William O Carver was a SBC pastor and professor of Missions at Southern Baptist Theological Seminary from 1898-1943. He developed the missions program at SBTS, the first such in the United States.
After 1943 his unfinished memoirs were published, “Out of His Treasure.” Carver tells of a time when as a young teenager he took it upon himself to start a program for the young people of the church in order to facilitate their spiritual growth.
“Without consultation with my elders or our church leaders, I announced that on Sunday evenings I would read the scriptures and sermons to anyone who card to come together. Soon we were having a goodly number, mostly young people, sharing happily, and let us hope, with some profit in these evening meetings. Some of the young people were learning to lead in prayer and to share in reading the scriptures and, most of them, in singing.
This innovation probably from the start was suspect to the elders. It was not long until I began to know that our meetings incurring censure. There were those who criticized a thirteen year old boy for his presumption and self-importance. I spoke of this criticism to my father, one of the deacons and actually the most progressive leader in the church. I was chagrined and distressed to learn that he felt I was assuming too much. After this we suspended our program.”
This would have happened about 1881, when Carver was thirteen. It seems incredulous to me that church members would stop young people from growing in their faith. But I have seen this happen all to often to be surprised by it. People get upset about the way youth dress in the church, or the style or volume of their music, all while they are being drawn closer to God. Discretion must be used of course, but don’t let us think that we have come a long ways since that time. It’s conceivable that almost the exact same scenario could play out in a church today.
We must find ways to build up and encourage the youth of our churches. They are not just the future of the church, they are the church, and we must look for ways to build them up and encourage them.
Read this story and more in “Out of His Treasure: The Unfinished Memoirs of WO Carver.”