It's a privilege most pastors don't get to see. This morning our worship was led by our youth. Let me state that more precisely. We have three youth bands. The youngest kids are in elementary school, then there's the middle school kids' band, and finally our high schoolers. The youngest two bands took the stage today to lead worship. This was not the usual "cute kids" songs that parents and grandparents love to see, but which aren't particularly worshipful. Even the youngest of the kids led in prayer and in the reading of Scripture, as well as in singing and playing. Between two of the songs, pastor Joe invited people to come to the altar to pray. I left my seat and knelt down in gratitude for what I was seeing. Two Scriptures came to mind; the first being St. Paul's advice to his protege Timothy: "the things that you have heard from me among many witnesses, commit these to faithful men who will be able to teach others also." (2 Timothy 2:2). Paul took Timothy under his wing, and told him to make sure the Message didn't die out with him, but instead, Timothy was to pass it along to faithful men in such a way that they would be able to teach still another generation. Paul to Timothy to faithful men to others. That's four generations.
Here's the detail that too many of us forget: Paul didn't think he had faithfully carried out his commission until it reached at least three generations beyond himself. Too often we are satisfied once we've successfully instructed the next generation. But it's not enough just to share the faith with the next generation. We need to groom new leaders who will produce still other leaders; otherwise the Gospel is in danger of dying out. I've often said that the proof of my ministry isn't in those who've come to Christ through whatever influence I might have had; its validity is determined by whether or not those I've influenced are influencing others. But that's still only three generations. I'm waiting for these kids to grow up so I can see the influence they will have.
The other Scripture that came to mind was Psalm 103:17 - "The mercy of the LORD is from everlasting to everlasting upon them that fear him, and his righteousness to children's children." We tried to be faithful in teaching the next generation not only the Gospel, but to teach others the Gospel. God has been merciful to allow me to see the Message being planted in my children's children. I haven't yet seen that fourth generation, but I'm already praying for them. As I knelt at the altar this morning, it was with humble gratitude to being witness to Scripture being fulfilled before my very eyes.