What do you do when an older leader makes a mistake?
Everyone’s seen this. Maybe it’s one major mistake that you can’t get out of your mind. Or maybe it’s a series of mistakes. Maybe it’s a lifestyle of doing the wrong thing.
For many people, it’s a parent. Few people have had a bigger impact on our lives, for better for worse. What do we do when we see them mess up?
I’m currently in Japan at a conference where a few Every Nation pastors, including Carla and I, are speakers. In last night’s message, Pastor Steve Murrell brought up this very question and gave two options:
When young leaders see an older leader make a mistake they have two choices: humbly learn or arrogantly judge.
Which one do we do?
Arrogantly Judge: This is the most dangerous and most tempting option. Arrogance is thinking of ourselves more highly than we should. When Noah got drunk, his son, Ham, took advantage of his dad’s weakness. It didn’t damage Noah’s legacy of saving the world. But Ham reaped a whopper of a curse.
When children judge their parents, when young believers judge older spiritual mentors, when campus missionaries judge their senior pastor, it’s often accompanied by thinking of ourselves more highly than we should.
It’s a classic young person mistake. And very easy to do. Here’s the process:
- Take today’s topical technological breakthrough: social media, skinny jeans, man braids, Christ-centered preaching, neo-Calvinism, whatever the latest worship style is. These things aren’t bad. But what we do with them can be.
- Immediately fault the older generation for not knowing the latest, greatest, God-pleasingest thing.
- Arrogantly assume that God is pleased with this.
- Reap the results of such an attitude. The smallest consequence is to reap what we’ve sown and to watch ourselves fade into obscurity when the next big thing comes around. The greatest consequence is to have God against us since He opposes the proud.
I’m not saying older leaders untouchable. But we must have the right attitude when we bring up the mistake. Even the Apostle Paul was very careful not to disrespect the high priest, though he was clearly wrong. David refused to lift his hand against Saul, even though Saul sure earned it. He spoke his mind to Saul, but let God deal with him.
I’ve made this mistake several times. I get so irritated with my dad or other older people for not knowing what I know. Not realizing that they’ve forgotten far more than what I know right now.
Thankfully, there are always opportunities to repent.
Humbly Learn: One of the keys to being humble is to place ourselves correctly. Where exactly are we in this relationship? Some Christians adults talk vehemently about their parents’ inability to grasp the finer points of theology, even as they continue to financially depend on their parents to sustain their lifestyle.
Secondly, let’s use this opportunity to learn. Don’t repeat their mistakes. But see how we can do things differently. And the great news is God gives so much grace for the humble.