WHEN IT COMES TO LEADERSHIP YOUR AGE IS NOT JUST A NUMBER
I can remember studying the Constitution of the United States of America when I was in junior high and learning that there was an age requirement for the highest office in the land. “No person… shall be eligible to the office of President… who shall not have attained to the age of thirty-five years…”. Now, at the time, I was about 12, and so thirty-five sounded fairly old. Now that I am more than 5 times older myself, and have three children in their late thirties and early 40’s, thirty-five sounds really young to me! The reason for the age requirement is that there is a certain maturity that normally comes with the accumulation of years. All things being equal, wisdom should be one of the primary compensations of the aging process. There is no substitute for life experience and life experience is only possible in the process of aging.
That is undoubtedly why there are clear indicators in the New Testament that the church of Jesus is to be led by those who have the benefit of the wisdom of years. Although there is no specific qualifying age/number, the very fact that the leaders are called ‘elders’ is indicative of an expected standard of chronological maturity. Perhaps the reason no specific number is prescribed for church leadership in the New Testament is that some men are more emotionally and spiritually mature at 30 than others are at age 50. A committed Christian man in his 30’s may have finished a course of higher education, married, raised children and established himself vocationally and financially. The greater consideration is how long the elder candidate has been a Christ-follower. Paul makes it clear to Timothy that an elder “must not be a recent convert, or he may become conceited and fall under the same judgment as the devil.” There are shortcomings that tend to show themselves in younger men who are prematurely advanced into positions of honor and deference.
It’s why younger leaders are admonished in I Timothy 4:12, “Don’t let anyone look down on you because you are young, but set an example for the believers in speech, in life, in love, in faith and in purity.”
Looking back at my own life, at 17, I began preaching occasionally at a house church in Allerton, IL. At 18, I was a full time summer youth minister in Medaryville, IN. At 20, I began serving as a student preaching minister in Broadwell, IL. At 22, I had a full time preaching ministry in Mt. Pulaski, IL. At 25, I began teaching at Ozark Christian College. At 29, I became the President-elect. At 31, I became President of the college. I can honestly tell you, I was too young and inexperienced for every single one of these assignments! I survived and even thrived [at times]! It is because I imperfectly, but consistently, tried to obey I Timothy 4:12 and one other verse in Colossians 1:28-29, “We proclaim Him [Christ], admonishing and teaching everyone with all wisdom, so that we may present everyone perfect [mature] in Christ. To this end I labor, struggling with all His energy, which so powerfully works in me.”