There is a very clear image in my mind of a man named Dean. On hands and knees, this old man worked his way up and down the narrow side aisles of the church building- scrubbing the base boards. There is another clear image in my mind of Dean, this time praying to his God with truth and reverence. Long, beautiful prayers. They were beautiful, but mostly because of the honesty coming straight from his heart. I can hear him sing hymns such as “The Old Rugged Cross” and “Up From the Grave He Arose” in his gruff bass, making melody in his heart to the Lord. I can remember sitting at his feet, so to speak, learning from his stories and jokes and the years of wisdom in his day to day conversations. He knew His God. He knew God’s Word. How? Because he read it. He studied it. And he lived it.
Dean was one of a kind, but he is also one of many. One of many Godly men and women from past generations who knew their God and His Word. And as I think of them, there are no words to describe how extremely thankful I am. These are people who started congregations and strengthened the congregations they were in. They raised their children to know how to get to Heaven, and how to serve the church in the meantime. They taught Bible classes and cooked for potlucks. They scrubbed base boards and mowed church yards. They showed hospitality to their friends and neighbors, and to one another. They sat in business meetings, working out how to best use what God had blessed them with. They stood for what was Biblical and spoke against what was not- ensuring that we, the future generations, would have solid congregations to serve and worship with.
Maybe the best way to sum up my feelings toward these people is to quote from the Bible that they loved so much:
Philippians 1:3 I thank my God in all my remembrance of you.
And now as I look at my own generation, I see the result of their hard work and love. I see many strong congregations and I see people with a passion for serving their God. But I see something else that concerns me. I see an attitude of “Look how far WE’VE come! Look how educated WE are and look at what WE’RE discovering.” Friends, there is nothing new under the sun. And we would do well to remember the people who set the foundation for where we are today in the Church.
I fear that we look at past generations and laugh. We laugh at their hymns and the words they use. We laugh at their methods of teaching and their understanding of the Scriptures. We laugh at them if they were “uneducated” and if they lacked a title. We laugh at their “rules” and the way they lived their lives and raised their children.
While we laugh, we’re “coming up with” “new” ideas. We’re so smart. We’re so much more evolved than those old folks. Our “movements” are THE WAY to grow the church. Our state of the art preaching and teaching are such an improvement. Our contemporary singing and worship is so much more edifying! Our degrees and innovative educational endeavors are far superior. Right?
I would like to strongly disagree. As I said before, there is nothing new under the sun (Eccl 1:9). Jesus Christ is the same today, yesterday and forever (Heb 13:8). Really, we’re the same. We’re all people and we all sin. We all need God and we can all be redeemed through His Son, Jesus Christ. We can be in Heaven with God at the end of this life if we do what He has told us to in His Word. And that hasn’t changed. The knowledge we have about salvation- our brethren in past generations had that too. And it hasn’t changed. There is nothing new-and-improved about it and it has not evolved. It was perfect from the start. And since this is the case, maybe we need to be looking to the gray haired in our congregations for leadership, ideas, wisdom and advice. After all, they are the ones with the years of study and service. They have been living it far longer than we have, and I’d be willing to bet (if I did that…) that they know a little (a lot) more than we do about life and godliness.
I’m writing this because of what I sometimes see in myself, and what I have recently seen as a problem in my generation. When something strikes me as interesting and convicting, it’s easy to get caught up in excitement and think, “Wow! Look what I discovered!” Perhaps a better approach would be to ask someone who knows much more about Christianity than I do to study it with me and to give me sound advice and encouragement in my own study. They, the older generations, have earned this respect. And little do we know what we’re missing out on if we over look them in our quest to reach the world for Christ.
There may be a lot more to the polyester, gray haired row in our buildings than we think. And, you know what? Hymns are no less holy than “praise” songs. Your degree and title mean very little if you can’t take instruction from the wise. Your “movement” has been tried before- I bet the “old folks” have some pointers. Your teaching methods, if they teach the truth, are nice- but not any more so than the methods that have been successfully teaching the Word for years before you were born.
I would rather sit at the feet of Dean than the most innovatively-educated, modern-speaking, praise-song-singing, up-to-date, movement-following man from my generation. Let’s learn from these older people while we can. Let’s sit at their feet and humbly realize that we do not know it all.
By Miranda Trujillo
Miranda Trujillo is a 20-year old homeschool graduate and preacher’s kid. She attends Pleasant Valley church of Christ– the church building was her playground growing up. She loves gardening, mixing up herbal potions, feeding Middle Schoolers (as a lunch lady), blogging and enjoying her family life in the beautiful Pleasant Valley- Bellvue, Colorado.