Paul and Timothy – Victims of Age Discrimination

May 24, 2013


Philemon 1:8-1:9

Years ago, sigh, ages ago back in college a professor handed out a humorous letter from a mission board rejecting the Apostle Paul for sundry reasons. I was able to find it and have placed the letter at the end of this message. The author is unknown else I would give appropriate credit.

Having been the recipient of a few such letters over the years I actually find some of the things listed in this parody to be more sensible than some of the reasons given me and my friends while some of them very familiar.

If Paul and Timothy were alive they would find that some things have reversed themselves. In their time there was age discrimination but it was against young men. Timothy was called and gifted enough to be called as the pastor of the First Baptist Church of Ephesus but he did have a problem or so. While being half Greek and half Jewish was a problem on both sides of the cultural street his age was even more a problem. Being twenty-one or so in a culture that revered age as being the criteria for respect or to be considered a wise person made it tough to gain a hearing or do many of the pastoral duties requiring exhortation let alone reproof or rebuke.

1 Tim 4:12 Let no man despise thy youth; but be thou an example of the believers, in word, in conversation, in charity, in spirit, in faith, in purity. KJV

Thus God inspired Paul to write this to defend Timothy from his detractors as well as to encourage him. After all, if he did meet the requirements of 1 Timothy 3 and could deliver on being the example in this verse then what’s age got to do with it? Hmm, there may be a song in that. What’s age got to do with it, to do with it? My apologies to the Turners.

I know how Timothy must have felt. I was saved at 22 and went to Bible college at 26 after hearing about the hundreds of churches without a pastor. At 30, when I graduated I was five years too young for the average church. They were all looking for someone 35-50 with at least fifteen years experience. That taught me that churches can’t do math very well as to have 15 years experience a lad would have to start at 20 and no one wants anyone younger than 35. How does the 20 year old get that experience? Talk about your Catch-22. The ads should have said no one less than 50 with at least 15 years experience. Timothy would not have had chance at pastoring. He might have been given a crack as Youth Pastor but no way as a Senior or Associate Pastor. FYI, over the years I learned why so many churches do not have pastors. It wasn’t due to lack of men but more often due to lack of sense among the churches but that’s another sermon.

Now, I will agree that experience is a wonderful thing albeit experience is the most expensive teacher and the education takes much longer than the average college route even if you go straight through the longest bachelor, masters and doctorate programs. It can be a tough taskmaster taking a great toll on the student as well. There are no refunds if it doesn’t work out and no papers to certify the training. Only God and scars can accredit that education.

Also, some folks age and experience many things but they never truly learn anything. Their wisdom tank never gets past a quarter full and they seem to leak profusely. On the other hand, many young men seem to quickly pick up on the subject matter and are able to apply it while the older folks have the theory but little to no application. They learn but never come to full knowledge. (2 Tim 3:7) Others have become speed bumps or faulty road signs that never progress on their journey and slow down or misdirect others. Many fuss at the young that have zeal but no knowledge without realizing that they are just as much a problem by having knowledge and no zeal.

Job 32:5-10

5 When Elihu saw that there was no answer in the mouth of these three men, then his wrath was kindled.
6 And Elihu the son of Barachel the Buzite answered and said, I am young, and ye are very old; wherefore I was afraid, and durst not shew you mine opinion.
7 I said, Days should speak, and multitude of years should teach wisdom.
8 But there is a spirit in man: and the inspiration of the Almighty giveth them understanding.
9 Great men are not always wise: neither do the aged understand judgment.
10 Therefore I said, Hearken to me; I also will shew mine opinion. KJV

More than once on my spiritual journey and in my ministry I have felt like Elihu. I waited around for the older and presumably wiser ones to come up with an answer or a course of action only to be greatly disappointed by no answer at all or an answer and no action. So, I stood up and gave my opinion or took a course of action. Many times I felt like a drummer boy jumping on the General’s horse to lead the charge or counterattack because the General and his staff were off playing 42 or napping when you could see the whites of the enemies’ eyes. Yea, it did not always make me any more popular than Elihu in his moment but such moments must happen occasionally.

The irony that I must face now is that while I am indeed within the age group and have the experience they wanted when I go out of college I now find that youth is venerated and age disrespected. Paul, who defended Timothy back in the day would now have to be defended and encouraged by Timothy.

Philemon 8-9

8 Wherefore, though I might be much bold in Christ to enjoin thee that which is convenient,
9 Yet for love’s sake I rather beseech thee, being such an one as Paul the aged, and now also a prisoner of Jesus Christ. KJV

Recently, I have seen advertisements where the pastor MUST be under age 50. Say what? I was 5 years too young and now I am 5 years too old? Whoa, Bethulah! What happened? Paul, buddy, after all you have been through the folks would kick you to the curb today because you are Paul, the aged. John called himself the elder and Pete wasn’t a spring chicken either though he was younger than you and John. Timothy, lad, jump up and defend your mentor!! The inmates are running the asylum.

