Where is the next generation of warriors?
“. . . what did they have for a model? Big haired makeup slathered mega church pastors on TV who fell from grace like leaves on a Minnesota Maple tree in the fall?”
“Do not say, ‘I am a youth,’
For you shall go to all to whom I send you,
And whatever I command you, you shall speak.
8 Do not be afraid of their faces,
For I am with you to deliver you,” says the Lord. Jeremiah 1
God said what?
The prophet Jeremiah was called, but he had to make a decision, in spite of his youth and inexperience, in spite of the unpopular messages he was being given as he preached repentance to the nation of Israel who thought themselves beyond reproach, he had to answer the call and obey his God. God did not allow excuses; “Oh gee, I’m sorry, I didn’t realize how young you were—what, are you kidding me!? I formed you in the womb, I knew you before you even knew you existed, I set you aside for a special assignment and I had your life planned and I ordained you to speak to the nations on my behalf before you were even a twinkle in your father’s eye.’
‘So you are going to tell me you can’t handle this, that you’re too young? —I don’t think so. Here let me touch your mouth and give you the words, let me give you courage that you may go where I send you, let me give you an assurance of protection as I deliver you from your enemies and all who would seek to destroy you and your message. So please, no excuses, we have work to do.’
And, if you were to keep reading in the chapter, you would see that he started immediately. ‘Oh good, I see you brought your tools, let’s get started. Here’s your vision, here’s the words, here’s what they are going to do to you and here’s how I am going to deliver you.’
Everyone told Jeremiah he was crazy, a blasphemer, that he was not qualified, trained, from the right family—whatever. They threw him in prison, in a cistern, stocks and chains—but he never quit, and his God always delivered him and set him on the next mission. Why? Because he would do it. We don’t know how many others said no, how many others chose the cushy life of being one of the official prophets in the Kings courts who assured the king everything was hunky dory, how many broke God’s heart by choosing prestige and comfort, an office in the Temple, over obedience and purpose, but we know Jeremiah said yes Lord, I will go, and he is the one we remember. He wanted to say no, suffering is no fun, but he couldn’t because ignoring his call was worse.
Then I said, “I will not make mention of Him,
Nor speak anymore in His name.”
But His word was in my heart like a burning fire
Shut up in my bones;
I was weary of holding it back,
And I could not. Jer 20:9
Jeremiah is my hero. You can keep your mega churches, TV shows and national book tours as you hock your book with your smiling airbrushed portrait splashed across the cover, if your obedience to the Lord takes you there that’s between you and him, but I pray for a Jeremiah spirit. I choose to go where the Lord is, even if the road is hard and leads me only to a stockade or a muddy cistern, and today, the Lord has led me here to you. And he has a message for us. One first spoken through Jeremiah for Israel and now given to the Church.
10 See, I have this day set you over the nations and over the kingdoms,
To root out and to pull down,
To destroy and to throw down,
To build and to plant.” Jeremiah 1:10
Back when I first got delivered from my addictions, set free and overwhelmed by the Spirit of the Lord as he spoke to me through his word, I was filled with a sudden passion to share the good news of the freedom and joy that is available through Jesus Christ.
I was 23 years old, just a pup, far from being ready to pastor, but I soon found ways to bring the good news to those who desperately needed to hear it. I started teaching Sunday school at church for little kids. The Sunday school teacher that I was helping as I got started, soon invited me to go to the Yellowstone county jail with him and help lead Bible studies. I found that these hurting lonely men who had hit bottom in their lives were eager for the hope that they heard in the message of Christ. So I kept going, every other week for many years, under the banner of Charles Colson’s Prison Fellowship.
One day I got a call from my partner saying that he had been asked by the local Christian TV station if he would come in for an interview. He was fearful of doing it so he asked if I would. ‘Sure, why not.’ I saw it as an opportunity to spread the word about the jail ministry and get more people coming in as it was hard to fill the slots available twice a week.
My only fear was that I would be overwhelmed with phone calls from people who wanted to help after they heard how fruitful and rewarding the ministry was. I expressed this concern to the folks doing the show and they said I could give the number for the TV station during the interview and they would field the calls. Thank you. The interview went great, I still have it on VHS somewhere, and I waited to hear about all the committed Christians who were calling the station for more information about this opportunity to share the good news—not a single person called.
This was about 1989 so it was not the millennials who were slacking, it was the baby boomers, the ones who are now bemoaning the fact that the next generation is not stepping up and getting into ministry—what did they have for a model? Big haired makeup slathered mega church pastors on TV who fell from grace like leaves on a Minnesota Maple tree in the fall?
Three times a week church goers who got together for banquets to prophecy about the big revival soon to come to town? Preachers who spent more time raising funds for their next building project then they did ministering to the sick and hurting? I don’t know—I know I was seriously disappointed and surprised to discover the lack of spine in the army of Christ.
Over the next few years I began to realize that wherever I went to share the good news with my guitar and my Bible, the jail, the mission, the women’s shelter, the youth detention center, I always saw the same handful of believers who were in the trenches getting dirty. I was just a punk kid with no formal training and big dreams of one day pastoring a church, a big church full of real soldiers for Christ, but in the meantime I was just a beggar who knew where to get bread and I was going to share it with the hungry—I was called.
Now, I am not bragging. I know I could have and should have done so much more and I know many who did, and still are, as far as reaching out to the least of these, of visiting Jesus in the hospitals, the prisons and the gutters. But life happened and there was never enough time and I never felt brave enough. And my dream of standing before thousands and equipping an army has been replaced by the plan the Lord had for me, of being here today and being your pastor, which I am very humbled and proud to be, humbled by your trust and proud of your commitment to Jesus.
He has also given me and helped me fulfill the dream He has given me of reaching the world through this ministry; through my writing both in print and on-line, right here from— “Lord why would you send me to Red Lodge? I can’t build a mega church there—right here from the top of the world, above the nations, at the gateway to Yellowstone Park.
And I am not giving up, I am not giving up on you, I am not giving up on the next generation and the one after that just being born because the kingdom depends on it and I am called to be a citizen of that kingdom, to be a soldier of that kingdom, and to equip the saints for the work of the ministry because the Kingdom is here and the world needs to know about it before it’s too late.
All I know is that the fields are ripe for the harvest and the workers are indeed few and in a blessed land of plenty there is little excuse for that. And whatever fields are not ripe need to be sowed.
We need to get back into the trenches before they are full of nothing but corpses.
There’s the gauntlet, who’s going to pick it up?