“Wait ’til you’re 40, things will be different.”
Those words sunk into my soul with subtle persistence. It was like I was hooked up to an IV and being slowly put to sleep. The words echoed in my ears, declaring my singular passion something of a fool’s errand, the product of youthful ignorance.
Let me give you the context. It was 2001 and I was in my early 20’s and a fairly new Christian. I did not know much other than I loved Jesus and wanted to preach. I had imbibed a few liters of Spurgeon, heard some Piper quotes and was dreaming big. I was also at a very large church heavily involved in attractional, church-growth ministry. Some of the leaders, seeing my zeal and perhaps some potential, turned me loose on a bunch of adults—some decades older than me. I preached my Sunday School classes. It was…interesting.
As my convictions grew I felt more and more out-of-place. I was broken by the trajectory of the church. They seemed to be exchanging the authority of Scripture and preeminence of Christ for feelings, programs and capital campaigns. I had to do something. I couldn’t let it be.
I tried to get a meeting with the pastor. He was something of a rock-star at our church. He ignored my emails and requests. His secretary kept me at arm’s length like a good pastoral bouncer. At the same time I needed to let him know about my concerns. I loved this church.
Finally, through a connection with one of his associates, I got in there. I was told that I had 30 minutes. I was going to make it count. I went through my outline (yes, it was typed out). I pleaded with him in shameless tears about the centrality of the gospel, the Scriptures, and the church.
He sat stoic. He was unmoved. He just stared at me. After baldly suggesting that I go to another church he cut me off and said, “Wait ’til you’re 40, things will be different. You won’t be so passionate.”
Well, here I am nearing the big “four – o” and I want to test this pastor’s prophecy.
I can confidently say that he was and remains dead wrong. Passion for the glory of Christ does not wane or whither with time when it is fueled and sustained by the Holy Spirit. Over the years I have found myself peering into more and more rooms in the mansion of Christology. Jesus remains infinitely lovely, compelling, and full of glory. The gospel is no less powerful. The church is no less worthy of my service. And this guys’ statement could not be more wrong.
As I look back I am—in a strange way—thankful for this pastor’s failed prophecy. It has served me as a sanctified rock in my shoe. His words often hung overhead like a bold, advertising banner attached to an airplane. They were something of a challenge to me and, I think, to the Holy Spirit. “You won’t keep this up. You will fizzle. This is just a fad for you.” He was so gloriously wrong. (And ironically, now I am looking to identify and shape passionate, gifted, young guys for ministry. I’m looking for guys like the 2001 version of me.)
If you have had similar encounters, let me encourage you not toward prideful but to prayerful refutation. Double-down on the Holy Spirit. Study the gospel. Pray like everything depends on it and live like you are serving the risen King. And when you pull over and take inventory, remember that it is not actually you who keeps you but God. We are prone to wander and naturally packed for apostasy. But, God is faithful.
[photo via Shutterstock]