Saturday Preacher/Teacher Briefing

Love at any age…

I have known and respected J. David Stephens, current 2nd Assistant General Overseer of the Church of God, for many years.  Recently, I happened to catch a tweet he posted that got me thinking; he tweeted: Yesteryear’s Constructs and Vocabulary are passé to XERS and Millennials.  Peers…we must learn their language to speak into their lives!old_young 2

One of the things that grabbed me about that statement is that I’m one of the “peers” (a “Yesteryear’s guy”) that Bishop Stephens was tweeting to.  I’m still not comfortable with that uncomfortable reality.  (This past Thursday Sonja and I purchased tickets to view the latest Hobbit movie and they gave us the senior citizens discount without even asking—those insensitive “XERS and Millennials”!)

But whatever your age, communicating to anyone—and especially people decades apart in age from you is a challenge.

To compound the issue, pastors eventually don’t have the luxury of focusing in on one age group (even the XERS and Millennials will turn into Yeteryearers eventually).

For example, on the same day I received the senior citizen discount, a father and his beautiful autistic teenage daughter and then later, an elderly woman who received a miracle while in rehab during a service at the facility as hymns were being sung, were both a part of my day as a pastor—I have to be able to communicate to each of them.

So what is a preacher/teacher (of any age) supposed to do?

My answer is: Actually have something to say.

It doesn’t matter how contemporary your speech and how cool your props, if you are not addressing the real issues of people’s lives (and it is surprising how similar they are at all age levels) they will tune you out.

Having something to say is not quoting from the latest sources and trying to tie it in to something spiritual.  Having something to say is not knowing which sports team is winning, which movie is playing or which music artist is in vogue.  While knowing these things may help you connect and punctuate a point you are trying make, in the end, having something to say is birthed in really, really caring about the people you are speaking to.

I’m not sure I’ve ever heard the word “groovy” (a now obsolete “cool-at-the-time” word from my teenage days) come out of my parent’s mouths—but they have my ear because they love me and because they love me, what they have to say matters to me.

There is no substitute for loving and caring for people.  If you love someone, even if they are from another country and speak a different language, you will find a way to express your love and they will stop whatever they are doing to listen to you.  People know if you love them and they will press through age differences, language barriers, and anything else that separates the two of you.

While there is merit in researching the different age groups in order to understand them better, the danger is that people can become “lab rats” that we study in order to know what “buttons” to push; in order to get the response we want.

Dear preacher/teacher, don’t underestimate the power of just loving people.  Your current assignment must not be just another rung on the ladder of your career or something you do because you like to preach or teach.  Your foremost goal must not be building a great church or organization.  The pulpit–the ministry Jesus has given you–is for the purpose of loving and protecting his sheep.

And that leads me to the second point (and you will be glad to know the last point) I want to make.  Truly loving your people is birthed from truly loving your Lord and savior: Jesus Christ.  (Read John chapter 21—Peter’s second commissioning–“Peter, do you love me.” x3).

Developing a white-hot passionate love for your people that breaks down communication barriers doesn’t come with deciding to do so; it comes by spending time with Jesus Christ until you share his heart for the people you serve.

Jesus provided the example.  His primary motivation for doing what he did while on earth was to please His Father.  As a result, his love for lost mankind was fueled to such an extent that he prayed, “Nevertheless, not my will but yours be done” and he gave up his life for you and me.

In the same way, a passionate love for Jesus that fuels a righteous jealousy to glorify Him and make him known to the ends of the earth will break down generational barriers in our day.  Believe me, just as in Jesus’ day, people will be impressed and take note when they observe that you love them so much—because of your love for Jesus—that you will lay down your life for them.

As Leonard Sweet, a Yesteryear peer that has devoted himself to communicating to younger generations, said in a recent tweet: I sometimes mess up the teaching, and don’t convey what I teach exactly right, but I hope I always give a clear view of the Teacher.”

If we’ll do that—give a clear view of the Teacher—somehow, something we say will get through.

So in summary, what is an old guy like me who is trying to reach young guys like some of you, and what is a young guy like some of you who is trying to communicate to old guys like me do?

Let us demonstrate a white-hot passionate love for each other birthed from our relationship with Jesus Christ—that type of love will find a way to break through any barrier and get straight to the heart.

As the now old song from the “Cold War” era says: (and its worth reading)

Je t’aime
Te amo
Ya ti-bya lyu blyu
Ani o hev ot cha
I love you

The sounds are all as different
As the lands from which they came
And though the words are all unique
Our hearts are still the same

Love in any language
Straight from the heart
Pulls us all together
Never apart
And once we learn to speak it
All the world will hear
Love in any language
Fluently spoken here

We teach the young our differences
Yet look how we’re the same
We love to laugh, to dream our dreams
We know the sting of pain

From Leningrad to Lexington
The farmer loves his land
And daddies all get misty-eyed
To give their daughter’s hand

Oh maybe when we realize
How much there is to share
We’ll find too much in common
To pretend it isn’t there

Love in any language
Straight from the heart
Pulls us all together
Never apart
And once we learn to speak it
All the world will hear
Love in any language
Fluently spoken here

Tho’ the rhetoric of government
May keep us worlds apart
There’s no misinterpreting
The language of the heart

Love in any language
Straight from the heart
Pulls us all together
Never apart
And once we learn to speak it
All the world will hear
Love in any language
Fluently spoken here

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