Note: I rarely discuss denominational matters on this site. For those unaware, I have a history in the Church of God and hold a license with the denomination. The following post is specific to that audience.
Last week, the Church of God General Assembly voted down a motion that would have reduced the years of experience required for 25-29 year old leaders to become Ordained Bishops, the highest licensing level within the Church of God. If you read through #GA2012 on Twitter, you certainly saw the disappointed responses of a younger generation. Opponents of the motion may be wondering why young leaders are so concerned by its failure. After all, it would have only eliminated three years of experience. In the entirety of one’s career as a minister, does three years on the General Council really make that much of a difference? Likely not. Three years is insignificant. But Item 9 was worth much more to a younger generation of leadership that greatly desires an opportunity to contribute to the future of a denomination to which it has committed.
For most voters in the General Assembly, the question being asked was as simple as the motion presented: “What age and experience should one have before becoming an Ordained Bishop?” But those under 30 were asking a much greater question, reading a more important message between the lines of the Agenda. Watching on Wednesday and voting on Friday, future leaders of the Church of God asked, “Does this denomination value our generation’s voice?”
I am not convinced that a vote on licensing qualifications can be taken as a measure of the denomination’s value for young leaders. Several events last week indicate the value that Church of God leaders hold for their next-generation counterparts: some younger elections to the Council of Eighteen, a younger elected General Overseer, a standing vote that revealed the opinions of denominational leaders on Item 9, along with many tweets of disappointment from those leaders following the motions failure. But more important than our interpretation of Friday’s ruling is the message our generation sends as we move forward from the General Assembly.
Sure, our voice was “heard”/read on Twitter Friday afternoon. But hashtags die fast and let’s be honest, #GA2012 wasn’t trending for long. Moving forward as young leaders, the statement we make will not be heard by our words but evidenced by our actions. To send a message more impacting than 140 characters, there are a few things we must do for the sake of our own influence, the Church of God, and most importantly God’s kingdom.
1. We must stay focused.
Having three less years as Ordained Bishops will not impact the future of the Church of God. What will change the future is the men we have become by the time we turn 30. Bitterness and frustration now will only posture us to be divisive when we have a greater voice. We must keep our hearts turned toward our spiritual fathers, ready to partner with them at the first opportunity. I am willing to acknowledge that some of us will be called away from the denomination in time. But none of us should leave in response to the failure of Item 9. If we exit based on the voting of men, we are acting out of a lack of faith in God’s ability to create change rather than an obedience to God’s calling on our lives.
2. We must learn from those above us.
Each of us is currently acquiring great learning experience. But in addition to that, we must learn from the experience of those who have come before us. Consider identifying a 30+ denominational pastor or leader in your area whom you respect and seek mentorship from him or her. We will never earn a voice with our leaders until we are willing to listen to theirs. We may hold different cultural understandings and ministry philosophies but they hold wisdom from experience that we most certainly require as we grow in age and responsibility.
3. We must network better with one another.
I am ashamed to say that I can count on one hand the number of 20-something Church of God leaders who I regularly talk with. I doubt that I am alone in that. Yet many of us are pursuing similar changes in our churches, cities, and denomination. Retweeting each other every two years is by no means a true network for encouragement and support. We must share, collaborate, and sharpen one another, modeling a unified body of Christ for the Church of God and the Church at large. As much as I believe this denomination needs us, I believe we need each other. If you are a young leader in North Georgia, I would love to connect.
In situations such as these, it is easy and understandable to become frustrated with the decisions of others. Such an emotion will inspire us to either stop caring or start acting. My prayer is that our frustration is quickly transformed into a holy discontent that drives us to become better leaders; leaders who model a bright future for the Church of God. Let’s begin acting now by staying focused, finding mentorship, and networking with one another for the sake of reaching the lost with God’s love through the power of God’s Spirit for many years to come.