The Next Generation
Passing On the Ministry of Gospel to the Next Generation after You
We are in danger of not passing on biblical Christianity to the next generation after me and you. Presence generation of Christians see in our churches today is overexposure to worldly philosophy and is overdependence on church programs. This might cause us to fail in our task to hand off a vibrant, kingdom-focused faith Christian that sees beyond their time and age to hold firmly and pass on the preservation of the ministry of the Gospel to the next generation.
To respond and defeat this dangerous direction, five actions are needed now.
To begin there is a persistent temptation in my life and ministry. It is the temptation to just finish my own race faithfully. “Is it a wrong idea or not?” you may ask. It sounds biblical, almost Pauline for me to say. “I must at all cause finish the race set before me. I don’t want to be disqualified. I am determining to be found faithful to the end.” Could it be good for me to say and thick that way? Maybe my understanding of faithfulness to the gospel is limited to and concerned only to my life span on earth.
What do you think? With the challenges and weight of gospel ministry and family pressure, sometimes I am compelling to prayer “Lord, just help me finish my assignment and to be faithful to the end.” This is one of the strong temptations we may all face as we move on day by day. The other side of that temptation is the fact that it is very hard to be passionate about, and to maintain passion for the future, especially if that future is beyond our sight. It is easy for us to be passionate about my children’s well-being. And it is easy to extend that passion to their children. But for how many generations can you maintain that passion? There is a difficulty here, even in our understanding of the gospel faithfulness, in holding the future clearly and rightly in our minds. This can contribute to a tendency to define faithfulness to the gospel with short-sightedness as it may be limited to our own tenure here on earth. We must see clearly that our faithfulness to the gospel message entrusted unto us is connected to passing on the “baton” ministry of the gospel to the next generation after us.
Five Actions Needed Now!
Paul, the Apostle admonishes his Son Timothy on this matter in 2 Timothy. Let consider it here …
A. We Must Intentionally Disciple Faithful Men
Paul says in 2 Timothy 1:14, “Guard the good deposit entrusted to you.” Then, a few verses later, picking up some of that same language, he tells Timothy, as part of his “guarding,” to “entrust to faithful men” what has been entrusted to him, and part of that “entrusting” is teaching them to pass the same thing on to others 2 Timothy 2:2.
Paul is telling Timothy that an essential part of faithful gospel ministry is this, passing on the gospel ministry. Paul said “Timothy, essential to our faithfulness in gospel ministry is this investment in a succeeding generation of gospel ministers”. It is not some optional add-on. In other words, when Paul tells Timothy to “guard” the gospel, he is not just calling Timothy to protect the integrity of the gospel from the effects of false teaching. He is also calling Timothy to fight to preserve the continuation of the gospel against the effects of erosion over time, even beyond Timothy’s time.
B. We Must Beware of Hezekiah Syndrome
I believe the greatest challenge to this is what we might call the “my lifetime” tendency, a tendency we see exemplified in a certain Old Testament Israelite king. Perhaps you remember the story. Hezekiah is king of Judah. Sennacherib, the king of Assyrian, comes to attack. Hezekiah, with Isaiah’s help, prays and prevails. Hezekiah gets sick and is instructed by Isaiah to get his house in order. Hezekiah cries out to God and is granted fifteen more years. Upon hearing of this, the king of Babylon sends envoys, ostensibly to congratulate Hezekiah on his recovery. Hezekiah in his pride shows off the national treasures. The envoys return to Babylon. Isaiah asks for a report of their visit. Hezekiah tells Isaiah what he did. In response, Isaiah predicts the coming Babylonian captivity. Then said Hezekiah to Isaiah, “The word of the Lord that you have spoken is good.” For he thought, “There will be peace and security in my lifetime.”
What makes this account even more compelling and sobering as a warning to us is the fact that Hezekiah was extremely influential in reforming the spiritual life of Judah: cleansing the temple; restoring temple worship; reinstating Passover; reorganizing the priesthood. See the account in 2 Chronicles. He made an impressive contribution along very important lines. But then there is this episode late in his life which betrays both his pride and his myopia. Despite all his zeal, there was, apparently, an absence of zeal for what happened after he passed off the scene.
C. We Must Avoid Shortsightedness
Richard Baxter, the Reformed Pastor. He writes, “If you will glorify God in your lives, you must be chiefly intent upon the public good, and the spreading of the gospel through the world.” A private, narrow soul always taken up about self that sees not how things go in the world. Its desires, prayers and endeavors go no further than they can see or travel.” The possibility of a geographical shortsightedness, and guilty of a temporal shortsightedness may lead many out of the way of the truth. That was Hezekiah’s case. In direct opposite the need for a largeness of vision that beholds all the earth and desires to know how it goes with the cause and with the servants of the Lord. Paul’s message in 2 Timothy calls us to the very same thing but looking out into the future. How will it go with the cause? And what can I do to fuel this cause into the future? Let us not be content to simply say, “As long as all is well in my lifetime.”
D. We Must Cultivate Far-Seeing Vision
In contrast to Hezekiah’s vision “myopia”, we see Paul’s far-seeing vision, and it becomes especially poignant in view of Paul’s imminent departure. Remember this is the same letter in which he says, “The time of my departure is at hand.”
So now he’s asking Timothy to think a certain way about gospel ministry. And he’s asking Timothy to train the next generation to think this way about gospel ministry. And God is asking us to think this way about gospel ministry. Necessary to faithful gospel ministry is an investment in the next generation of gospel ministers.
This should translate into very concrete realities in our day to day lives. This is a responsibility the church shares corporately, but it will require of you a very definite investment of time, energy and purpose.
E. We Must Intentionally Invest in the Next Gospel Generation
What will this look like? Let me suggest four possibilities ….
- Devote yourself to faithful gospel ministry, especially the ministry of the word. The best way to train men to faithfully preach the gospel is to faithfully preach the gospel. William Perkins wrote, “So, let every minister both in his teaching and in his conversation work in such a way that he honors his calling, so that he may attract others to share his love for it.”
- Pay attention to the young men of various ages in your congregation. Notice how they receive your preaching. Notice how they process your preaching. Notice any deepening affections for God and his word. Keep your eyes open and don’t just look but see clearly.
- Create contexts for the young men who catch your eye to practice and grow in their handling of the word of Word in grace.
- Pray very specifically and intentionally for God to rise up the next generation of gospel ministers. Pray for your replacement, but pray also for more than that. Pray with an eye, and a heart, toward the future and the continuing success of the gospel in the world, until Christ comes.