One of the major pitfalls of young leaders is what I call “The Young Man Syndrome.” Though no Christian, church or spiritual movement is immune, young preachers and church leaders are especially prone. The “Young Man Syndrome” is a worldly condition that has no place in the Kingdom of God.
The spiritual pitfall I am referring to is showcased in I Kings Chapter 12. It tells the story of Solomon’s son Rehoboam who ascended to the throne after his death. At the beginning of his reign the people came to him and begged him to lighten the oppressive burden and heavy yoke of service his father had placed upon their shoulders. Rehoboam first sought the advice of his elders on how he should respond. The older men told him that if he became a servant to the people, helped them and spoke encouraging words to them they would serve him throughout his reign. They were essentially counselling him to lighten their load and remove the heavy burden of service.
But he didn’t listen to the older men. Instead, he heeded the counsel of the young men who had grown up with him. When he asked them if he should “lighten the yoke which his father had put on the people” they said, “Whereas (your) father laid a heavy yoke on you, I will add to your yoke; my father chastened you with whips, but I will chasten you with scourges.” So, the king asserted himself and responded to the people harshly as the young men had counselled him. The result was the the kingdom was split apart with two tribes staying with him and the other ten tribes siding with his rival, King Jeroboam.
Like Rehoboam, many young ministers and churches are following the counsel of young men. They may be sincere, passionate, and dedicated but they are all too susceptible to the seductive siren call of power, success and control. Because the drive to make their mark and succeed is so strong in young men, they find that the obsession to be a ministerial somebody is a glove that fits all too well. It is easy to get caught up in the spirit of youthful ambition and the self-justification that the “ends justifying the means”.
They can easily become arrogant, headstrong, and full of themselves. Often, they have been given power and authority and placed in a position over others before they were ready and it has gone to their heads. After all, aren’t they called by God, being zealous of good works, about their Father’s business, and attempting to do great exploits in His name? But I have found through personal experience that their outward zeal often conceals selfish ambition, arrogance and “self-rightness”. All too often, rather than truly serving the sheep, they are so consumed with the rightness of their calling that they use them to further their ministerial ambitions. Consequently, many get used, manipulated, bitter, burnt out and eventually discarded in the process.
Like the servants under Rehoboam, many end up experiencing a church leadership or experience that is demanding, controlling and oppressive. Instead of liberty, their spiritual vitality is slowly sapped by the oppressive yoke of performance driven Christianity that has been dumped on their shoulders. Over the last fifty years I have witnessed many sincere Christians slowly crushed under the weight of heavy-handed authority, religious baggage, discipline quotas, ministerial demands, church commitments, the pressure to always be emotionally pumped and the expectations of others. Countless believers who were once sincere, enthusiastic, and dedicated become used up, worn out and eventually discarded in the process of dutifully living out some churches' expression of church life. I learned this the hard way.
This is the counsel of an old man who knows all about the pitfalls of the “Young Man Syndrome”. I have seen many a young man caught up in the “Young Man Syndrome”. Some matured and grew out of it; some became so steeped in it they never learned to serve rather than shine. I see many overtaken by it today. Some still endeavor to build upon the rock of God’s word but the majority build upon their egos, their ambitions and their insatiable desire for fame and popularity. I speak from experience because I have been there too and done that.