As a pastor, it is my responsibility to guide and mentor younger individuals who are interested in pursuing ministry, especially during this time of tension within evangelicalism.
One of the things I feel called to do is to steer them away from a lifelong caged stage of Theobro-ness. Here are some of the traits that I have observed in individuals who have been able to avoid this path.
1. They don’t take themselves too seriously and have thick skin.
They are able to laugh at themselves. They also have a deep sense of confidence in their identity in Christ, which allows them to weather criticism and maintain a thick skin. Conversely, those who are hyper-critical often exhibit thin skin and may be more prone to taking themselves too seriously.
2. They have relationships with people who aren’t Christians.
When we spend time with people who don’t share our faith, it changes our perspective on many things. We are forced to see the world through their eyes, and this can be incredibly enlightening. For example, we may be more open to hearing their opinions on social issues that we would otherwise dismiss. We are more sensitive to their needs and concerns and are often more open to seeing how the gospel applies to their lives.
3. The primary sermons they are hearing are from their own church.
When individuals primarily listen to sermons from their own church, they become more deeply rooted in the community and teaching of their church. This helps to foster a greater sense of unity and shared understanding within the congregation. Additionally, it allows for a consistent message to be taught and reinforces the specific vision and values of the church.
4. They don’t have dad issues.
While the psychology behind this is not entirely clear, it may be that individuals who feel a sense of abandonment or rejection from their fathers seek validation and affirmation from their communities or from their understanding of God. By contrast, those who have healthy relationships with their fathers may be more secure in their own identities and less prone to seeking validation from external sources.
5. They read theology first and foremost devotionally.
Reading theology devotionally means that individuals approach theological texts with a desire to deepen their relationship with God, rather than simply to gain knowledge. This approach can help individuals to connect with God in a more meaningful way, and can lead to a deeper understanding of how theology applies to their lives. By reading theology devotionally, individuals are also more likely to apply what they learn to their everyday lives and interactions with others.
6. They see the sermon on Sunday as not only for them.
They understand that the Sunday sermon is not just for them, but for everyone who attends the service. They are eager to see new believers and those who are more mature in their faith edified by the preaching of the gospel. Additionally, they themselves are easily edified by gospel preaching, recognizing the importance of continually growing in their faith.
7. They don’t know the Christian subculture and scene very well.
They don’t waste their time getting caught up in the outrage issues of the day. Instead, they focus their energy on what truly matters: loving God and loving others. By keeping their eyes fixed on Christ, they avoid becoming distracted or burned out by the noise of the world.
8. They understand grace as more than a theological word.
They have experienced grace in their own lives, and they are eager to extend it to others. They know that grace is not just received, but also displayed through their actions and attitudes.
9. They have a non-anxious presence to them.
They maintain a non-anxious presence, even in the midst of a tense evangelical climate. They don’t view every situation as a crisis or threat to their beliefs, but rather approach challenges with a calm and steady demeanor. This allows them to navigate difficult conversations and situations with grace and wisdom.
10. Their mentors have cared more about their hearts than their knowledge.
They have had mentors who prioritize their heart and character development over their theological knowledge. They recognize that both aspects are important, but they value mentors who have invested in their emotional and spiritual growth. They are grateful for these relationships and seek to replicate them in their own ministry by caring for the hearts of those they lead.
11. While they might have some disagreements, they are thankful for the church of their childhood/upbringing. They aren’t mad at it.
They remain grateful for the people who loved them and invested in their faith journey. They recognize that these individuals were doing their best to teach them about God and the Bible, and they appreciate the role they played in their spiritual formation. Rather than holding grudges or harboring resentment, they extend grace and seek to build bridges across theological differences.
These are just a few observations that I have made over the years with young adults and students. I believe that it is important to cultivate these traits within ourselves and to guide and mentor others to do the same. Our young people are rock solid theologically, love Jesus, and are passionate about reaching others for Christ. I hope that I can continue to be an example to them as I grow and strive to lead them well.