How Younger Guys Can Speak To Be Heard

Kevin T. Bauder is president of Central Baptist Theological Seminary in Minneapolis (where my good friend Terry Lange is finishing his M.Div.). His newsletter, In the Nick of Time, appears in my inbox each week and I am often blessed by what he has to say.

In last week’s edition, Dr. Bauder wrote to older men reminding them that it’s important to listen to what the younger guys have to say rather than simply dismissing them.

In this week’s edition, Dr. Bauder writes to younger men to encourage them to speak, but to speak in a manner that will gain a hearing. Much of what he writes I have learned, but I had to learn the hard way. There is much to be gained by heeding Dr. Bauder’s advice.

There are several ways a younger man can speak without being dismissed.

(1) Finish school.

Nearly everybody has an opinion about nearly everything. Most expressions of opinion are ill-informed, and quite often they turn out to be nothing more than emotional burps. So people filter out most of the noise or static and focus on the opinions that are likely to mean something. One of the filters is education.

Most Christian leaders have to earn a Master of Divinity degree before many people are interested in what they have to say. The reason is simple: in order to express opinions about Christianity, you ought to have a mastery of the Christian faith. That mastery is rarely gained at the baccalaureate level, or even at the level of the M.A. To get the necessary command of languages, exegesis, and theology, you need the tools that come with the M.Div. or its equivalent. Frankly, the more education you get, the more that people are likely to listen to you.

Enough said.

(2) Learn to write good English.

No one will listen to you if you can’t write good English,” writes Dr. Bauder. Your ideas will be dismissed no matter how good they are.

I might also add, write so people can understand you. What you write may be grammatically correct, but you don’t gain points by writing in a way that you think sounds smart, you get heard by writing things of substance and writing them in a way that the average person can understand.

(3) Do something.

Build something. Get your nose bloody in the real work of ministry and leadership. Show that your ideas can actually make a difference in the world.

It’s easy to carp about how somebody else is doing something. When you actually try to do it yourself, however, you find out how difficult it really is. You discover what the challenges are. You learn what works and what doesn’t.

Real leaders are people who have failed. They have tried things that have not worked, they have made mistakes (sometimes big ones), and they have been beat up. They have had to pick themselves up, dust themselves off, and get back into the game.

Before I became pastor, I was the best pastor in the world. Now that I am a pastor, I realize exactly why my pastors did some of the things they did. That doesn’t mean I necessarily agree now with everything they did, but I’m not as hard on them for what they did and I can say I understand why they did them.

Dr. Bauder also points out that it is hard to gain a hearing when you aren’t in a position of final responsibility. When you’re assistant pastor or youth pastor, the buck doesn’t stop with you. You’re still a pastor, true, but you don’t usually have to make the hard decisions. We can talk all day about how wrong that is, but it won’t change the fact. Dr. Bauder writes, “You will generally earn far more right to be heard if you are the pastor of a little flock of fifty than if you are an assistant pastor in a church of fifteen hundred.

(4) Show strength of character.

How you respond to failure and defeat is a tremendous revelation of your character. It shows what you’re made of. A right response lends moral weight to your words. You don’t have to be a roaring success in order to gain the right to a hearing, but you do have to show that you possess discipline, perseverance, and humility. You have to show that you know how to apologize, how to recover from humiliation, and how to mend broken fences.

I’ve learned that the humility of a right response can sometimes even rescue a bad decision. And don’t nurse a grudge. Leave the past in the past or you will never be able to minister effectively to the people God has given to your care.

(5) Show some respect to get some respect.

One more thing. If you want to be heard, then show a little respect. This will be challenging sometimes because you will be keenly aware of the failings of your older peers. You will find it especially challenging when your elders do not show you the respect that you really deserve (and that will happen, I promise). If you want the older guys to listen to you, however, you’re going to have to get over it (yes, I actually said that) and speak to them respectfully.

There is no way to guarantee that your elders won’t disrespect you. In fact, it’s almost guaranteed. Remember that you can’t control how others will act, but you are responsible for how you react. When they are on their worst behavior, it is that much more important for you to be on your best behavior.

One good rule I learned in the business world is “Attack ideas, not people.” That’s a very good rule to remember.

Stick to the facts, avoid personal attacks (even when they are attacking you) and always, always, always be gracious. When you do this, people might not always agree with you, but they won’t be able to dismiss you because you’re a know-it-all or a smart-alec.

Some of these find application in the context of the church or in other situations, not just for Christian leaders among other Christian leaders.

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About Michael R. Jones

Pastor and PhD candidate writing on Paul's theology of suffering.
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7 Responses to How Younger Guys Can Speak To Be Heard

  1. Arthur Sido says:

    I don’t want to diminish the value of the M. Div. and I am a big proponent of Christian education, but I am not sure that having more degrees makes your opinion more valuable. There are plenty of men with multiple degrees who are heretics and lots of younger men who don’t have any formal theological training who have plenty to say that is valuable. I haven’t read the articles in full but it seems that he is overemphasizing the M.Div.

