One of my high school friends, Casey Cork, is doing awesome things down in Austin, TX. She started a non-profit called "Humanize Me." The purpose of the organization is to help people see homelessness as real people suffering and not as an issue or a statistic. This past week she posted the following and it struck a nerve for me. Here is what she posted:
"In my personal and professional life, I've felt a lot of ageism. As if because I'm "young", my [long term] contributions and dedication to my field is looked at with skepticism. As if I don't have enough "life experience" to be respected. So much so that despite my accomplishments, I began to internalize it. I told myself, "In five to ten years, I'll be 'ready' for the big stuff." "Give me a few years and I'll REALLY be able to bring something to the table." But I am reminded that no- I AM ready for big things. My voice DOES matter- ..." -Casey Cork
As a young pastor, I often find myself being treated in a similar way. Casey's wisdom, strength and courage give me hope. Her post helps me remember God called ALL to proclaim the good news. ALL are called to the Kingdom of God. ALL are called to be the Body of Christ. I don't have to wait until I reach a certain age until I can be the pastor God called me to be. There will never be a perfect time to serve and share God's gifts. My age isn't a deficient even if people treat my being "young and energetic" as a limitation.
I'm reminded of the passage from Timothy:
"Let no one despise your youth, but set the believers an example in speech and conduct, in love, in faith, in purity. Until I arrive, give attention to the public reading of scripture, to exhorting, to teaching. Do not neglect the gift that is in you, which was given to you through prophecy with the laying on of hands by the council of elders. Put these things into practice, devote yourself to them, so that all may see your progress. Pay close attention to yourself and to your teaching; continue in these things, for in doing this you will save both yourself and your hearers." - 1 Timothy 4:12-16
The truth is I'm VERY privileged. I admit and claim that I have more voice and power than most. I am a white, heterosexual, middle-class male. I am not complaining for experiencing Ageism.
But, I am beginning to notice a problem I see both in society and in the Church. Our society wants people to believe only certain people have say. Our society judges, condemns and categorizes who can and who can't. The Church cannot follow these patterns of thinking or myths.
I heard a quote the other day that the world doesn't need more critics and doubters, because the world is full of them. The world needs more encouragers and dreamers, because they are rare. I would substitute the word "Church" in for "world." The Church doesn't need more critics. We need people, young and old, who are ready and dream big.
The sad reality is that for a long time, I, like Casey, believed I wasn't ready. I believed I didn't have enough experience. I believed I didn't have what it took to really make a difference and lead as a pastor in Christ's Church.
I am young. But, I will not feel constrained by this fact. My ideas aren't less because I'm young. My abilities aren't less because I don't have experience. It's who I am and I hope God uses ALL of me, even my age, to point people to Christ.
The Church is one of the few places where young and old can come together and be equals. And that's what the Church is called to be. Intergenerational, multi-cultural relationships and community. It's because the Kingdom of God, it's not about competition-it's about collaboration. It's not about who's the greatest-it's about service. It's not about who's most qualified, because God doesn't chose the qualified. Instead, God qualifies the chosen. It's not about opinions-it's about love.
Going forward, what excites me is that I get to join in a Church with people of all ages and TOGETHER we dream big.
TOGETHER we think big.
TOGETHER all ideas are welcomed.
TOGETHER we listen to God's spirit and discern how we best serve our community. TOGETHER we do big things in making our world a better place.
TOGETHER we come together as equals to help others experience God's AWESOME love.
Thank you for all you do in the name of our Risen Lord, Jesus!