EDITOR’S NOTE: Ronnie Floyd is president of the Southern Baptist Convention and senior pastor of Cross Church in northwest Arkansas.
SPRINGDALE, Ark. (BP) — When a younger Southern Baptist dispels an older Southern Baptist, this is immature and unhealthy. When an older Southern Baptist refuses to understand the value of the younger generation, this is also immature and unhealthy. We need all generations involved in Southern Baptist life.
A biblical perspective
2 Timothy 2:2 states, “And what you have heard from me in the presence of many witnesses, commit to faithful men who will be able to teach others also.” This biblical charge from Paul is powerful. Think about these words as generations:
Generation 1: Paul deposits God’s Truth to other believers.
Generation 2: These believers deposit God’s Truth into other faithful men.
Generation 3: These faithful men explain God’s Truth to others.
Therefore, the charge is to know the responsibility we have to one another and the connectedness we share cross-generationally. This text exudes the burden to bring others along in the faith as disciples of Jesus Christ.
A generational reality
Each person is different. Each group of people or generation of people is different. This is reality. Someone who is 30 years of age or below does not think like someone who is 80 years of age and above.
Yet, as born again Christians and members of the same family, the church of Jesus Christ and even more specifically, our Southern Baptist family, it is imperative for all of us to desire and learn to not just get along, but get along together joyfully.
It is a sad reality for one generation to dispel another. It is sinful and wrong. All across leadership in America today, leaders limit their influence by being targeted to one generation alone. As I state in my newest book, “Forward,” leaders who seize the future are leaders who do not just influence the generation around them, but the generation ahead of them and the generation behind them. This is big leadership.
In the race for the highest office in the land, the president of the United States, I want you to notice something with me. Including both parties, as of today, there are around 20 people running for president. Look at these current challengers:
— Three are in their mid-to-late 40s.
— Four are in their 50s.
— Nine are their 60s.
— Four are in their 70s.
Of these, the top two candidates in the polls presently in both parties are in their 60s and 70s.
If America can value those older generationally and the value they bring to leadership, surely our churches and our Southern Baptist Convention should do so even more. Moses was not even lifted up to leading the people of God until he was 80 years old. All generations add value. We need big leaders and all generations in the SBC.
A future together
I have read the Bible through no less than 25 times and the New Testament many more times. I have never noted, found, or discovered anything written about the New Testament church that preferred any generation or looked down upon another generation. In fact, what I have noted, found, and discovered is that a New Testament church is cross-generational. This is where joy is experienced and influence is enhanced.
This is also true for the SBC and also for each of our 51,094 churches and congregations by our recently released Annual Church Profile.
Five words all generations need to elevate in our future together
We need to learn to value one another cross-generationally. As a leader in our Southern Baptist Convention, I can tell you that I truly and genuinely value all generations more so today than ever before.
When I was a young Southern Baptist, I truly honored the leaders of our convention. While there may have been moments when I did not understand something, there was never a moment I dishonored them and the value they brought to our denomination. I honored them growing up and now as a man in my 50s, I honor them today more than ever before.
A few days ago, I called two former Southern Baptist leaders who are in their late 80s, to check on them and let them know their value to us and to me personally. Simultaneously, I honor my generation and those behind my generation. How can we do this?
We need to communicate with one another. When we talk to each other, we will not talk about each other. When forums are created like last week’s symposium on the Southern Baptist Convention in the 21st Century at Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, we can understand and appreciate one another so much more. I would encourage you to listen to or watch these presentations where ideas were exchanged and burdens were shared.
We need to learn to appreciate one another more than we do now. We need to say it and show it. We need to believe it genuinely. We need to honor one another and give honor where honor is due.
5. Thank You
“Thank you” is one of the most powerful phrases in the English language. Thanks needs to be expressed to one another genuinely. When we say “thank you” to someone else, it should not be disingenuous, but should be overflowing with transparency.
When we learn to value one another, bring honor to one another, communicate with each other, demonstrate appreciation for one another, and say thank you to one another, we will enter into joy and influence that God has waiting for us. We need all generations in the Southern Baptist Convention.