Peter said for the younger to submit themselves to the elder but how does that happen when the “elders” at many churches are now anywhere from 25-35? In Jewish culture, you could not sit in the Sanhedrin unless you were at least 30 and married. The elder are supposed to teach the younger but shoot the younger won’t even sit in the same Sunday School class as the elder. In college, I was “old” at 26 but I had classes with people from 18-62. The material and tests were the same. If you will pay to do that why can’t you sit for free in a Sunday School class with the same age spread? After all, the material is the same.

If you do any kind of study on the word elder it means someone senior and old. I guess in a group of fifteen year olds a lad 29 would be an elder but not in the biblical sense. Paul, John and Peter would be victims of age discrimination. Hmm, even the secular world has laws against such things so how in the world does it thrive in the church? Easy, the world is in the church and the world worships youth.

Now, when I saw that ad for a pastor that must be under fifty I exercised my duty as a pastor and rebuked and reproved them. I told them I hoped God never gave them a pastor because the lad He wanted for them might be 52. That ad is just pure carnal and unbiblical as much as those who despised the youth of Timothy. Paul and Timothy could file an EEO complaint in the workplace but would have some difficulty finding justice in the church. A petition to the King Himself is their only option but then that is the best option. Imagine if Jesus would not have started His ministry until He was fifty or even twenty. Things just may have gone awry. Now we can see why He came in the fullness of time and not in this time.

To my brethren who have been victims of age discrimination in ministry I say just keep preaching or teaching or whatever you ministry is. God loves faithfulness and is far more concerned about that and character than age. Be a Maverick. The herd is aheadin’ fer the cliff and it t’ain’t bad bein’ a Maverick. After all, the prophets, Jesus and the Apostles were not received by the establishment either. They didn’t fit the popular consensus of what a minister was supposed to be either and were considered mavericks. Not a bad group to be affiliated with when you consider the alternative.

To those who discriminate and develop qualifications that aren’t listed in 1 Tim 3 or other scriptures I’d rethink that position if I were you. When we stand before the Chief Shepherd and Ancient of Days it might just be a tad hard to explain why you added to His qualifications and worse yet rejected the man He had called for your ministry because of your prejudices and preferences. Hmm, maybe that is one of the reasons why so many churches are dying or gowing like cemeteries by adding more dead people to them.

The good part is that it shows we are nearer to His coming than ever before. Maranatha!!

—————–
To: Rabbi Paul of Tarsus
First Baptist Church
Antioch, Syria

Dear Mr. Paul: I have your application for missionary appointment before me, and will be as frank as possible concerning your qualifications as a foreign missionary. We have to be very careful in choosing our missionaries, and our Missions Board has reviewed your case thoroughly. We have decided that it would be unwise to send you to the foreign field for the following reasons:

1. It has come to our attention that you are doing secular work on the side. We do not feel that making tents and full time ministry go together very well. It seems that you do not have enough experience in trusting the Lord for your income. You should make up your mind whether you want to preach or continue your profession.

2. Your previous actions have been very rash and unseemly for a minister. We learned that in a public meeting you opposed Dr. Simon Peter PhD, an esteemed minister with a high reputation. We also hear that you argued so violently with some of our ministers that a special council meeting had to be called at Jerusalem to prevent a serious split in the churches. We frown on such radicalism. For your own good, I am enclosing a copy of Daius’ Carnegus book on “How to Win Jews and Influence Greeks.”

3. You have consistently conflicted with mature Jewish brethren in nearly every city you have visited who simply want to encourage the converted Pagans to be properly circumcised. Paul, you must know that these men are our most learned sages with a deep sense of the roots and history of our faith. As well, and more importantly, these men control the synagogues you could be ministering in if you would simply tone down your dialog into a more friendly and respectful exchange.

4. In checking back, we discovered your Christian education consisted of a three year course in Arabia. We find that the Arabian school has not been approved by our accreditation board.

5. Further, you admit to being an unskilled public speaker. Paul, surely you must know that people expect fine elocution from men of God, and that as a denomination we stand for the highest levels of excellence in the pulpit. Yet instead of going to much-needed oratory classes you spend your time making tents instead. From your correspondence, you also appear to be spending a considerable amount of time writing letters to insignificant little “churches” that meet in homes. Honestly now; do you really think that such misguided activities are what will lead to your success in the world of religion? We strongly suggest that you put down your tools and set aside your pen, and instead practice hand gestures and facial expressions and voice modulation in front of a mirror for several hours a day until you come up to par.

