FIRST-PERSON: The need for both frogs & tadpoles
NASHVILLE, Tenn. (BP)--New York Giants owner Wellington Mara claims Jesus’ parable of the pearl of great price inspired him to part with several draft choices and a load of cash in order to draft rookie quarterback Eli Manning. Then, perhaps taking a cue from our Savior’s good-steward parables, he signed two-time NFL MVP Kurt Warner, who will both compete for the starting quarterback job and serve as Manning’s mentor.
You might say Warner is the frog who’s been hopping around the NFL pond for a number of years and Manning is the tadpole hoping to learn which lily pads to hop on and which to avoid. Mara’s move may or may not result in New York’s return to the Super Bowl, but it illustrates a biblical principle nearly 3,000 years old, when Israel’s King David helped prepare his son, Solomon, to build the temple. David not only counseled Solomon; he took an active role in preparing God’s people for construction.
I wrote in my previous two “frog” columns that the Southern Baptist Convention faces significant challenges presented by declining baptisms and the failure to involve younger ministers in determining the direction of the SBC. I also encouraged younger ministers not to wait for an invitation but to locally seize opportunities to change the SBC culture. Southern Baptists, as well as others, would do well to revisit the story of David and Solomon. Here are some points I believe apply to us today:
1. Don’t mistake faithfulness for entitlement.
David faithfully served God and certainly had the desire to build the temple. From a human perspective he was the logical choice, but God had other plans. God wanted His temple built by a man of peace, not a man of war. I don’t want to over-romanticize this point because there is a big difference between David’s wars and the struggle within our denomination for biblical inerrancy. The struggle was necessary because we needed to make a definitive stand for God’s Word. At the same time, those of us who walked through that time need to understand -- and accept -- that younger ministers don’t necessarily share our intensity regarding that struggle. Many of them were preschoolers or in elementary school at the time. They already accept the inerrancy of God’s Word and want to focus their intensity on reaching an increasingly secularized culture. Just because some of us older ones helped foster an environment where the Bible isn’t questioned doesn’t mean we are entitled to control how God chooses to work within that environment.
2. “Youth” is not another word for “incapable.”
Solomon enthusiastically engaged the task spread out before him. Think of the responsibility placed on that young man who was most likely younger than 20 (and possibly as young as 12!). 1 Chronicles 29:1 calls him “young and inexperienced.” Yet he was appointed to construct an edifice that was to be God’s earthly throne as well as a reference point for biblical prophecy. No one could have been more experientially unqualified for the position than Solomon. God could have chosen one of David’s other sons such as Adonijah. He didn’t. Solomon unexpectedly and unavoidably was given the responsibility. From David’s perspective, there was no Plan B if Solomon didn’t work out. We are actually in a better position than David. Our seminaries are producing highly qualified men and women for ministry. We need to be careful not to disqualify them because they’re young (1 Timothy 4:12). It might simply be that they’ve not gotten the experience we think they need because they haven’t been given the chance.
3. Mutual trust is absolutely necessary.
God gave the plans to David but the work to Solomon. The Bible doesn’t record that David glared over Solomon’s shoulder and said, “Son, I wouldn’t have done it that way.” Instead, David transferred authority and responsibility to Solomon when he handed him the blueprints. David, however, was a participant in Solomon’s success. He provided counsel and strategy, helped accumulate resources and rallied the people. David also supported the initiative in prayer. He was a mentor. Solomon needed the guidance and David was able to provide surrogate experience. They each needed to trust the other to complete the task. The cooperation ultimately glorified God. The correlation here is obvious. The older ones in our denomination need to mentor and transfer, while letting younger pastors personalize their ministry. Younger ones need to respect their elders and also understand they are simply the succeeding stewards of a spiritual heritage.
I am collecting personal contact information through Sept. 15 for anyone interested in involving younger ministers and helping the SBC regain our focus on evangelism. Simply write to me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
We Southern Baptist frogs and tadpoles need each other. There is a lot more at stake than winning the Super Bowl.
James T. Draper Jr. is president of LifeWay Christian Resources of the Southern Baptist Convention.