Encouraging young men for ministry
ENCOURAGING YOUNG MEN FOR MINISTRY
Can we speak a word to a young man who is walking with Christ and has enough of an overflow to give to others?
Probably each of our churches has at least one young man who has shown some interest in the gospel ministry. How can we encourage them? How can pastors help them determine their call and if they are called, to get from Point A to Point Z? May I suggest three ways in which this may be done.
WE ENCOURAGE YOUNG MEN TO THE MINISTRY BY WHO WE ARE.
Who we are as pastors and men of God determines much of the vision that drives or deters young men for the gospel ministry. Jesus said as much in Luke 6:40: “A student is not above his teacher, but everyone who is fully trained will be like his teacher.” Pastors impact people who become, to some degree, like them. But pastor leaves a stamp upon his congregation, even as parents leave an indelible stamp upon their children.
Pastors with joy in the ministry are attractive and an adornment to the gospel. Young men see the quality of our lives and we are either attractive or repellent. Pastors who unthinkingly fall into “sour pity” Prrrray for me, brethren, the ministry is S0000 hard.”) should not be surprised that no one comes forward to preach the gospel out of that congregation.
Pastors with confidence in the gospel and the Holy Spirit motivate everyone, especially young men. Pastors who have unthinkingly fallen into “whining unbelief” (“We should not expect too much because Jesus said that in the last days things would get worse!”) should not be surprised that no young men ever think of giving up their small ambitions to preach the everlasting gospel. A “bunker mentality” attracts no one but paranoid, defeated people – mere survivalists. Martyn Lloyd-Jones was right when he said that for a minister to fail to have confidence in Christ and His gospel was sin.
Pastors who hold forth the greatness of Jesus Christ find young men attracted because Christ preached in the power of the Holy Spirit is so very attractive. He is eminently worthy to be proclaimed by our best efforts, even if no one believes or responds! Do our people sense that Christ is great and almost beyond words in our hearts and preaching?
WE ENCOURAGE YOUNG MEN TO THE MINISTRY BY WHAT WE SAY.
People need feedback. Pastors and elders are called by God to oversee the flock and make assessments about people’s development. Can we speak up to a young man who is making progress in his faith? Can we speak a word to a young man who is walking with Christ and has enough of an overflow to give to others? Can we speak to a young man who we notice is witnessing for Christ faithfully?
We encourage our young men when we tell them, “I know something of how you are doing spiritually and note how you give to others. You do this well.” Who else to give them positive feedback, if not their shepherds? Men need our encouragement.
We correct our young men when we tell them, “You could do this better.” If he reacts with rash pride, we have exposed something that needs work. If he responds with a teachable spirit and hunger and thirst for righteousness, we see something else valuable. Men need our correcting feedback.
We teach our young men when we tell them, “I noticed that you are doing such and such. That is good and I believe I can help you do it better. See this.” Apollos was gifted as a preacher but needed Aquila and Priscilla to come alongside and teach him the way more thoroughly. So does a wise pastor today.
We rebuke our young men strategically. Our perfect Master had 12 very fallible men. But He was not always rebuking them. He did rebuke them but it was usually for unbelief and pride. Be careful and thoughtful when you rebuke your men. Even when rebuked by His men, Jesus did not hotly respond and blister them with “Don’t you know who I am and who you are?!” Even as parents teach children by example in how they take rebuke and correction, so pastors teach their people. Peter never forgot some of his valuable object lessons (cf. I Pet. 5:1-5).
We amaze them when we tell them that we are praying for them. (And you had better pray for them if you tell them that.) Young men are often scattered and immature in their thoughts and dissemination of their energies. To know that an older man, their pastor, is praying for them personally is so encouraging. Pray regularly from the pulpit for God to raise up preachers and missionary church planters.
WE ENCOURAGE YOUNG MEN TO THE MINISTRY BY WHAT WE HAVE THEM TO DO.
Jesus taught that a disciple is both a follower and a learner. that means two things: one, the disciple is to be following Christ and learning from him. But it also means that human agents, God’s appointed under-shepherds, are used by God to train disciples. pastors with a heart to develop their men disciple them.
Jesus took his men with him. Alert pastors today will take young men with them almost everywhere. Never go anywhere by yourself. Take someone. The give and take as you both ride in the car, praying with you, seeing how you respond to what happens when you reach your destination become imprinted upon our men’s hearts and minds. Notice how often the disciples were with Jesus in prickly situations. Tell your young man to be quiet and pray and act like a fly on the wall while you minister and then debrief like crazy on the way home.
Jesus gave His men basic and sometimes menial things to do. “Go get some food in Sychar while I rest by this well.” “Go and get a donkey for me to ride on.” Such things do not take great theological sophistication but they do require faithfulness. And that is a prerequisite for a disciple and a preacher of the gospel. If a man cannot do basic, menial things well and with a good attitude, then why enlarge his sphere of mediocrity? Jesus said in Luke 16 that those who are faithful in little things will be faithful also in much and those who are unrighteous in little things will be unrighteous also in much. Don’t give a man more to do if he is not doing the basics well and humbly.
Jesus also gave His men low-visibility things to do. He sent them out two by two away from Him and the crowds and had them preach. Today, preaching in nursing homes, speaking to the youth group, speaking to the college and young singles group, speaking to local service clubs like the Rotary or Kiwanis, in the local jail or similar places is not as demanding in some ways as preaching in the local church. Let them speak at your prayer meeting or give their testimony at a youth retreat.
Give your men assignments of things you want them to do while away from you. Give them good books to read. Biographies, church history, revival accounts, book of applied doctrine, books on marriage and family and singleness are good places to start. Have them read the first volume of the biography of Martyn Lloyd-Jones. Have them read biographies of preachers and missionaries like Paton, Judson, Spurgeon, Edwards, Brainerd, “Five Pioneer Missionaries,” and other worthies. Have them read applied doctrine by Jerry Bridges, Sinclair Ferguson, Peter Jeffery, J.I. Packer, etc. If men do not show themselves faithful or if they respond negatively to what they read, then you had better find out early.
Identifying and helping young men in our congregations to lift their eyes beyond the mundane, to see the glories of preaching the everlasting gospel of Jesus Christ, is a noble task. May our Lord give us personally attractive lives and discerning minds and loving hearts and encouraging lips to attract and then motivate men in our churches to give up their small ambitions.
Rather than dream about how they might put their company or their career on the map, maybe they should be challenged to dream about putting Christ on the map in fulfilment of Rev. 5:9, that people from every tribe and tongue and people group on the face of the earth will stand before His throne in their native dress and tongue and praise our great Savior.
Steve Martin is pastor of Heritage Church of Fayetteville, Georgia. [Reprinted by permission from the Association of Reformed Baptist Churches of America Update, Vol. 19 No. 1]
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