About thirteen years ago, I was part of a group of guys who met to create a space for younger (and older) youth ministers to come together, be encouraged, be mentored, face their struggles, and be held accountable to the lives of service, leadership, and example to which they were dedicated.
We travelled to the mountains of Colorado for a week of rest, contemplation, confrontation, relationship-building, study of the Word, counseling, and refining. The years I co-led this experience were some of the most memorable and meaningful in my life. I genuinely looked forward to each fall, knowing I would reconnect with old friends and meet many new ones…and be able to pass on wisdom in life and ministry that others (and experience) had taught me.
A few years back, the organization I was partnering with started to have a shift in leadership. Younger guys began replacing the older ones in positions of influence. There was a subtle (at the time), but noticeable culture shift in the priorities and structure of the whole organization. Two years ago, after all those years of investing my time and my heart in this thing I had helped create, I was simply not invited back. No email. No phone call. No Rolex watch for years of service. I found out by accident. I assume it’s doing well without me.
If you see the sadness in my face and melancholy in my voice, it’s not because of this shameless act of age discrimination and shunning (this is a joke, people). I was over it a long time ago. No, the doom and gloom in my life right now, is more related to the loss of innocence and wonderful memories of my life as a fan of the San Diego Chargers and what’s become of them. Because of political in-fighting, greed, the machinery of the NFL, and a myriad of other contributing factors, my beloved home team is imploding.
With the threat, and now probably reality, of relocating to Los Angeles, this personal little piece of mindless, entertaining diversion… namely, my lifelong support of the San Diego Chargers… is being shredded. Opposition fans now outnumber the locals at home games. Ownership has undermined the team’s ability to put a championship team on the field for years. Financially hostile transplants to SD refuse to support ballots to build a new stadium. Being embarrassed by the Oakland Raiduhs yesterday is nearly the final nail in my emotional coffin.
For a guy who has championed change at every intersection, I just want a little stability. Something from my past to hang on to. Is that too much to ask?
Our church family is at a crossroads. Those who God used to build it are aging. We have been the providers. The backbone and steadiness that formed the foundation is as strong as ever, but the time is coming for the mantle of leadership, financial support, heart and “ownership” to spread to others.
North Point has meant so much to so many over the years. Home to the wanderer. Friend to the rejected. A place of refuge for those torn apart by the toxic structure of modern church machinery. A breath of fresh air for those suffocating under the weight of legalism, heavy-handed leadership, doubt, or guilt.
We have never, ever, been the church for most. We probably never will be. But for those who have, and will continue to call North Point “home”, the future must remain a reality. The baton must be passed. New voices must be heard. New strategies must be formed. New people must partner with those of us who are older, to create a new and sustainable leadership in the years to come.
To be honest, I have mostly embraced my aging process. I am not afraid of growing older and the senior discounts are pretty cool. I know I cannot keep doing what I do forever. I am comfortable knowing I am not irreplaceable. Far from it! A true test of our effectiveness as leaders, parents, teachers, ministers, counselors, coaches, civic leaders, and the rest, has always been to leave behind a stronger, healthier, bolder legacy. This must be true of North Point as well.
It’s time to step up, youngsters.