Thursday, February 26, 2015

For Men Under 40 Years Old

I relocated my family to Phoenix, Arizona when I was 36 years old. I moved to Phoenix with the idea that I would impact this city in ways no one before me had. If this sounds a little arrogant, it was. I believed I knew what was wrong with previous church planting efforts and I had great plans on how to improve upon the process. I had the world by the tail and I was going to be a trend setter. My mentors were mostly my age and they were cheering me on. Success was around the corner.

Twenty years later, I believe I have been successful. However, the success I envisioned 20 years ago is very different than I had thought. Once we settled in Phoenix, the church we planted grew very quickly and mostly with people who had never had a relationship with Jesus. It grew just enough to give me a sense of accomplishment. But the real journey to success was about to begin. 

My pride regarding my success required severe breaking by the Spirit of God. I had to come face to face with my arrogance and King Jesus to shape me into His image. Stripped of my vision of greatness, God transformed me into Christ’s concept of success - a humble state of servanthood (Matthew 20:20-28).  As I confessed my self-centeredness, I desired to learn to lead the way Jesus lead His followers. I learned several lessons on leading as a younger men from Titus 2:6-10.

Here are a few of the lessons from Titus 2:6-10. My hope is that young men under 40 will apply them to their own story. If these few short lessons are of some benefit to you, I will have accomplished my goal for this article.

In Paul's letter to Titus, he is concerned that the church to be strong, mature and fighting against false leaders who claimed to know more than they did (Titus 1:16, 2:15, 3:3-6). In the middle of his letter to Titus, Paul addressed the young men of Crete with powerful insights for Titus to share with them so they would be strong and mature in their faith in Jesus.

Paul begins by instructing Titus to 'urge' the young men to be “sensible”. To be sensible is to be self-controlled, not impulsive, arrogant or running unchecked in the direction their heart is leading. I believe it is very normal for young men to see themselves as warriors, capable of anything and of doing it with passion. It is this passion which moves younger men to pick up a cause or to join the military in order to make a difference.

What if young men could have the attitude of a warrior and yet be self-controlled or sensible? To be sensible would be to seek out godly council and apply that wisdom instead of thinking they know better. This requires young men to willfully choose to submit to older godly men who will help harness their warrior like attitude to learn submission to King Jesus and love others more than themselves.

Young men need to be 'urged' to take on this controlled submission as warriors to King Jesus and His ways. In order to urge young men to be sensible, there must be a deep relationship with seasoned leaders who will encourage them to greatness. Young men need seasoned mentors to point out their strengths and encourage them forward as well as love them enough to point out where they are lacking in submission or self-control to the King. How many pitfalls would be avoided if this type of relationship was more common. It requires humility on both the seasoned veteran and young warrior. The seasoned veterans need to humbly lay down his warrior status and trade it in for being a mentor. The young men need to humbly recognize that although they have the strength to push through, they need wisdom their life experiences have not yet afforded them.

As a young man beginning a new church, I was not always “sensible”. I would often say things impetuously just to be provocative. I would use sharp rhetoric regarding church structures that I have since had to seek forgiveness for in my later years. Having seasoned men around when we are young is helpful so that as young men we are exposed to mature responses and faithful obedience. 

Paul then turns his attention to Titus; who himself was likely a younger man, and instructs him to be an example of “good deeds”. In Titus 1:16 we learn that some poor leaders professed “…to know God, but by their deeds they deny Him, being detestable and disobedient and worthless for any good deed.” In order to be an example of good deeds, one must learn to put others first; to seek what is best for them. Young men are more likely to boast about their abilities and have a “do it myself” attitude. When we are in strong relationships with seasoned veterans, putting other’s needs before their own, dreams begin to emerge. As young men begin to learn this valuable life trait, they become more powerful than they had ever imagined.

Young men need to have purity in doctrine. Doctrine is a set of truths about God, Christ, the Holy Spirit, etc., that effect how we live. Doctrines are not simply knowledge, they cause transformation of our souls. Having a correct or pure doctrine is vital for young men. A simple reading of Titus teaches us that correct doctrine is more about how ones life measures against the principles of Scripture rather than having clear understanding of theology. Both are important but living out what correct doctrine requires is better than simply knowing the Word. "Faith without works is dead.” Young men must apply themselves to having a correct or pure understanding of the Scriptures which becomes a life-long endeavor.

Young men should be dignified. It is a holy call of God on young men to take seriously their handling of the Scriptures. A stout submission to the authority of the Scriptures is vital to learn as young as possible. Following through on responsibilities taken up or given to young men should be done thoroughly and thoughtfully. Listening to other’s concerns and creating an atmosphere of unity is vital for communities of saints. 

Young men should also be careful in their speech. Our words are important and set an example for others to follow. Do our words honor and encourage people? Words are powerful and have the power of life and death (Proverbs 18:21). Our words are to draw others to a more holy way of livings (Colossians 4:6). This is such a serious trait to develop that Paul teaches us that we should “…not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen.” (Ephesians 4:29).

These are some qualities that young men should be urged to have: sensible, good deeds, pure doctrine, careful in their speech. If more young men would strive to gain these traits and draw close to seasoned veterans in their following of Christ, how strong would our churches be? 

If you are under 40 years old, embrace your strength and warrior like abilities and learn to harness them sensibly in relationship with a few seasoned veterans. You’ll find yourself more powerful than you can ever accomplish purely on your youthfulness alone.

I would love to hear your thoughts on what I have written so jump into the conversation!