Is maturity an inevitable by-product of advancing years? Can the young but mature be trained to become leaders?
Ideally, we become more mature as we age. We grow from children into responsible adults who can raise our own families and assume a productive role in society.
Apart from physical maturity, we develop good inter-personal skills, character and the capacity for making wise and rational decisions — all of which stand us in good stead whether we are employed, run our own company or lead a church.
Our development mirrors that of the boy Jesus who grew in stature and wisdom and found favour in the eyes of God and man (Luke 2:52).
Maturity presupposes that we become increasingly autonomous. God desires that man rule over the rest of His creation, optimally utilise the resources given to him and bequeath it to future generations — in keeping with sustainable development.
In fact, His original injunction to man is to be “be fruitful and multiply, fill and subdue the earth” (Genesis 1:28). But that does not mean man is to be independent of God (Psalm 84:5). “For in Him, we live and move and have our being” (Acts 17:28).
However, some seniors still require a pacifier and soft toy, figuratively speaking, to calm and mollycoddle them. Those who are immature for their age may fit into one of the following scenarios:
- They have been believers so long that they ought to be teaching others. Instead, they need someone to teach them again the basic things about God's word. They are like babies who need milk and cannot eat solid food (Hebrews 5:12).
- They have been running their own business for several decades but are still struggling to meet their daily needs besides paying off massive debts.
- They are supposed to be church leaders but they love to gossip, watch porn and live immoral lives.
Timothy rose up to a position of leadership early in life because of encouragement from the apostle Paul as well as impartation of spiritual gifts by elders:
- “Don’t let anyone think less of you because you are young. Be an example to all believers in what you say, in the way you live, in your love, your faith, and your purity” (1 Timothy 4:12).
- “For this reason I remind you to fan into flame the gift of God, which is in you through the laying on of my hands, for God gave us a spirit not of fear but of power and love and self-control” (2 Timothy 1:6-7).
- “Do not neglect the spiritual gift you received through the prophecy spoken over you when the elders of the church laid their hands on you” (1 Timothy 4:14).
However, in specifying the criteria for bishops, Paul states that the potential candidate “must not be a recent convert or he may become puffed up with conceit and fall into the condemnation of the devil” (1Timothy 3:6). In short, “novices” do not make good leaders as they might fall because of pride.
In a sense, we can only gain valuable experience as we encounter trials and tribulations in life. Time is needed to perfect wisdom and inner strength in a man.
By all means we need to encourage and motivate youths with potential to go into leadership positions—just like how Paul mentored Timothy. We need to pass the baton; otherwise our rich spiritual heritage will not be transmitted to successive generations.
That said, we must not fail to recognise that many significant intangible things in life— wisdom, experience, discernment and judgment—can only be acquired with the passage of time as a person ages. In these areas, youth leaders cannot match their gray-haired counterparts.
Gray hair is the splendour of the old while the glory of young men is their strength.
Passing the Baton
Exploring the issue of leadership succession
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