I’ve held a ministry-related office since I was a senior in high school (which wasn’t very long ago). Though I’m a preacher, I’m a young preacher. I’m still ‘green’ so to speak. When I seek the counsel of older and wiser preachers, I’m sometimes told what Paul said to Timothy, “Let no one despise you for your youth” (1 Tim. 4:12).
I agree with that advice wholeheartedly! I don’t want to allow anyone to hold me back!
I can sympathize with young preachers who don’t feel like they are taken seriously. I feel their pain when they sense that some people – even church leaders – sometimes walk all over them. It is easy to respond with a prideful attitude by attempting to prove the critics wrong. Do any of these thoughts sound familiar?
“They think I’m inexperienced? I’ll show them!” “They think I don’t know what I’m talking about? They’re going to regret not listening to me!” “Because they think I’m immature, I’m going to prove them wrong by my success!”
But then I remember the second half of Paul’s advice to Timothy, “…but set the believers an example in speech, in conduct, in love, in faith, and purity.” In other words, instead of proving how ‘capable’ you are, raise the bar by your example. That doesn’t always come natural for me.
Paul’s instructions are especially important for young preachers. Consider the following thoughts:
Be an example in your speech. Other members will get away with gossip, rude remarks, and sometimes flat-out ugliness. You will not. You’re the preacher, and you are held at a higher standard. I know it isn’t fair, but it’s reality. Members will say things to you or about you that will haunt you. You will be hurt. But be careful what you say about others – even on the internet. Negative comments coming from your mouth carry a lot of weight. Try to avoid sarcasm. Don’t gossip with other members. If you doubt the prudence of what you’re about to say, don’t say it. Instead, kill ‘em with kindness (figure of speech… don’t really kill anyone).
Be an example in your conduct. If you don’t like living under the microscope, you’re in the wrong line of work. Everything you do will be scrutinized. Everything will be talked about: the movies you go see, the events you attend (or don’t attend), how you treat your wife, how you interact with other people, etc. People will talk about you more than they will your sermons. In a sense, you are preaching every day about how a Christian should live. If there is anything hypocritical in your life, fix it before it hurts your ministry. Set the standard of how a Christian should live.
Be an example in your love. I’m an ideologue. I try to see the church like it should be, not how it is. Because of this, sometimes it is difficult to love everyone in the congregation. Some people are simply ‘unlovable.’ But Jesus loves those people too. If loving them is worth it to God, it should be worth it to you (1 Jn. 4:11). You will be a lousy preacher if you refuse to love someone after you get to know their faults (1 Jn. 4:20).
Be an example in your faith. This is interesting. I don’t think Paul is saying, “Make sure you preach good sermons.” Yes, that might be part of it. But just because you can produce a good lesson outline doesn’t mean you are setting an example by your faith. I think Paul is saying that young preachers need to be excited and passionate about the Good News, so much so that the Gospel is written on their hearts (2 Cor. 3:2). Do people see you as just another boring young preacher? Or do they see you as a true believer in New Testament Christianity?
Be an example in your purity. This is big. Make sure your life is free of sin – yes, even secret sin (e.g. pornography). Any foothold of the devil will hurt you and your ministry (cf. Eph. 4:27). You deserve to be despised for your youth if you don’t get a grip on your purity. Don’t hurt the Holy Spirit with the impurities in your life (1 Cor. 6:19-20) and then expect Him to lead you as you preach the Word. Pornography will kill your ministry.
You have big shoes to fill. You have the best job in the world. Don’t despise yourself for your youth. Set the example in your speech, conduct, love, faith, and purity.