Don’t let anyone look down on you because you are young, but set an example for the believers in speech, in life, in love, in faith and in purity.
1 Timothy 4:12
Paul gives Timothy, a young leader, some powerful encouragement in this passage. First, he tells Timothy not to let anyone dismiss or despise him because he is young. Throughout the history of the world, there has been a tendency to dismiss younger people as significant leaders or influencers. This happens both in and outside of the church. I have experienced this firsthand (in earlier days, of course) and I’ve seen this during the years I’ve worked with students. Paul knew this, so he challenged Timothy, and today’s young leaders in the church, to step up to the challenge to lead regardless of age.
Now, if I were Timothy, the first question I would ask is “How? How do I do this? How do I keep people from looking down on me and dismissing me as a leader?” Paul continues on to answer this question. He tells Timothy to set an example for others to follow–specifically, in his words, in how he lives, in how he loves, in how he trusts and in what he allows into his mind and life.
Set an example for others.
Live as a pattern for others to follow.
Live life in such a way that people look at you and want to pattern their lives after you because they catch a glimpse of Jesus.
This is a great definition of Christian leadership. In 1 Corinthians 11:1, Paul puts it this way: “Follow my example, as I follow the example of Christ.”
The key for young leaders in the church, and ultimately every leader in the church, is to follow Jesus. This seems ridiculously simple; and it is, in theory. The bottom line is that we can’t lead people where we ourselves have never been. To lead people in the church is to lead them to Jesus. In order to do that, we need to be following Him. When we are doing this, day in and day out, we will live lives that others want to pattern their lives after. This is Christ-centered, God-glorifying leadership.