Vanlife is all the rage among many of the twentysomethings we have had 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? Sweeeeet! Fill diesel? 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: While vanlife is considered trendy at present, living nomadically, even in America, is pretty old school. 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 gospel meetings. Usually after services on the last night of a meeting, we’d have lots of visitors and local church families over to our home for dessert and conversation, and the Hendersons were always game.
Dottie and Jerry offered us some warm hospitality mid-spring, the first year of our Nomad Quest. One of the most encouraging outings was their giving us an informative tour of the location of the Rustic Youth Camp in Russellville, Alabama. For many years this has been a safe and happy place, where early in life, while their character is most malleable, children can make close friends of those 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 who wants to join in, and it’s amazing to think how much good could be done if those with a heart for steering young souls in the right direction, inquired through their page on Facebook messenger to get tips on creating 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, threatening 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, of 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 teach them how to accurately apply scriptures to real-life situations that individuals and congregations might face and to learn what God says about effective leadership in each of these possible scenarios. Often, one of the elders would be present for these discussions, so the students could learn from their own personal experience. These monthly classes over the last twenty years have resulted in some of these men becoming elders. 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 to develop skills necessary to become effective elders and prevent poorly thought-out decisions, dangerous delaying of decisions, or complete inaction in addressing situations as needed. Instead, it helped produce confident and competent elders who were better skilled at navigating the tough decisions that they encountered 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, this training produced 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 Thessalonians 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!Eastside Church of Christ
P.O. Box 575
1201 Highway 24 E
Red Bay, AL 35582