6. We also hear a rumor that you are a snake handler. We don’t have all the details on that episode at Melita, but such a reputation could only hurt the true cause of Christ and the Church.

7. It has come to the attention also that you often emphasize “the power of God” and “the gifts of the Spirit.” Also that you speak in tongues a great deal. Surely you realize that such as this only drives off the better class of people, and attracts only the riff-raff. Not only do you admit to “speaking in tongues” more than anyone else, you also state that you wish all of us would speak in tongues as well. Keep these personal practices to yourself! Do you want to split our denomination wide open? It would be better to tone down those more sensational forms of worship. You sound as though you are “off the deep end.”

8. It has been proven to our satisfaction that you had hands laid on you at Antioch with prophecy going forth, with none of the Apostles or Headquarters brethren present to conduct this ordination service in the prescribed manner. Again, all this “spooky mysticism” must stop immediately! Why can’t you be more conservative like us?

9. We see here that you have a jail record in several places. If this is true, it puts you in a bad light, for our denomination has always stood for a high standard of civic responsibility, and I fear it would damage our reputation to have someone representing us that had served time in jails and prisons. Frankly, Mr. Paul, we seriously doubt you could have been innocent and the judge wrong in so many cases. It just doesn’t look right.

10. It seems that you are a troublemaker, Mr. Paul. Several business men of Ephesus have written us that you were the cause of severe loss of business to them and even stirred mob violence. You must learn to cultivate the friendship and influence of men such as these.

11. We also have some details of a lurid “over the wall in a basket” episode at Damascus, plus a stoning at Lystra, and several other violent actions taken against your ministry. Haven’t you ever suspected that conciliatory behavior and gentler words might gain you more friends? We have never condoned such sensationalism in the ministry. This is just not the type of missionary that we send out.

12. We have learned through channels that following some trouble with a preacher on the island of Cyprus, you began to allow yourself to be known by the Gentile pronunciation of your name rather than the proper Hebrew. Yet another conflict, and then a name change. This does not seem to us to be conduct becoming to the ministry.

13. You admitted in your application that in the past you neglected such needy fields as Bithynia, just because “the Spirit didn’t lead that way,” and that you undertook a hazardous journey on the strength of a dream you had at Troas. Mr. Paul, surely you don’t expect us to go along with such flimsy and fantastic excuses for your seemingly purposeless wanderings?

14. Many times you did not stay long enough, in our opinion, to get a church established. You left your converts many times without even a pastor to guide them, and without setting the church in order in some good hierarchical denomination.

15. We hear also from Troas that you preach too long, one sermon lasting almost twenty-four hours, even to the extent that a young man fell asleep and was seriously injured. We understand that you claim to have restored his life and raised him from the dead by falling on him and embracing him. What nonsense! We need practical men in the ministry, Mr. Paul, not high strung emotional radicals. Our advice is for you to shorten your sermons considerably. We find that about twenty minutes is the longest a minister can hold the attention of his audience these days. Our motto is “Stand up, speak up, and shut up.”

16. It is reported from your home church that you could not get along with your fellow ministers; that John Mark–a commendable young man and nephew of one of our leading ministers–had to leave your party in the middle of a journey; and that you had a violent quarrel with gentle, good natured Barnabas. Now these men are well thought of in Jerusalem and we wonder why you are always having trouble with your fellow workers?

17. We have notarized affidavits from four very popular and influential preachers: Diotrephes, Demas, Hymenaeus, and Alexander; to the effect that it is impossible for them to cooperate with either you or your program.

18. From what we hear, you seem to think that you have some direct sanction from on-high, boasting about your revelations and that God has chosen you to reveal some “Mystery”. Can’t you realize that any truth that is to be revealed would come through Headquarters to the recognized, established brethren, and that after it had been checked by our Procedure and Doctrine Committee that we would pass it on to the ministry?

19. You spend too much time talking about “the second coming of Christ”. Your letters to the people at Thessalonica were almost entirely devoted to that theme. Put first things first.

20. In a recent sermon, you said, “God forbid that I should glory in anything but the cross of Christ.” It seems to us that you also ought to glory in our heritage, our denominational creeds, our confessions and distinctives, and the World Federation of Churches.

21. Finally, we hear that you claim to be an Apostle. We know nothing of this being passed upon by the proper authoritative channels and wonder how you could back that claim up, when the last Apostle was voted into office right here in Jerusalem. Now that our denomination is firmly established, why do imagine there would be any need for God to further the Apostolic gifting?

As you see, Sir, we feel definitely after close scrutiny of your case, that you are undoubtedly the most unqualified applicant we have ever seen, and my advice for you is to find a church where you can work in harmony, and use your past education as perhaps a Sunday School teacher.

I hope I have prevented you from making a terrible mistake in your life.

Sincerely Yours,

J. Flaminius Dufious, Director

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