Here are five important lessons about what we can learn from our elders.
Learn from their Mistakes
If I had only learned from what my mentor told me, I could have avoided a lot of headaches. I am a pastor but I have a mentor who is a retired pastor who, due to health reasons, can no longer preach but he can certainly teach and he’s taught me so much. He is not afraid to admit to me the mistakes that he made in his ministry and so that’s one way we can learn from our elders.
Learn from their Wisdom
Our elders have gained so much wisdom in their lives from a lifetime of experience that it’s almost a crime to not share it with someone younger and I have learned so much from my elders. On the day that I stop learning or feel I have arrived, then God may be finished with me because we’re commanded to grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord (2nd Pet 3:18) and my mentor has much more wisdom than I do. Knowledge is not the same thing as wisdom because knowledge applied rightly makes it wisdom.
Learn from their Experience
What has happened before will happen again because there is nothing really new under the sun (Eccl 1:9), so why not tap the experience our elders have acquired over a lifetime? When you are facing indecision or going into a place or experience that you’ve never been through before, why not ask an elder in the church about what they did or how they handled it? It might be just as important that they tell you how not to do it as it is how to do it.
Learn from their Biblical Knowledge
My mentor, who is also my elder, has a lot more knowledge of the Bible than I do, so when I am faced with a perplexing or difficult biblical issue of which I can’t find an answer in the Bible, I ask him. He has usually dealt with it before and he can point me to the Bible verses that I need to read in order to know what to do in certain situations. My mentor is like a walking Bible encyclopedia and it’s a great resource for us to have when we need to know what to do.
Learn from their Corrections
I love the proverbs for their wisdom and one of the best verses about learning from the correction of our elders is found in Proverbs 27:6 which says, “Let a righteous man strike me–it is a kindness; let him rebuke me–it is oil for my head; let my head not refuse it.” It sounds painful doesn’t it, but we all need to be corrected at times and I am certainly no exception.
I believe every Timothy needs a Paul. That is, we all need a mentor but we also need to be mentoring others who are younger or newer in the faith. It’s somewhat like discipling others because that’s what Jesus commanded the disciples to do; teach all nations to observe those things that He taught them (Matt 28:19-20) but we must also learn from our elder’s mistakes; we must learn from their wisdom; we must learn from their own experiences; we must learn from their biblical knowledge; and we must learn from their correcting us and believe me, I still need the wounds of a friend more than the kisses of an enemy. Don’t have a mentor? Find one? Know someone who needs a mentor? Be one!