Pastor Appreciation for the Future

 In All Church of God, CHOG, Columns, Leadership Development

By Malcolm Tyree

Happy Pastor Appreciation Month! Thank you to those who have served in congregations of all sizes. As a part of the celebration of those currently or who previously served, I want to also think about those who will serve. In 1985, country music legend George Jones released the song, “Who’s Gonna Fill Their Shoes?” This nostalgic pining for the “good old days” of country music echoed a sense of love and loss as it related to the genre of music and its established traditions. As we step into the concluding moments of the first quarter of this century, I hear a similar type of commentary as it relates to finding the next generation of pastors for the Church of God and other groups. I appreciate the pining, but I believe the future is in good hands.

In an era of pervasive pessimism, especially regarding the next generation, the church finds itself at a crossroads. Will we live within the societal framework of seeing teens and young adults of this age as unruly, lazy, and uncommitted? The Psalmist reminds us of the importance of telling “the next generation about the glorious deeds of the LORD” (Psalm 78:4), but do we do this? Are we afraid to tell the story because we don’t trust them to continue telling the Good News? Are we slow to tell them because we don’t believe they’ll respond? Are we too convinced in the narrative that “God and the Bible is outdated”? We must step away from the generational divisions of our age. The torch of leadership must be passed to a new generation or it will be reignited in later generations by those who rediscover the truth, wondering why “no one told them!” I believe now is the time to engage in passing the torch: the rising generation of leaders for the church is here, and they are ready to make an indelible mark.

In February of 2023, news spread throughout Christian circles of a special “outpouring” at Asbury University. Though the experience started through a chapel service, it continued through the leadership of students responding to a willingness to be available to the Spirit of God to work among them. The “outpouring” influenced other campuses across the region and in the fall of 2023 reports of mass baptisms at Auburn University and increased interest in Bible studies and worship gatherings in multiple places are indications that something is stirring.

From April to August, I had the privilege of coaching five ministers through a portion of their ordination process in Church of God Ministries’ Leadership Focus program. These young leaders are not merely enthusiastic novices, but individuals equipped with a growing understanding of both scripture and society. Their passion to serve is matched only by their commitment to intellectual and spiritual growth. They are among the more than 300 currently going through the process of ordination, both in English and Spanish.

While at youth camp with 10 other congregations, I witnessed nearly 30 students respond to the evangelist’s invitation to come forward if they felt “called to ministry.” It’s not uncommon for students to respond to this type of invitation, but the intensity of their response was palatable. My only regret was that neither the camp nor the evangelist had a clear path for next steps. Pray for these students and their youth leaders. Pray for those working to develop a leadership pathway that includes mentoring those exploring the call.

In September, I met eight ministry students from Anderson University and one from Mid-America Christian University engaged in the Trellis residency program. This encounter reaffirmed my confidence in this rising generation. The Trellis residency is a collaborative effort between congregations and Christian Universities, offering a structured environment where young leaders can explore their callings, develop their gifts, and forge lasting relationships within the community of faith. The undeniable energy and drive emanating from these students are indicative of a generation unafraid to step into the forefront of ministry.

Trelllis Conference at Hope Chapel in Olathe, Kansas. Representatives from Anderson University, Mid-America Christian University, and Intern Academy connect over coffee and explore how to collaborate for the rising generation joining the Movement.

Moreover, attending chapel and engaging with nine students from Mid-America Christian University provided invaluable insights into the hopes and aspirations of those poised to embark on their journeys in ministry. Their candid reflections highlighted a shared desire to bridge generational divides, address contemporary challenges, and cultivate inclusive spaces where all may find solace and spiritual nourishment. This generation recognizes the complexity of our world and is prepared to navigate it with grace, wisdom, and a deep sense of purpose.

In late October, I’m excited to join with the coaches of Intern Academy as we prepare for ways to recruit and engage young adults through internships in local congregations. Whether through a “gap year” or summer program, Intern Academy is providing an opportunity for young adults to explore the call to ministry.

Through the work of our universities, Trellis, Intern Academy, Leadership Focus, and other parachurch groups, young women and men from the rising generation are being prepared for service to the Church. How will we mentor them in the process? How will we provide the opportunities they need to grow through success and failure? How will we empower them to lead as God has gifted and called them? Are you prepared to mentor a young person responding to God’s call? I’m excited to know that this group is working alongside others, developing a pathway of mentorship.

At the West Middlesex Camp Meeting, Pastor Stephen Chandler encouraged the saints present to recognize that we are on the verge of a great revival. The next morning, Pastor Geremy Dixon spoke about the importance of making room for the rising generation of leaders while living within the tension of honoring the past leaders. One of the challenges for the established generation is embracing the expectation that the rising generation will not experience God in the same spaces or mannerism that occurred before. We must tell the stories of our God who is glorious and active while allowing the rising generation to experience him for themselves.

We are witnessing a rising generation of leaders for the Church who are characterized by a profound commitment to discipleship, mentorship, and holistic growth. These young leaders are not content with a superficial understanding of their faith, but are hungry for a deeper, more authentic encounter with God and His Word. They approach ministry with curiosity. Will it be a career, or a calling? We who have walked the road know ministry is a vocation that demands humility, resilience, and a willingness to learn from both successes and failures.

As seasoned leaders, it is our responsibility to call forth those whom God has gifted. We are to come alongside these emerging leaders, to encourage, challenge, and empower them. Let us recognize the potential within them and provide the platforms they need to thrive. Together, we can create a legacy that transcends generations—a Church that continues to be a beacon of light and a force for positive transformation in an ever-changing world.

The rising generation of leaders for the church is not a mere promise of tomorrow; they are the embodiment of hope and vitality today. What will come from this season of state youth conventions? How many will come forth at NIYC in Houston this December or at IYC in Orlando in June? Let us embrace this moment by mentoring with open hearts and arms, confident in the knowledge that the future of the Church is, indeed, in capable hands. In the years to come, these young women and men will be those honored during Pastor Appreciation Month.

Malcolm Tyree is the lead pastor at New Vida Church in Dallas, Texas. New Vida is a multiethnic, multigenerational, bilingual (English y español) community of faith, growing into the Jesus-life, juntos! Malcolm and his wife Christy are graduates of Mid-America Christian University. Malcolm has been participating with the Concilio Sur Centro and the Texas State Association, along with Texas Ministries of the Church of God, for several years.

Feature (top) photo: File image of next-generation leaders huddled in groups at the ONE Event in 2017.

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