  2. I think you miss his point. His point is not that you have more of value to say because you have an M.Div., but that more people will listen to you because you have an M.Div.

  3. Arthur Sido says:

    I get his point, and he may even be right. My issue is that if someone gets listened to because of an M.Div., it shows an ignorance on the part of the listener. Having an M.Div. is great, I appreciate men who have a background in the langauges like you who can help me work through langauge issues. But it is also in part a sign of the professionalizing of the role of the elder. Having a formal education is a great quality, but I don’t think it should be a qualification.

  4. I don’t know that it shows ignorance, it’s simply playing the odds. (I’m assuming you’re simply using your gift for overstating the case.)You have no way of knowing whether someone knows what they’re talking about without some kind of validation. A degree is one of the things that serves that purpose (along with things like ordination, experience, etc.) None of these things are foolproof, btw, but they do allow a person to better gauge how much credence to put in someone and what they say.I haven’t seen many M.Div.s that were heretical as you implied in your first comment (though I do not doubt there are some), but I have seen some who were still lacking in some of the essential character traits for sound ministry.I have also seen guys who were uneducated or Bible College guys who were very effective and who had a wide knowledge of Scripture, theology, and ministry.But I have also seen some guys who could use a little education (or a little more)and others who wore their lack of education like a badge of honor. It seems like the ones that are most guilty are the ones who don’t have it. I don’t want to go ad hominem, but one has to wonder.Al Mohler’s take on this is pretty good: After saying, “I hope every pastor would have at least that much [meaning an M.Div.], because I think to really be a skilled preacher of God’s word and a pastor, to continue to grow, most pastors will go beyond that and if not in formal study, at least that better be the investment in how they study on their own.”Mohler goes on to add: “But you ask what about a church or a pastor that does not have an MDiv, should he not be a pastor? I’m saying no, we Baptists believe just as John Bunyan said that every congregation is empowered to call out by the Holy Spirit the ministry to serve that congregation and a boy behind a plow may be the one that is called to preach.”and again: “someone like Charles Spurgeon did not have an MDiv degree. He was not classically trained and he was a powerful preacher. But preachers like Charles Spurgeon are few and far between.”You mentioned the professionalization of the ministry but remember that there many who believe in seminary education who also decry the professionalization of ministry (e.g., Piper, MacArthur). In another interview, Mohler points out that just as we expect people such as CPA’s and medical professional to be trained in their field and be able to demonstrate that, we should not set the bar any lower for one who holds such an important office in the church (though he adds again that it is not essential).One more quote by Mohler: “As in the training of doctors, a solid and exemplary knowledge of the appropriate academic fields of study is absolutely necessary — just not sufficient. Ministers should also be taught by ministers, pastors by pastors, so that the congregational context of the calling is not lost in the glory of acquiring knowledge. I’m concerned that ministers who lack spiritual health and practical knowledge will be found naked in the church.” (emphasis added)All that simply to say, “I think you’re too easily being dismissive of seminary training.” An M.Div. shouldn’t be an unquestionable imprimatur, but it should count for something when a man has sought training the best he can to accomplish the ministry God has called him to. (And we can talk all day about what role the church should play; it doesn’t change the way things are right now.)Also, while seminary training is not for everyone, it is more than just languages and it does provide a well-rounded foundation for life-long ministry. It also need not lead to the professionalization of ministry and, indeed, it usually benefits not only the preacher but also the church.Sources: http://www.chrisapp.org/partner/Article_Display_Page/0,,PTID314526|CHID775990|CIID1552904,00.htmlhttp://www.albertmohler.com/blog_read.php?id=367

  5. I forgot to add that Dr. Mohler is one who values seminary education but who also believes that the seminary should serve the church and be under its oversight.”The role of theological seminaries remains crucial for the education and training of Christian ministers.””No other educational institution exists to serve the needs of the churches in this way. In that sense, a theological seminary is as crucial to the training of ministers as the medical school is essential to the preparation of physicians.””The seminary can provide a depth and breadth of formal studies — all needed by the minister — but it cannot replace the local church as the context where ministry is learned most directly.”Mohler concludes by speaking of his desire to “partner with pastors” in the theological education of its pastors-to-be.Here’s the link:Training Pastors in Church

  6. Arthur Sido says:

    I am, again, not denying the value of a seminary education. It can be a blessing to the local church and the church as a whole. But for example when we chose Zion as our church home while we live in the area, it was because of expository preaching from the Word, not because of any degrees you hold. I gauge the value of a statement about theology or the Gospel not on the academic credentials of the man, but the fidelity to the Word of his statements. Outisde of the circles we run in are a ton of seminaries who teach heresy. Even Southern Seminary pre-Mohler was a place where young pastors-to-be were taught by people who threw Bibles in the trash.I guess in a nutshell, my original concern holds that neither the presence or absence of an M.Div. is a qualification for faithful Christian ministry. We shouldn’t reject a seminary education as being too worldly, nor should we view the lack of one as a disqualifier but instead we should search the Scriptures to see if these things are true.

  7. As you state it in your last comment, I agree completely.

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