Who wants to listen to the old-timers? When is the next generation going to get a chance to take the lead? Who cares about what people said and did 10, 20, or 30 years ago?
Some of these thoughts are stirred by the slight toward my friend Juan Antonio Monroy. This year is a special anniversary, marking a half century since a story that many of us in churches of Christ grew up with: how this man from Spain found the churches of Christ at the New York World’s Fair and learned that they shared the same doctrine. As Juan comes to the States to commemorate that event, there is one congregation that won’t be taking part: the church that supported Juan in ministry for three decades. There was no room on their schedule for someone who is part of their history, but apparently not of their present nor future.
I remember when I was working on my master’s degree in communication. At that time, I could choose to write a thesis or to do a non-thesis degree. I was considering doing a thesis, preferably something related to the two years I had just spent in Argentina.
That’s when two elders from the University Church of Christ asked to meet with me. These two men had been leading the missions committee at UCC, had made numerous trips to Argentina, and were excited at the thought that someone would do research that would be useful to the missionaries. They asked if I would be interested in doing a study in conjunction with the missionaries supported by UCC.
I was thrilled. It was what I had been hoping to do. I had even broached the subject with the missionaries, and they had expressed interest in the study and a willingness to help shape the research.
Then they mentioned, “But we’ve just restructured things at University, and the elders are no longer on the committees. You’ll need to get approval from the missions committee.”
So I went through channels and submitted a request to the missions committee. A few weeks later, the deacon in charge pulled me aside and said, “We’re not going to help you with this study. I don’t know anything that I need to know to do my job. And no one who has been involved with the Argentina thinks it’s a good idea.”
I was stunned. And saddened. And fully aware of how ridiculous this man’s words were, especially the last sentence. Two of the men who had been most involved in the Argentina work had approached me about doing this study. It was obviously that this deacon hadn’t spoken with them or hadn’t given their input any credence.
Sadly, though, I see the same in me. I give little respect to those who have gone before. Like your current plumber criticizing your previous plumber, I can only see the defects in what previous generations did; I can’t appreciate anything positive that they contributed.
History has value. Experience brings wisdom. We don’t have to be tied to the past, but we do well to be informed by it.