Note: This is part 2 of 3 of a series, “Discipling Younger Men.”
Last week, we explored the ages of Timothy and Paul. They were about 30 years apart, being 50 and 20 when they came together for ministry.
With the relationship of Paul and Timothy in mind, let’s walk through their lives as Scripture records them and see the first five of ten principles for discipling younger men.
Be the kind of man that younger men would want to follow.
As mentioned above, Acts 14:7–23 is part of Paul’s first missionary trip (Acts 13:1–14:28), which took place approximately AD 47–49. Timothy was in his mid to late teens when Paul first came to Lystra, and even before that, Timothy had been raised on the Scriptures.
When Paul came to Lystra the first time, he was stoned and left for dead. He got up and returned to the city and kept on preaching to a handful of cities until he returned to Antioch to report on his ministry (Acts 14:7–28; cf. 13:1–3).
Timothy likely knew who Paul was from Paul’s first time to Lystra. Whether directly or indirectly, he gave him and his family the gospel and almost died for doing so. Imagine the impact that Paul’s testimony would have had upon Timothy. We should strive to be as steadfast as Paul in our own faith so that younger men would want to follow us.
Minister to the whole family.
Paul knew Timothy’s grandmother and mother by name, their faith, and how they had trained up Timothy (2 Tim 1:5; 3:15). Already holding fast to the OT, it is no surprise to see that they gladly believed in its fulfillment in Jesus when Paul came to preach the gospel.
Paul’s ministry to the whole family made it an easy “yes” to answer when he would ask for Timothy to accompany him later. He needed no references, and he was not interested in only those who could help him. As he ministered to all, the opportunity to disciple Timothy came his way. Seek to minister to the whole family, and the Lord just might give you unique opportunities to disciple younger men.
Be faithful over time to increase your opportunities for discipling younger men.
Previously in his teens in Acts 14:7–23, we now find Timothy about 20 years old in Acts 16:1–2 at the beginning of Paul’s second missionary journey (Acts 15:40–18:22; AD 50–52). Timothy had acquired a commendable testimony among the Christians in multiple locations. Lystra and Iconium were about 18 miles apart.
Paul returned to Lystra in Acts 16:1–2 to strengthen the church that he had planted (cf. Acts 15:41). His faithfulness over time yielded an opportunity to see that some of the disciples had matured, and for Timothy in particular, to the point of being responsible enough to join his missionary endeavors.
As God blesses your ministry in maturing the church, it may snowball into something greater than you anticipated. As families grow together, your ministry to them will have an impact in the home, potentially providing a number of younger men to disciple in time.
Intentionally disciple young men who will respond to your discipleship.
Paul wanted a third missionary to join him and Barnabas for his second missionary journey, which created a sharp disagreement over taking John Mark who had deserted them earlier (Acts 13:5, 13; cf. 12:12). Barnabas thus took John Mark to Cyprus, and Paul took Silas to visit the churches from his first missionary journey (Acts 15:37–41). While John Mark had lost some points with Paul, he would return to faithfulness and recover his testimony over time (2 Tim 4:11). Not every disappointment is a permanent disappointment. For the time being, however, Paul wanted a coworker that he could trust.
The well-recommended Timothy would be that coworker in Acts 16:1–5. It was probably at this time that Paul and others laid their hands on Timothy in ordaining him for gospel ministry (cf. 1 Tim 4:14; 2 Tim 1:6). Paul’s references to Timothy as his son and child in the faith imply a father/son relationship and Timothy’s obvious desire to follow Paul (1 Tim 1:2; 2 Tim 1:2; 1 Cor 4:17; Phil 2:22).
Sometimes you get a John Mark, and sometimes you get a Timothy. It’s hard to know exactly how a young man will develop in time, but we should disciple when the desire is there.
Involve younger men in your ministry.
Paul did not merely tell Timothy what to do and what he needed to know. He actively involved him in ministry as they visited and strengthened the churches (Acts 16:3–5). This meant opportunities to preach and speak (e.g., 2 Cor 1:19).
Not every young man is gifted to speak, but every young man is gifted to serve in some way (1 Pet 4:10–11). Whether the ministry to others is a formal program in the church or not, be creative in involving younger men in your ministries.