Pastor Blake Williams
Missions & Outreach Pastor, Shiloh Community Church
Growing up as the youngest of four children I always wanted to be older than I was. My middle brother Grant was one of my heroes and I wanted to be around him all the time. He was incredibly gracious with me and made a deal with me that as long as I acted maturely around his friends, he would allow me to hang out with them. Another thing that accelerated this growth and maturity was the fact that my parents were successful real estate agents in Fort Collins where I was born and raised. It seemed to my siblings and me that there wasn’t a single person in our town of 100,000 that my parents didn’t know. Each time we would leave the house we would invariably be stopped by someone and my parents would make the introduction. Although I had no intention of remembering these people, I was still taught to shake their hand, look them in the eye, and say “nice to meet you.”
As the years have passed I’ve realized more and more that my parents did a lot of things to set me up for success that many others didn’t. It wasn’t until I started working with young adults at Scottsdale Bible that I realized most people my age were not equipped by their parents to grow up once college ended. When you’re immersed in your own world you don’t often recognize the things that become normative to you; or as the old quote goes, “if you want to know about water, don’t ask a fish.”
As I’ve reflected on my life I’ve realized that I’m an old soul in a young body. I’ve felt out of place in my generation for a long time and that gap seems to be widening by the day. Pop culture references are typically lost on me because I have little desire to listen to the music, watch the shows or movies, or understand the latest cultural trends. There is a part of my job that requires me to be in touch with these things but I’ll be honest, it’s not my favorite part.
As I said, this isn’t a new problem for me. My maturity level even as a young kid was much higher than my peers because I was constantly around older people. Being that I was the youngest of 4 kids, our house was full of people 3- 6 years older than me pretty much all the time. My parents also entertained or hosted people on what seemed like a weekly basis. As much as those people would humor me if I wanted to talk about the things that interested me, I had to learn to take an interest in what lit their fire too. My dad taught me a timeless business lesson early on in life and that was, “people rarely ever tire when talking about the things that interest them.” If you can put their interests ahead of your own, you’ll have a friend for life. Since I was used to never getting my choice anyhow, this came more naturally. I didn’t even get to choose music when it was just me and my dad, so I just learned to like whatever was on; which in my dad’s car was the oldies station. I still listen to these songs with fondness because it brings me back to riding around with my dad. In fact, when someone says “good times,” in my head I’ll always follow it with “great oldies, KOOL 105.”
Now as I raise my own kids I think about all the things I learned from my parents and how I want to teach them to my kids. There are the standard things, like manners that everyone wants to teach their kids; but there are larger lessons that I don’t think many people do. As a missions pastor I want to teach my kids about human suffering and God’s heart for the nations. I want to see my children learn about cultures that are different from their own and to have experiences that stretch and challenge their worldview. As they grow and I see how God has shaped each of them, I want to explore their individual gifts and passions to see how God might use them. More than anything I want each of my kids to take the posture of learners their entire lives by seeking the wisdom of those older or more experienced than them.
Today I spent time with a new missions pastor in the valley, who is more than 20 years my senior. Yet he finds himself in the same spot I did 6 ½ years ago as the new kid on the block just trying to understand how this thing works. I was encouraged to see him doing the same thing I did when I first started, which was meeting with people that have been doing it longer and picking their brains on best practices. One of the things that I shared with him was that I’m still constantly learning from the counsel of those in my field. I want to model this for my kids, showing them that although I’m constantly learning, I’m never fully there.
At some point I know my body will catch up with my soul. When that time comes my prayer is that I’m still not done learning. That as long as God gives me breath in my lungs, I can seek to know Him, follow Him, lead others towards Him, and impart any of the wisdom I’ve obtained along the way.