In April of 2016, I was ordained as a Southern Baptist pastor. I was 33 years old and began serving part-time at my church as an associate pastor to adults. By January of 2017, I was called to be the full-time Associate Pastor of Education at the same church, and I am currently still serving in that role. As a relatively young leader, I still need guidance. When I first started serving at my current church, my pastor walked me through the pastoral epistles of Paul. 2 Timothy has often been a go to book for me when it comes to reminding myself about why I do what I do. I often feel like young Timothy, and I often need the reminders of Paul to Timothy in this great letter to continue to grow. Here are 5 actions to continue to grow as a young leader from 2 Timothy that have helped me.
Delight in God and His Word Above all Else
In 2 Timothy 2:8, Paul reminds Timothy to not “be ashamed of the testimony about our Lord”. Again in verse 13 Paul says, “hold on to the pattern of sound teaching.” In order to grow as a young leader, you must have a burning desire for God’s Word. You must hunger and thirst for it. Never get over the gospel, and never forget the priority of the word in your life. At least three other times in 2 Timothy Paul reminds the young leader of the importance and priority of the gospel. God working through the power of His word is what drew me into the ministry, and His word will still be powerfully working when I’m gone.
Rely Fully on the Power of God
In chapter 1:8b, Paul exhorts Timothy to rely fully on the power of God. After all, it is He who has called us according to his purpose. He has created the work, we are walking in it. As a young leader, I must remember that this work that I do is God’s work. I just have the privilege of joining Him in it. When I first started at my church, I spent the first couple months trying to do it all myself. It sounds foolish, but it is so easy to forget that transformation is God’s work. So work hard but know nothing lasting truly happens without the power of God and the work of the Holy Spirit.
Continue to Disciple Others and Build Relationships
In 2 Timothy 2:2 Paul reminded Timothy that what Paul had entrusted to him he was to “commit to faithful men who will be able to teach others also.” Outside of Bible study and prayer, I feel I must spend most of my time connecting with my current leaders, recruiting new leaders, and building relationships with them all. I had to realize early on that I am not called to do all the ministry in my area, but rather I am called to equip the saints for the work of ministry. A young leader like myself has to make this a priority. We pastor people not programs. We have to spend time with our people, be vulnerable, and allow them to get to know us. We also have to prepare for a day when we are no longer serving in our current area of ministry. Someone has to follow you.
In the midst of discipling and building relationships, however, we must not forget that we are still disciples. We are still followers. As I disciple people, it is important to have people discipling me. I have some older, wiser men in my church who I lean on for this. They give me advice, mentor me, and pray for me. My senior pastor does this as well. As young leaders, we must submit ourselves to being discipled.
Avoid Foolish Disputes
Paul reminded Timothy in chapter 2 and verse 16 to “avoid irreverent, empty speech, for this will produce an even greater measure of godlessness”. This is a wise reminder to young leaders today as well. Often people in a church who seek change or who may be disgruntled with current leadership will try to sow seeds of change with new young leaders. In every church, there are people who have an agenda. They want to see certain things done a certain way, and often a new young leader provides them an opportunity to convince someone in leadership of their way of thinking. Paul tells Timothy to reject “foolish and ignorant disputes” (2 Timothy 2:23). I always hear people out, but I do it with discernment. But what it is never wise to do is to participate in gossip or slander involving your pastor or other leadership. According to Paul, this can only lead to godlessness.
Prepare for and Expect Difficult Times
Finally, Paul reminds Timothy that “difficult times will come in the last days.” (3:1). There will never be a time this side of eternity where the people of God are without enemies. All those who follow Christ Jesus will be persecuted. In the midst of this, Paul tells Timothy to “continue in what you have learned and firmly believe” (3:14). There will always be people, unfortunately, who turn aside from truth to follow lies. But we are called to be faithful, defend the gospel, and fulfill our ministry. Young leaders are often blindsided when opposition comes from somewhere they didn’t expect. Paul encourages us to press on. There is a lot at stake. And hopefully we can look back at the end our time of ministry on this earth and say with him, “I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith.” (4:7).
Fortunately, for me, I didn’t have a glamorized view of the ministry when I began my ministry journey. I had spent years in church leadership before being ordained. I was a Sunday school teacher, deacon, and served on several committees. I also had many close friends who were pastors. We often talked about the struggles of ministry and the effect is has on your family. I still lean on them for advice and mentoring today. That would be my final word of advice; find a circle of like-minded ministers from whom you can draw support and seek advice.
** Unless otherwise noted, all Scripture quotations are taken from the Holman Christian Standard Bible®, Copyright © 1999, 2000, 2002, 2003, 2009 by Holman Bible Publishers. Used by permission. Holman Christian Standard Bible®, Holman CSB®, and HCSB® are federally registered trademarks of Holman Bible Publishers.
Ryan is Associate Pastor of Education, First Baptist, Dickson, TN