I want to be a son of Issachar. No, that’s not some weird, radical, “the-sky-is-falling” group of extremists; and it’s not a lame think tank that actually proves they do the opposite by the way they live. It’s being someone who understands the times and, consequently, undertakes the tasks necessary to make a difference. I draw this from 1 Chronicles 12:32, where the sons of Issachar are referenced as a cadre of men who “understood the times” and who subsequently were able to engage and equip others to make a difference in the Israeli culture around them. That’s exactly what we need more of today. Allow me some room to illustrate.
Back in 1968 when I was 4, my mom could easily snatch my butt up in the grocery store aisle and swat it to get me in line. And the “mom” fans around would probably have started applauding, telling her to give me another one. Those times were the kind when the culture followed and, to a large degree, tried to support the home. It’s a different time now. Today, our culture tries to strangle the home. And if you lay a hand on your child’s backside at Walmart to deliver an attitude adjustment, you may find yourself explaining your actions to a state official who thinks you’re an abuser. Am I saying don’t spank? Nope! I personally believe it is, generally, the best way to get the devil out of your kids before they get too set towards rebellion. But in these times, you’d be a whacked out moron to ignore the culture around you and blindly persist in “doing it the way my parents did.” You’d be much wiser to understand the times and implement the same principles, not just copy people.
The same is true about our churches. We don’t need any more “Pete and Repeats” heading out to “do ministry” or plant a church in the same exact way they watched their pastor do it, who will then send someone out to do it just like they did, ad nauseam. Quite frankly, we need to put to death the “sheepwalking” mentality (kudos to Seth Godin and his book Tribes) that pervades the mindset of some pastors and preachers which stifles creativity and makes innovation seem like idolatry. The notion that I will watch you do it, then 5 years later I’ll go and do the very same thing, only to have someone else go and do the same thing I did 5 years after that…pleeaaasssee! It’s like we’re spitting out little replica’s of people, not principles. By the way, there’s a surefire way to tell if you’re around a sheepwalking Pete or Repeat – listen for phrases like, “In my last church”, “I’ve never known anyone to do it that way”, or “Remember the good ole days when we…” I’m all for learning from the past, but I’m not especially fond of recreating it. I’d rather have God do something new and fresh in the current times of the here-and-now.
Essentially, this is learning the art of implementing principles from the past while not necessarily copying the people of the past. But most people lack the guts to do that. They’d rather just copy an action because it is easier. Takes less work. Less thinking. Less understanding of the times. Parents do this. Pastors do this. Basically, people do this. Sad if you ask me.
But Issachar’s sons weren’t like that. They embraced their times and engaged the culture they were in with a fresh voice and fervent action. They didn’t try to be like their (possibly great) grandfather Jacob, or possibly even their older (great) uncles (like Reuben or Levi or Joseph or Benjamin.) They were who God needed them to be in the times in which they lived. It was where God sovereignly placed them, and they were committed to being divine reps for the future not merely tour guides of the museum. That’s what I want to be for my generation — a man who understands the times and can tackle the tasks, not just based on what he saw someone do years ago, but based on what he knows God can do years from now.