Young minds are leading everywhere.
The term “Startup” has almost become a religious experience. For the young and the brave, they take the pilgrimage to create their own reality. Many bright young minds are no longer interested in working for the company, they prefer to be the company. They are risk takers, entrepreneurs, ambitious and have a “thought leader” mystique.
Young minds are not merely starting companies, they are writing music, screenplays and sitcoms. They are exploiting the arts in astonishing ways. They are developing software, websites, social media trends as well as altruistic efforts to provide clean water and ending social injustice around the world. They have glorious goals of ending sex trafficking and child slavery. Indeed, youth has great energy to do many good things.
Not long ago I sat in a conference room of about 15 people who are all younger than me. Another person was leading the meeting and after a presentation asked for feedback from each person. The contrast between those over 40 to those under 30 could not have been more stark. In general the over 40 folks were careful and respectful when making comments or asking questions. But the 30somethings were strong, challenging and at times arrogant.
Afterward I pulled aside the person who led the meeting to see how they were doing. I was concerned for this person but also for the emotion and attitude expressed by the bright young minds. I reflected on my 20s and 30s concluding I was much the same… but I did not want to be dismissive or ignore a teachable time.
Thirty plus years ago I began serving a local church in Grand Prairie, Texas. These wonderful Texans invited a young, impetuous and wet-behind-the-ears seminary graduate to pastor their church. I did not know what I did not know. I did know that most of the founders were old enough to be my father. So there I was, 28 years old, trying to be a pastor. (It is laughable if not for the grace of God.)
A bad memory protects most of my misguided and ill-conceived ideas at 28, but one thing I recall is retreating to 1st Timothy over and over. It was as if I could hear the apostle talking to me. I have read and studied Paul’s letters for years.
Bible students refer to 1st and 2nd Timothy (as well as 1st and 2nd Thessalonians and Titus) as the “Pastoral Epistles.” The name suits the letters well. These were written from the apostle, elder statesman and church planter extraordinaire, to younger men and specific churches on how to lead Christ’s people. Personal and practical, these letters deliver God’s inspired Word and timeless counsel to any who want to learn.
What strikes me is how Paul instructed the bright young Timothy to work with older people. It seems from a careful reading of Paul’s letters that Timothy may have been rebuffed or dissed by older men. Paul does not write to them; he writes to Timothy on how to get along with these leaders.
Leading is a delicate art and science in the secular world. In Christ’s church, leading is a holy endeavor.
As believers in any situation, our leading must not be the force of our position or personality nor simply because we possess bright young minds.
Paul understood the challenge of a younger person leading others. He installed Timothy (likely in his 40’s) over churches where the local elders were likely older. In that culture and context, older men were respected, looked up to and in a sense revered.
This is counter cultural – or more precisely “counter leadership cultural” for our time. But Paul’s instruction to Timothy is to be an example. Paul explains not only how to lead by example but the benefit that will occur over time.
1 Timothy 4:12 Let no one despise your youth; you should be an example to the believers in speech, in conduct, in love, in faith, in purity.
- in speech – what you say. Words are powerful. Are you flippant, snarky, sarcastic, cutting, or critical? We lead well when we are careful what we say and how we say it.
- in conduct – what you do. The axiom is true: people don’t hear what we say, they watch what we do. It can be as simple as opening a door for someone, helping another person, picking up trash, being calm when someone is angry. People see everything a leader does.
- in love – what you show. Do we truly love others, especially those who are difficult to love? As any “public” figure will tell you, unless you insulate yourself – which I don’t recommend — you are going to have some difficult and unlovely people confront you. To learn to see beyond the “attack” and see people as hurt, sad or more importantly, loved by Christ, a godly leader loves others.
- in faith – what you believe. Bright young minds have great “can do” ambition. Their fearlessness is admirable. But absent faith in Christ and faithfulness in living as a believer, it can be nothing more than the flesh. What do we believe about Christ’s work in our own lives? What about His work in the lives of others? In this sense, people can “see” our faith.
- in purity – what you intend. This one strikes hard. Even in the first century, purity was an issue. It may interest you the Greek word hagneia is brought into English as hygiene. To be an example in purity is to be morally pure or chaste, and it all begins in the mind. Where to you look? What images online catch your eyes? Are you a flirt? As clever as we may be, people can often read our intentions.
Paul continues and explains that as we are examples in these areas (along with other imperatives of sound teaching) that over time people will see progress. In fact, as we ask for Christ’s help in leading in this fashion, others will see it and the progress may be evident to all.