This morning I was reading Matthew 21:33 and following. This pericope is usually called the Parable of the Tenants. In it Jesus told of some folks who had been given charge over the vineyard belonging to someone else. It was their job to care for the vineyard and, at the end of the season, to give the fruit to the owner. Of course, they reneged on this and abused and killed those, including the owner's son, who came to collect the fruit. This is usually sited as abuse by the chief priests and Pharisee's in Roman Palestine. It gives justification for these so-called leaders to be ousted by the disciples of Jesus. As I reflected on this, however, I began to see that these leaders had a compelling desire to protect and control that which they had been given charge over. They were comfortable with the arrangement. Perhaps, because the landowner was what we would call an "absentee landlord", they felt that they knew better than him how best to care for the vineyard. They may also have felt entitled to the land and its produce because they were the ones who cared for it. In any case, they were mistaken. The vineyard was not theirs to control.
I think that the church has developed a similar mindset. Although we say we trust God to care for and protect the church, we do not know how to relax our grip. I have heard leaders in my own church talk a good game about raising up young men and women to be leaders. However, what they are really saying is "When we think that you have become enough like us, then we can trust you to lead." Like the tenants, we claim to know what's best for the vineyard we have been given charge over. We want to protect it from the chaos that will most certainly come if we allow the next generation to come and lead in their own gifting as Christ followers. We want to protect and "oversee" them as if we are their parents. The ancient churches even refer to those overseers as "Father."
I think that we are missing a great opportunity to share in the work of the Holy Spirit if we do not step back and learn from these young adults. Young adults who are expected to pick up the mantle of leadership in the culture, society, politics, the marketplace, and, yes...the church. We are not their parents, but their fellow laborers in the vineyard of the Master. It's time we embraced that.