YONGGI CHO’S FINAL SERMON? (Reflections on the Weasel Talk, Twigs and Twits and Peter Pan Syndrome Tragedy)

We were disgusted recently to learn of some pastors referring to seniors – senior ministries and parents – as ‘twigs.’ Some young people were even being advised not to listen to their parents because they’re past it, don’t know what they’re talking about. As for ‘older’ ministers, they too are over the hill, not with it and passed their ‘use by’ date!

This is ’weasel talk’ (unjustifiable, unprovable statements)! It is not only discourteous but a seriously wrong presumption and a gross ignoring of the need in these troubled days not to forsake the wisdom of the ‘elders – the experienced fathers and mothers – in Israel.’

Yes, the leadership of some stuck-in-the-mud and spiritually rutted churches needs to release their young people into ministry; otherwise their churches are going to dry up without that needed freshness and fire of the younger generation! And it’s good to know that many pastors are doing that. With insight they realise that their young people are not the next generation but in fact the now generation.

And it’s working! We are seeing great new preachers and worship leaders who are teachable, learning fast and being outstanding examples to others, including seniors who are praying for them and supporting them.

What’s a twig anyway? Usually the word relates to something small like a little shoot, sprig, sprout or bud. When used by younger leaders to strongly derogate their youth’s parents it is belittling. It is undermining parental authority and treating ‘older’ people as insignificant!

When used against those who have been in Christian service for a long time, it’s inferring that these ‘seniors’ are now nobodies that don’t have to be listened to anymore. That too is wrong, discourteous and unscriptural. It shows a lack of respect, is dishonouring and very dangerous.

And yet the strange thing is that some of these fork-tongued megaphone voices don’t recognise that they themselves, by their own voiced standards, are also twigs! They won’t step aside for the new generation with its fresh insights and vision. Rather they ensure that the positions they hold remain untouched, unchallenged and unchangeable.

Let’s switch to another word. Twits. It has a very simple definition…foolish people! Those calling a valued generation that went through many hardships, struggles and sarcasms to build the church are themselves very foolish! They’re twits, the real twigs!

They forget that the word twig has another meaning…one that calls for ‘noticing and understanding.’ Seniors including ministers ought to be acknowledged, honoured, listened to and appreciated. Not ignored as some have been and their hard-earned ‘father and mother in Israel’ experience ignored.

A fact that’s not often faced until crisis time is that many young ministers get into hot water because they don’t seek a mentor friend and ask for advice, guidance and suggestions. Recent highlighted reports from around the church scene confirm such disasters!

When is a minister’s kingdom contribution finished?
In a nutshell, not until he or she hears Jesus proclaim the great welcoming ‘Well done, good and faithful servant!’ (Matt.25: 21).

The Bible carefully recalls the adventures of those chosen by God to achieve great things in his kingdom. They were not all young people! Or they may have begun ‘ministry’ as excited youth caught up in something greater than themselves and their experience to that point but they went on following God and continued into advanced years achieving much for Jesus through the Spirit’s strength and help.

Paul and John were such heroes of the faith right into proverbial senior years and were still appreciated and sought after for their wealth of knowledge and experience. And, beyond scripture, church history tells of similar accounts of men and women on fire for Jesus being actively involved into ‘old age’ (awful terminology! In reality you’re only as old as you think, feel, dress, talk and act!)

Take for example Dr David Yonggi Cho.

Learning from Dr Cho

Our good friend Peggy Kannaday is editor of Dr Cho’s popular and inspiring magazine Church Growth. Peggy lives in the old Jim Bakker Heritage Village area and tells about what God is doing there today, restoring his presence.

Last year Peggy sent us a great DVD celebrating Dr Cho’s May 2008 loosely termed ‘retirement’ and the Korean Yoida Full Gospel Church’s 50th year. It’s a state-of-the art disc production to say the least, so enjoyable, revitalising and challenging!

As a teenager, Dr Cho converted from Buddhism to Christianity and God miraculously healed him of tuberculosis. In 1958, with little more resources than a discarded marine tent, he began conducting church services on the outskirts of Seoul with a mere handful of close friends. Today the world famous Yoida church has well over 830,000 members, seven Sunday services in 16 languages! This year ABC highlighted this great church in a program called Around the World in 80 Faiths.

