The Idolatry of Youth

Mike Focht 3/15/2024

Shepherd the flock of God which is among you, serving as overseers, not by compulsion but willingly. 

   Here is the apostle Paul’s clear call to every pastor, regardless of age or culture. We are in grave danger of losing this simplicity in the complexity of ostensible ministry. In our time, ministers are surrounded by many voices, countless ideas, acute pressures, and innumerable concepts and methods. Modern ministers need something like the oracles of Ahithophel to guide them through the constant barrage of information and influence, much of which is designed to shape a man and his ministry in some fashion.

   Many paths and practices would lead one astray from what God has called the minister to set his life, thoughts, heart, and mouth to. One such present-day distraction is the insistent idolatry of youth. Imperious voices make the presence of youth in the congregation tantamount to evangelism, the presence of youth in leadership tantamount to faithfulness, and the presence of youth in the pulpit tantamount to success. Youth has become synonymous with spiritual life. 

   I don’t see this emphasis anywhere in the Scriptures, but I see it everywhere in blogs, magazines, websites, sermons, books, pulpits, conferences, and churches. In the Scriptures, the pastoral emphasis remains the same: preaching the Word, feeding the sheep, being filled with the Spirit, faithfulness to prayer, blameless lifestyle, acceptance of suffering and persecution, love of eternal reward over money, etc. 

   So, if these loud and insistent voices that emphasize reaching youth do not originate from the Word, we must beware of their influence and direction. Why is an aged church synonymous with a dead church in the minds of so many? Has God propagated this image? Does the Holy Spirit say He despises a house of born-again elderly saints? What age is the new creation? When did eternal life become old? When did catering to youth rise above submitting to elders? When did the quantity of a congregation usurp the quality of a congregation? When did pastoring an aging church become evidence of lifelessness? When did feeding a flock the Word of God and breathing the promises of resurrection into the ears of the dying become dishonorable? Where in the Scriptures do we find that an older congregation is a sign of sin, compromise, or spiritual death? 

   I am not exalting old age over youth; I am simply not despising it nor making it a litmus test of Biblical faithfulness. God does not despise the silver head, and neither should we. Saying such is not equivalent to neglecting evangelism, relevance, or true spiritual life. Despite what the cacophony of voices may portray, I find many more warnings to wealthy churches like Laodicea, busy churches like Ephesus, sexually lax churches like Thyatira, and morbidly orthodox churches like Sardis. I have yet to find a single warning in all the Word of God to the unknown minister faithfully shepherding his aging sheep. 

   In all His Word, in every exhortation to elders, God never once makes the age of the flock our concern; instead, we are to worry about our hearts, our own lives, and our faithfulness to preach Christ and not ourselves—after all, it is His Word and His gospel. Regeneration and love—not necessarily youth—are the fruit that follows. 

   Whether our congregations are young, old, or mixed is not up to us. Our Master does what He pleases, and we do what we are told. Any voice, method, or emphasis that pollutes God’s emphasis or changes our focus from the inspired charges found in God’s Word should be doubted, tested, and judged as faulty. As Paul warned Timothy, if we do not take heed to ourselves and our doctrine, we will lose both ourselves and our hearers, whether they be young or old. 

   Keep your simplicity! Continue on the old paths you have known and walked for many years, my battling brothers! There was a time when a minister who walked alongside his generation, growing in grace and age with them and following them to the grave with faithfulness and love, was worthy of the highest honor. Somehow, the false prophets of our day have hunted such men of rare wonder and godly contentment to consume them like a hungry pack of wolves. 

   Do not heed the voices. Do not grow discouraged. Do not allow pride to cause you to despise the flock God has placed before you. Do not allow success in the eyes of the world to cause you to look back after setting your hand to the plow. Young or old, the command from God to shepherds is clear: Shepherd the flock of God which is among you. God is the one that molds the flock into His image. We simply remain faithful to whatever sheep He deems should be among us. The idolatry of youth is just another satanic tactic to turn once faithful men from the good and the right way.