Passing it on
From the Church you could see the rest of town. The town was actually so small that they had another towns mailing address. You have heard of one-stoplight-towns, this was a no-stoplight-town. Still, our couple hours of time spent in that small town in Northern Missouri, changed my heart and my vision for what ministry could look like.
We had spoken at the Omaha Baptist Church’s Youth Weekend and the final session was to take place on Sunday morning for Church. My wife and I followed the students into the town with the rest of the students and pulled up to the front of a pretty good-sized church. With a couple minutes before Sunday school, Rich, the youth retreat leader, volunteered to give us a tour of the new addition. They were adding on a gym and new auditorium and a few class-rooms. I would find out why a few minutes later.
When Sunday school began, the preacher closed a divider that split the sanctuary off from an overflow room. In the sanctuary, one of the elders led nearly 50 men of all ages through the chapter of Kingdom Man that was assigned that week. In the overflow/kitchen area, a woman who has celebrated very many 29th birthday’s, led the women in their study of Kingdom Woman. My wife came out of Sunday school nearly in tears. “Older” women leading younger women in study is something that is very near to her heart. It was a church living out Titus 2.3-5.
My sermon that day was on the text I’m writing about today; the idea of passing on your faith and ministry. Here I was planning to encourage the people of Omaha Baptist Church to train the younger men and women for ministry and I find out that the young men put up the trusses for the building alongside the older men, the women were learning Sunday school from more experienced women, and their deacons and elders are in constant training to lead others. I HAD NO SERMON TO PREACH! They had already taken it.
The truth is: Ranching/Farming families and communities have few other options that pouring into the next generation. With 200 bales of hay in the field and a storm coming, a 10-year-old becomes a hand, not a kid. When the cows need brought in, sometimes the only help you have is family. There is a reason Tricia and I pray that our kids will want to rodeo. The kids we see at rodeos are self-reliant, hard working, and responsible. They were taught by their parents, grandparents, or whom ever, how to do things and accomplish tasks. Some of these kids are handier than I am.
Second Kings 2 captures the last moments of the relationship between Elijah and his protégé Elisha. Just as Moses was succeeded by Joshua, Paul was followed by Timothy, and Jesus commissioned his disciples, Elijah is handing off his ministry to Elisha. Elijah and Elisha are heading out from Gilgal. Elijah turns to Elisha and says “stay here”. Elisha says no. When they arrive at Bethel, after a meeting with the prophets there, Elijah went to Jericho. He told Elisha to stay there, Elisha said “no”. Jericho was the same story all over again: a meeting with the prophets there and high-tailing it out of town to the Jordan. Elijah say’s stay here, Elisha says “no”.
“So the two of them walked on.” (2 Kings 2.6)
Life on the road was Elijah’s method. Three times here and how many other times during Elijah’s ministry did he chat, talk, prank, and teach Elisha on the road. “On the way” (hb. derek) was where the Israelites were to teach their kids (Deut 6.7; 11.19). God knew how to leverage a journey. Jesus spent most of Luke teaching “on the way” up to Jerusalem. The disciples were following him all over the Judean countryside soaking up his teaching along the way. Elijah is expounding things to Elisha on the way to wherever. This generation is a journey generation. They love stories, adventures, and action. They want to be part of the story and the best way to teach them is to invite them on a journey. They are looking for someone to “walk with”.
The second thing about this passage that stands out is the copying of Elijah by Elisha. When Elijah had reached the Jordan, he took off his cloak and struck the waters of the Jordan with it, dividing it into two. They walked across the dry bed of the river, and reaching the other side, Elijah asked Elisha what he could do for him before leaving. Elisha asked for a double portion of Elijah’s spirit. Elisha’s ministry would double the amount of miracles than Elijah’s, but that isn’t what he is asking. He is asking the question of inheritance. Elisha is asking for a first son’s share of his ministry, his name, and his work. The first son, the oldest, would get a double portion of a father’s possessions.
After Elijah was taken away and Elisha received the double portion, the Jordan stood between Elisha and the beginning of his ministry. Elisha removes the cloak that he had picked up from Elijah (he tore his own clothes), and marched back to the Jordan. He did what he saw Elijah do earlier, and struck the waters of the Jordan, dividing it to the right and left. In the same way Elijah worked, so Elisha emulated. This generation is not a watch-and-see generation. They want to be part of the work. They want to get their hands dirty. It looks like Jake shoin’ horses with his grandfather; Shanie and Kassie hauling stock with their parents; Blaine working the feedlot with his dad in Council Grove. The next generation refuses to sit the sidelines…they want to be part of something bigger. They are looking for someone to “do-with”.
For years I searched for someone who would “walk-with-do-with”. I looked for a mentor to capture that vision, to lead and train me to become the man I wanted to become. For years the Church let me down in that aspect. I had some mentors, Phil Maddux and Doug Aldridge, who poured into me and taught me these things, but since leaving college have been without someone like that. Someone to “walk-with, do-with”. Christians, we need to teach this vision in church. We need to implement this vision in our own lives. We need to learn from the ranch and farm, where the next generation needs to learn to ropes. Within the city limits, it’s a little harder to find and do, but it is possible. Take a kid shopping, to the bank, to the park, wherever, but take them. Include them, show them and teach them. Walk-with-do-with. Its how Elijah trained Elisha, and its how the Church needs to train its youth. Take a lesson from the ranch and lead our students and younger people from our experiences.