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Many of us who graduate from Bible College are quite young. I often preached as a student minister (going through Bible College) or as an assistant minister (after Bible College) while I was still in my twenties. Many folk I preached to were two or three times my age. They could have been my parents or even my grandparents! How could I have the gall to tell my grandmother how to suck eggs?! Surely the people I was speaking to had far more life experience than I did. How could I tell them how to live?
A favourite verse for us young graduates no doubt is 1 Timothy 4:12, which says: “Let no one despise you for your youth, but set the believers an example in speech, in conduct, in love, in faith, in purity.” Yes, comforting words: “Let no one despise you for your youth”! Timothy was young. Paul was aware of the problem. He asked Timothy not to let it trouble him, and not to let any one else trouble him over it. Timothy was to set an example in godliness and get on with his job as a pastor. But how can Paul say this? How can someone in their twenties teach folk in their eighties how to live?
The following verse gives us an important clue: “Until I come devote yourself to the public reading of Scripture, to exhortation, to teaching.” Timothy’s job was to teach the Bible. His job was not to teach what he knew about life from his limited life experience. His job was not to give his own personal opinions about life. His job was to teach the Bible. Our authority under which we all sit as Christians is the Bible. When we listen to a pastor teach, we are listening to the Word of God, not his life experience. Therefore there is no problem at all in having a pastor who is in his twenties.
If a young pastor can teach the Bible well, we must not despise his youth. We must listen carefully to the Word of God, accept it as it is – the words of the living God, and obey it.
Great point, Martin. If someone preaches the Bible and not life experience, age is barely an issue.
However it’s also important I feel for leaders to bring life experience into their teaching as it helps with application and the audience connecting with the speaker. I think a leader is more effective in his/her teaching when they are able to periodically highlight examples in their life.
Clearly though, the teaching as you said it Martin, has it’s authority grounded in scripture, and as a result is timeless.
If preaching was just a matter of delivering lectures on a set text book, your conclusion is perfectly logical and there is no more to say. But I think the work of a pastor goes well beyond this, and it is not a matter of age or life experience, or teaching gift primarily. As a twenty something graduate I remember discovering Robert Murray MCheyne, and being moved by how much he crammed into a few short years. For anyone not familiar with this saint, read this article.
Like some other notable young saints, he had a savour of Christ about him, was serious about Christ, and spent his best hours in prayer and died young.
Being a Pastor was not a career for Robert, it was something that consumed him, and the power of his preaching was not logic, it was his secret life.
Hi SDG. I agree with the tenor of what you are saying here. Of course preaching is not just delivering a lecture on a set text. Godliness and the pastoral example are very important. That should come out in one’s preaching. I am more thinking of objections even still to someone’s age when they preach. Folk think of life experience, and lack of it, so that even if someone is godly and can expound the Scriptures well they may not be given a proper hearing. The same may be true for anyone who is younger in age than those who are listening. So I am aiming to shift the focus of authority to the Bible, where it should be, and not to the person’s own life. Of course I’m not saying that their life is not important at all, it’s just of SECONDARY importance.
I understand the issue you raise, and I agree that it isn’t right to dismiss trust because of the age of the messenger. However, as someone said somewhere (possibly Spurgeon), we are not sent out with packages of truth to deliver to others, the power and consequence of the truth must be seen in the messenger or it is very likely to be dismissed. Paul’s charge to Timothy on 1 Tim 4:16 speaks to this. RMM is an example of a young man who had little life experience, but his life and his love meant that his people welcomed the word from the minister who loved them and prayed for them. In a day when many treat the ministry as a profession or a career, it does need to be said that God’s servants are not to ‘peddle the word’ (2Cor2:17). Those who handle precious truth (no matter what their age) must adorn it in their own lives (it isn’t a ‘given’, nor is the lack of it to be excused on account of the fact that they are handling God’s truth).
I think the point I am making (which complements yours I believe) is that it is important to encourage a young pastor (as Paul does) to take away all grounds of criticism from those who despise youth, and thus expose that criticism as without foundation. If there is a fragrance of Christ in the life and (competent) ministry, inexperience is simply not an issue. However, if there is the latter without the former, then this may present a stumbling block for some.
Yes, I very much agree with you. I guess we are both arguing against different things. I am conscious that many older Christians seem to equate such godliness of life with age in itself. This is clearly not necessarily the case! Therefore they would rule out the possibility almost of a pastor in his 20s being able to know the word and live it out, by the very fact of his age. They are equating “life experience” with godliness. I’ll stick by my statement though that the primary thing is indeed Bible teaching. If one is teaching the Bible well, I can’t imagine how you couldn’t be listening to what it says yourself, and being transformed by that. The privilege of being a pastor is that we are paid to delve deeply into the Word of God, which is a great blessing, and one would hope would greatly change our own lives!
Every (Roman) road was built with two ditches (one on each side), and when I learned to drive, I spent my first lesson driving from ditch to ditch, trying very hard to avoid one, but overcompensating and nearly collecting the other!
Age has little to do with maturity, and it is very sad to see aged people with only a little.
I could not agree with you more about the privilege of being paid to study the word, but exposure to the word is no guarantee that it will have a transforming effect on a life. We have an adversary who has a much greater understanding of scripture than we are likely to have, but it has not done anything in his case. Handling holy things certainly brings a greater responsibility, but it in no way assures a holy life. That is why Paul says to Timothy ‘watch your LIFE and doctrine’. Some ignore the first part, and it has a profoundly negative effect on their ‘ministry’.
By the way, on a previous topic, have you read Spurgeons great little book ‘Only a Prayer Meeting’? There is a lot of encouragement (and good material) there.
Amanda C. McNeil
I love being a young pastor! It encourages the young people around me to know they don’t have to be “boring” or suit-wearing or KJV reading to have a thriving, passionate relationship with God and fulfill their destiny.
It is of value for young people in ministry to have mentors and be open to older generations pouring into their lives. However, just because someone is young doesn’t mean they don’t have life experience. Unfortunately many middle schoolers that I know are dealing with life issues that I did not have to deal with until I was in college. People all have some sort of experience to bring to the table. I also love that I get to learn from the young adults and students that I do life with. You can learn from anyone, no matter their age.