Ashley Revell, a 32-year-old man from London, knows what it means to live for the moment at the great risk of sacrificing the future. In April 2004 he approached a roulette wheel in Las Vegas with one chip in his hand. The chip represented everything he owned. Donning a rented tuxedo, he placed the chip on red.
Previously that year Ashley had sold everything he possessed (including his underwear, according to the report). On a whim, he decided to “double or nothing” his entire life. The event was recorded by British television for a one-time reality show. The spinning ball in the roulette wheel would double his $135,300 if it fell on red. If the ball skipped into a black slot, Ashley would walk away with literally nothing. Even the rented tux would have to be returned.
Luckily (in the truest sense of the word), the ball slotted red. Everyone cheered. People back in London watching the television celebrated. The press put a positive spin on the story, making Ashley a 15-minute hero that week.
“So it was a mad thing to do,” he said.
Ashley walked away from the table twice as rich. He didn’t place another bet.
The heartache and burden that this man could have placed upon his family went largely ignored because he won. Our culture tends to do this. We ignore potential problems if we’re winning in the here and now. We don’t like to think about the risks involved if things are going our way. But such a train of thought is foolish thinking for the church.
“God, you know my foolishness, and my guilty acts are not hidden from you” (Ps. 69:5
We cannot neglect investing in future generations just because of successes now. Healthier, growing churches will only decline at some point in the future without reaching the student generation. Unhealthy, dying churches can slow, stop and reverse their decline by attracting and keeping the younger generation. It is only foolishness for church leaders and pastors to keep gambling on baby-boomer transfer growth when an entire generation is leaving the church or, worse yet, never knowing the church.
We are not advocating a neglect of more mature generations, whether it is the greatest generation, the baby boomers, or gen Xers. Older and grayer is not bad if those with a little more life experience in the church are using it to benefit those with a little less sagacity. Much can be gained if pastors use and train adults in the church to reach out to those in younger generations.
One of the great blunders of leaders is not investing in the future. The temptation is to live in the moment and not see what steps need to occur in order to lead the church into the future. The risks are too great for us to gamble on not reaching another generation for Christ. The stakes are too high if the youngest generation keeps walking away from the local body of believers. Ignoring this exodus is foolish. It’s just a mad thing to do. From Essential Church by Thom S. Rainer and Sam Rainer III. B&H Publishing Group, 2008. Copyright © 2008 by Thom S. Rainer and Sam Rainer III. Used by permission.
Thom S. Rainer is president and CEO of LifeWay Christian Resources in Nashville, Tennessee. Sam S. Rainer III, is a campus pastor for Sarasota Baptist Church in Sarasota, Fla., and is president of Rainer Research.