arrogant hearts.

Even so, I remained silent for the most part, beginning only to address their fixation on pneumatic hermeneutics, speaking for no more than a minute or two before the discussion was forcibly ended by another event.

This was a misfortune for these two men. Having rarely encountered such unchecked haughtiness in those ambling for ministry, I have a profoundly ominous feeling about their futures in the church. Unteachable, undereducated, conceited beyond reason, they promise to be little but a devastation to anyone unfortunate enough to fall under their power and authority. They need to be salvaged, if possible, before they do irreparable harm to others.

So, how does one confront them without validating their accusations in their own smug souls? How does one seek to turn a mirror on them so that they can see themselves for what they are, and, perchance, turn them back from their disastrous path?

Paul faced a similar challenge in his attempts to confront the pseudo-spirituality, arrogance, and inappropriate leadership wannabes in Corinth. While one should read his entire discussion in 2 Corinthians 10:1-12:21 a few excerpts might set the stage.

2 Corinthians 10:8  For even if I boast a little too much of our authority, which the Lord gave for building you up and not for destroying you, I will not be ashamed… 10:13  But we will not boast beyond limits, but will boast only with regard to the area of influence God assigned to us, to reach even to you… 11:6  Even if I am unskilled in speaking, I am not so in knowledge; indeed, in every way we have made this plain to you in all things. …11:18  Since many boast according to the flesh, I too will boast. …22  Are they Hebrews? So am I. Are they Israelites? So am I. Are they offspring of Abraham? So am I. 23  Are they servants of Christ? I am a better one—I am talking like a madman—with far greater labors, far more imprisonments, with countless beatings, and often near death.

Let me chime in a bit, in hopes that these young men, and many like them, might learn the way of the world, and a little respect for their elders:

I have suffered depravation, rejection, loss and sorrow for the gospel over the last thirty years of ministry, yet have never abandoned my calling. I have remained respectful to divinely ordained authorities around me… even when I vehemently disagreed with them.

I have ministered around the country in several major cities, working with the homeless, preaching in prisons and on the streets to both groups and individuals. I have been faithful in youth ministry, adult education, pastoral work and manual labor in the church.

I have toiled to the point of brokenness to become a biblical scholar who has, in addition to his undergraduate Bible education, two master’s degrees in biblical studies and a PhD in theology. I have had the privilege of studying in one way or another under the greatest scholarly minds in Evangelicalism over 25 years of full-time education. I have been directly associated with eight different educational institutions, learned to read in eight languages, read many thousands of books and articles, read the scriptures cover to cover some fifty times, accumulated nearly a master’s worth of linguistic courses in addition to the others, audited more than 20 university courses from around the globe, traveled to more than a dozen countries, founded a bible college as a seven year missionary in India, been a professor at three colleges, and founded an educational ministry bringing serious instruction to lay leaders in the church domestically and internationally.

I have raised four children to adulthood, loving them with everything I have, been married and faithful to one woman for over 25 years, having gone to our honeymoon bed a virgin. I have lived a life free of addiction and completely free of alcohol and drugs.

So… while my education and experience does not mean that I am correct about everything I say and do, it should gain me, and those many aged Saints like me, at least a modicum of respect from those whose own education and experience pale in comparison.

Indeed, I cannot imagine treating any one of the hundreds of professors and pastors that I’ve had over the years with anything that even remotely approaches the contempt and disregard with which these kittens, these pups, these immature, inexperienced, undereducated children treated me yesterday. Indeed, it was only my respect and submission as a guest to these lads’ pastors (a respect that they themselves lack) that kept me from verbally rending them like they deserved.

There is nothing virtuous about immaturity and ignorance… so learn a little humility and respect will you… and ditch the label ageism; it only exposes your foolishness to everyone… well, everyone but your own ignorant peers.

3 thoughts on “So, Two Arrogant Punks Walk Up to a Seasoned Professor in Church: Youth, Respect & Ageism

  1. Ryan says:

    It is unfortunate that their approach reflects an accurate portrayal of many young people today.

    I have massive respect for you and your decades of blood, sweat, and tears, that gained you the wisdom and knowledge you have.

    1. Awwwwww… shucks. Thanks, Ryan. Let me give you their numbers. 🙂

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