In my early 20’s, I had some pretty strong opinions. As I close in on my 30’s, I’m still holding on to some of them. But with others, I’ve either changed my mind, or at least softened a bit.
If I could hop in a time machine and take my 20 year old self out for coffee, I’d tell him he was wrong about these 5 things (after I told him to join a gym)…
1. Stop looking for silver bullets.
In my early 20’s I was into the emerging church in a big way. If you aren’t familiar with it, it was a movement trying to re-imagine what church could be, driven by a group of authors such as Brian McLaren and Rob Bell. I don’t blame anyone but myself for this, but somehow I got it into my head that this was the future of the church, the new Reformation, and everything else was soon to be obsolete. Except, over time, the emerging church movement sort of faded away, which was a bit embarrassing. This isn’t to say it didn’t have some interesting things to say, or that it didn’t make an impact (I think it did, and continues to, in some ways). But it wasn’t a silver bullet. Now that I’m older I realise that these “waves” often come through the church, every few years. And often they’re helpful and energising. They just aren’t silver bullets.
2. Don’t throw the Spirit out with the bathwater.
This is a tough one, and I’d almost want to give 20 year old me a pass on it. I’ve seen and heard so much bad, unbiblical teaching coming from the Charismatic movement. I’ve seen so many manufactured experiences. But here’s the thing: while that remains true, I’ve almost subconsciously built up a thick skin of cynicism towards anything experiential, and I wonder if I’ve risked “quenching the Spirit” in my own life at times. I’m still hesitant, and I’m still looking for the church that exercises the gifts with the guidelines that the apostle Paul laid down. But I’m far more open on this stuff than I was 10 years ago.
3. You don’t know everything.
Okay, this is a freebie. Almost anyone would say this to their younger self. But boy, did I think I had all the answers to how we should do church. If the me of today had the me of my early 20’s as a church intern, things would not go well. I was blessed with some truly patient pastors and supervisors, and I would give my past self a slap and tell me to try to make their lives a little easier.
4. The tent is big.
Oh, the rage I felt at Calvinism in my early 20’s. Within a week of hearing about it, I rushed to tell anyone who would listen that it was the “stupidest doctrine” I’d every heard of. And oh, the discombobulation that occurred as the years ticked by, and I discovered that many of my favourite authors and people were some kind of Calvinist. I suppose people in their early 20’s should wait more than a week before passing judgement on a 500 year old stream of thought. I’m still not a 5-point Calvinist (more a Reformed-ish Barthian), but I hope I’m slower to judge, and quicker to listen now.
5. Show some respect.
This one flows out of “knowing everything.” It’s so easy to put people in a box because they hold a different interpretation of Genesis 1 than you do, or because they’re more conservative, or because they believe in the rapture, or whatever else. It’s not that those aren’t important things to discuss (and I’d encourage my former self to do so, hopefully a little more winsomely), it’s just that it doesn’t invalidate those people. Believe it or not, they may even have some things to teach you.