Turtles and the Next Generation

By Scott McClellan

I’m a lot of things. I’m a Texan. I’m tall. I’m a good test-taker. I’m allergic to conflict and spreadsheets. I’m an avid supporter of all the Dallas-area sports teams even though they hurt my feelings. I’m not handsome, but I’m handsome-adjacent.

In regard to things that actually matter, I’m a husband and father. I’m a follower of Jesus and a pastor. But I only recently realized I’m also a turtle on a fence post.

This expression — a turtle on a fence post — is attributed to one of those mythical Texas ranchers who speaks in the form of Southern-fried proverbs. "If you're going down the road and you see a turtle on a fence post," the rancher observes, "you know it didn't get there on its own."

He’s right. Even I, a citified millennial raised on turtles of the Teenage Mutant Ninja variety, knows that turtles can't climb posts. So if you see one up on a fence looking wrinkly, confused, and perhaps a little impressed, it's safe to assume he had a hand getting up there. Someone reached down and set him higher than he ever could've climbed on his own.

And that’s why I identify with the turtle on the fence post.

As we've moved through this Next Up initiative, I've been thinking about our commitment to love and serve the next generation. That’s what churches are called to do, and that’s who we are. When I reflect on that truth, I can't help but think about my own life. I’ve come to realize that I'm a follower of Jesus today because my childhood was marked by dozens of adults who were willing to share God's grace with me.

They reached down and set me higher than I ever could’ve climbed on my own.

Some of their names and faces are lost to my memory, especially those who first taught me about God when I was in preschool, but there are others I’ll never forget. When we talk about serving the next generation here at IBC I can’t help but remember what Brad, Dan, Cheryl, Mark, Brittany, Sharene, Rob, Bobby, April, Benji, Derrick, Bryan, Mike, Cindy, Linda, Ryan, Deborah, and so many others did for me.

I’m here because they were there.

I’m here because they had the courage and compassion to live out something I heard a pastor say at a conference last summer. He said at healthy churches, children are cherished. At healthy churches, adults love and care for children. We don’t stand above them, but rather we crouch down so that we can see their eyes and they can see ours.

Crouching in the presence of children is one posture of a healthy church.

Having been awakened to the effect of this in my own life, and my status as a turtle on a fence post, I’m better able to see this at work at IBC. I see it in the passion and perseverance of my colleagues and teammates with whom I have the honor of serving on staff. And of course I see it in the bright eyes and warm smiles of the volunteers who show up every week to point my kids (and your kids, and everyone else’s kids) toward Jesus.

Every week you’ll find dozens of men, women, and students like Roy, Betsy, and Lizzy crouching down, reaching down, and setting kids higher than they ever could’ve climbed on their own. You’ll see them this Sunday in their “Transformed Kids, Transformed City” shirts, reminding us all that we’re here because someone else was there, reminding us all that God has entrusted the next generation to our care. May God give us the courage and compassion to serve our kids well — he knows we never get where we need to be on our own.

The Next Up sermon series ends this Sunday, and the initiative will end once we raise the money we need for our new children’s ministry building, but God’s invitation to in young hearts and minds has no expiration date. Now and in the years to come, let’s do what we can to serve, support, encourage, and create space for the next generation. 

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