Vanlife is all the rage among many of the twentysomethings we have the pleasure of stumbling upon and conversing with throughout our travels. “You’re living my dream!” some will enthusiastically confess. Others want a full scale tour of the Fresh Prince, so far they’ve all enthusiastically accepted our contact cards so they can follow our podcasts and such, and from time to time, a young man will refer to Mark as boss, as in “Living on the road? Sweeet! Fill regular? Okay, Boss. ” Mark always makes sure I heard that moniker, and entertains me for a moment by pretending it’s gone to his head. But here’s the thing: Living nomadically, even in America, is pretty old school, for something now considered trendy at present. For decades many Christians, including Jerry and Dottie Henderson, have traveled America in their motorhomes. In fact, =by the time the Hendersons finished their travels they’d visited around 150 congregations, landing for a while in Sunnyside, Washington to work with the congregation there. When Mark was invited to do a gospel meeting for Sunnyside, Washington he met the Hendersons. Our friendship grew even more because the Hendersons were willing to drive four hours south to our congregation in Beaverton to attend our own gospel meetings. We’d always have lots of visitors and local church family over to our home usually on the Friday night after the meeting for dessert and mostly for conversation.
The Hendersons offered us some warm hospitality mid spring, the first year of our Nomad Quest. One of the most encouraging outings while we were with them was walking around the location of the Rustic Youth Camp in Russellville, Alabama that for many years has been a safe and happy place where early in life, while their character is most malleable, children can make close friends with godly character while they learn and play at youth camp. The camp is so popular that they sell out of spots almost immediately. It’s unfortunate they don't have nearly enough space for everyone that wants to join in, and amazing to think how much good could be done if those with a heart for steering young souls in the right direction, inquired at https://www.facebook.com/rusticyouthcamp/photos/?ref=page_internal to get tips on making similar camps around the country, so that more young people can know there are many others striving to swim upstream to the glory of God against the dark waters of this culture.
Another encouraging and informative outing that Jerry took Mark to was a gathering of local preachers meeting for a Bible study. In their conversation afterward, he learned from one of those preachers an idea that we'd not yet encountered, that could make all the difference for the future of the church. The idea began about twenty years ago, when some elders looked out among the flock and took note of the young men who were most focused on growing their character, including the ability to lead and bear fruit in the kingdom. They realized these men had great potential to be future elders, so they decided to offer classes once a month to those men and their wives around learning to apply scriptures to real life situations individuals and congregations face and what God says about effective leadership in every scenario imaginable. Often, one of the elders would be present for these discussions, so the students could learn from their experience. This class was conducted every month for the next 15 or 20 years. After 20 years, various men out of this group did become elders, and when they did, the preacher Mark spoke with found that the investment of time and energy spent to train these men, really translated into cutting down the learning curve in developing the skills necessary to prevent poorly thought-out decisions, dangerously delaying decisions, or complete inaction in a situation that needed to be addressed. Instead, it helped produce confident and competent elders who were better skilled at navigating the tough decisions that they were handed with far more ease and efficiency, having practiced using the scriptures to troubleshoot various situations alongside wise, seasoned elders. Not everything can be foreseen, but in general, the training created men ready to serve who were as prepared as they could be.
We often spend all our time encouraging “the faint-hearted” and supporting “the weak” and this is a must (1 Thess. 5:14) . But perhaps we’d also do well to not overlook those on their way to being the valiant torchbearers of the future. Training elders is certainly “forward thinking” at its best, and will even bear good fruit long before these men are appointed elders!
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