Have you been, or are you in the wilderness? The wilderness is an amazing metaphor that the Bible uses for time alone with God, or time in preparation for service or ministry. The wilderness may seem like a punishment and sometimes people are forced there by adverse circumstances not of their own choosing.
The way that vocational preparation, that includes a calling to the ministry, usually works, is that a young adult chooses or believes they are called or they come into an understanding of their desire to do a particular form of work. They then prepare for that work in schooling or training and then get into that field of work and begin a life of that vocation.
But, what if you want to be like the people we read about in the the Bible, who are named, and who did certain things, that had impact for God's kingdom? Every believer is called to live in the kingdom and let the kingdom have impact through their lives. There are not two kinds of believers.
It is also a mistake or wrong headed to believe that the only ones that truly serve God are preachers, pastors, or missionaries. On a white board, we could list every other form or kind of ministry, with a list of a hundred or more, and still come up very short. God is very creative with what he has designed each person to do and his list of ministries is almost endless.
Whatever your dream, desire, or calling is; their is a wilderness component or time, sometimes. I say sometimes, because it is not that way for everyone. The wilderness is a place that God often takes his people to, and when he does it is for their good.
Mature believers love the wilderness, because they have learned how to find and live with God there. God can take a person into a wilderness at any time, in the middle of their life-times, and do amazing things with them there. True saints desire to go to the wilderness to spend time alone with God.
Jesus and John the Baptist were about age 30, when they began their public ministries. I remember when I was a young adult and age 30 seemed older or mature. My dad was pushing 50 and my grandparents were in their 70's.
I heard someone share that in the first century, that a man could not be a rabbi until he was 30 years of age. Because at 30, you had a considerable amount of life experience and were considered an elder. The average life expectancy, in the first century, was about 25 years.
Many people did not live past the age 10, but if you did, you might live to be about 47. So, age 30 then was like age 60 now. Imagine if the church did not allow anyone to be called pastor, as in the position or title, until the age of 60.
What if every person who feels called to the ministry, to be a pastor, had to just do pastoral ministry and raise a family and be part of the community of God, in a sort of 'potential pastor' or 'pre-pastoring', before they turned 60? And at the age of 60, they could be a pastor, because they have become a pastor, and they are frankly old enough and wise enough to be trusted as 'pastor'?
Look around at all the people up front who are under 60, who need to step down, because they are too young. Stepping down means that they need to just work hard in their communities and raise their families together with others. They can definitely serve along side of the older men and women.
What if we have it backwards, and our so-called prime years, in our 20's, 30's, 40's, and 50's are all meant to prepare us for appearing in front of people at age 60? The senior pastor, solo pastor, lead pastor, or leading church preacher who is under the age of 60 is a modern invention that does not line up with scripture.
Your first and easiest objection might be the first 12 Apostles. They perhaps were not yet 30. Remember I am saying that age 30 in the first century is like age 60 today. You also would bring up Timothy.
Timothy and the 12 Apostles were not pastors. They were not local church, lead pastors. They were apostolic workers.
If you have a problem with the word apostolic, for today, think missionary, church planter, or evangelist. What if it is God's plan or wisdom for planters and missionaries to be younger? But those who stand up in front of groups and lead them need to be older, elders, people who are roughly aged 60 and above?
A guy in his 20's or 30's is not usually an elder. People in their 40's are becoming elders and folks who are in their 50's are almost there.
When I found myself in a position of authority in the church, in my 30's; it was very gracious for anyone to view me as an elder. I was a junior elder, lacking a lot of life experience. I always sought out people who were much older than I, preferably people who were in their 60's.
This was purely common sense or perhaps a driving leading from the Spirit of God. And the main thing that my older friends would do is listen to me and ask me hard questions, then listen some more.
What if God has people, like John the Baptist, who have been in the wilderness? They have been living their lives, as disciples. They have been growing and learning, loving and being productive in their spheres.
These people dream of appearing before people, for God, with words or deeds of God through their lives, that will be for God's glory. But they have been not visible to many and have been in a wilderness that is depressing at times, because it has stripped away their dreams of service for the Lord, that they thought were from the Lord, and they received years, even decades ago.
The message or lesson in the scriptures is that the wilderness is an in-between place, preparing us for the future, which may be tomorrow, next year, or far down the time-line of our life. Being in the wilderness does not mean you are done, but it means God loves you.
For further study:
Being a First Century Disciple, by Doug Geenwold
Rabbi and Talmidim, by Ray Vander Laan