But… when he entrusted his church to an anointed, younger successor last May, did Dr Cho really retire as ‘an old man’ no longer of any use for the ministry?

No way! He’s busier than ever, engaged in TV evangelism, church growth, building inroads into North Korea and other Spirit-led enterprises. He has no intention of being an inactive ‘old age’ retiree as long as there is Holy Spirit fire in his bones! He’s still achieving for God and called on to mentor younger pastors and encourage them by sharing what he’s learned over 50 years of not always easy ‘nuts and bolts where the rubber hits the road’ ministry.

We heard also of senior ministers that have paid the price to establish their ministry and have strengthened the kingdom but are now wrongly relegated as the Peter Pan Syndrome (see final para). And last year there was a book that unjustly sideswipes older ministries and has coloured the thinking of some younger pastors. They’re latching onto its wrong premises and the Peter Pan Syndrome ‘as gospel’ and relegating older essential ministries to the proverbial green pastures.

The reality is that so-called ‘oldies’ such as Dr Cho will keep on going, doing their God-given part in continuing to extend the kingdom! They’re here to help; guide, release and encourage the younger generation on a valued and essential Paul and Timothy basis. Such men should be sought out and listened to!

Younger ministries have no right to condemn, criticise or knock them! Rather they need to take time out to learn, to be prepared to receive. Sure they can follow their own visions but they ought not to write-off their knowledgeable kingdom partners.

Wiser younger ministers
But, we’re glad to report that many younger ministers are boldly seeking mentoring. This will stand them in good stead over the ensuing true-faith hit years to come. Already many pentecostal churches have wandered away from ‘the old time religion that pentecostals discovered and held dear regarding the Holy Spirit, divine healing, holiness, the power of the word and pastors really knowing their sheep and truly caring for them.’

John Maxwell often talks about when he was a young, naive pastor in need of advice and encouragement. He would willingly travel miles and surprise some senior been-around-for-a-while minister by offering $100 for just an hour of his time to learn something from his wealth of experience. And look what that wise move gained him in time!

Back to Dr Cho… back in ’94, I (Robert) had the privilege of a private interview with him in Korea. Knowing that he had much on his plate in the midst of a busy congress schedule, I ensured that I wouldn’t be wasting any of the precious time he had graciously allocated me by asking questions I should have already researched. Instead I asked eight simple but relevant up-to-the-minute questions.

The final question
My eighth and final question still nutshells Dr Cho’s ongoing ministry – and indeed that of every ‘oldie’ and ‘youngie’ minister for that matter…

‘Dr Cho, if you knew that you had only one more sermon to preach, what would it be?’

With great delight, a twinkle in his eyes and a beaming smile he enthusiastically bubbled forth: ‘I would preach Jesus is Saviour!’ And I will never forget the way he joyously pronounced the name Jesus in his Korean English. Even mentioning Jesus’ name obviously brought such joy to his lips even as his quick response did to my heart.

Incidentally, I have since asked that question of other ‘seniors’ around the world such as Dr Andrew Evans, Dr John Maxwell and Dr Thomas Trask. Their instant reply? Does it come as a surprise to learn that they all said the same thing as Dr Cho? I think not! They all want to go on sharing great truths about Jesus, Christian values and kingdom principles.

Seniors are not to be written off as ‘old fogies’ but warmly embraced while they’re still around. All right, some can’t be as vitally active as they used to be due to health and other problems. But there are those like Dr Cho and others not so well known who still have one more great sermon to preach! Who can mentor with godly advice from years of experience and save younger pastors a lot of time, trouble and mistakes. They definitely are neither twigs nor twits!

No more weasel talk! No more referring to ministers over 40 as the puer asterernus Peter Pan Syndrome… a pop-psychology term used to describe adults who have never grown up but remain socially immature. All that is bad! Instead let’s listen to them! These so-called ‘old fashioned’ seniors still have much to pass on!

© 2009 Dr Robert McQuillan/Life Focus. 0309

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