Titus 2:1-6 “But speak thou the things which become sound doctrine: That the aged men be sober, grave, temperate, sound in faith, in charity, in patience. The aged women likewise, that they be in behaviour as becometh holiness, not false accusers, not given to much wine, teachers of good things; That they may teach the young women to be sober, to love their husbands, to love their children, To be discreet, chaste, keepers at home, good, obedient to their own husbands, that the word of God be not blasphemed. Young men likewise exhort to be sober minded.”
Recently, I found myself in a conversation about “young peoples’ meeting.” The observation was made that these are a rather recent phenomenon having begun in earnest within the last 25 years or so. For those of us past the age of 40 we recall young speakers being given the night of New Year’s Eve at the annual Oklahoma New Year’s Meeting – a tradition Lynwood relished for years, one he knew firsthand from his days as a young aspiring preacher. Otherwise, young people and old alike frequented what we merely referred to as “gospel meetings.” Young men were often called on to lead songs, but the young people were never put in positions of leadership. Congregations rarely placed the burden of leadership or authority on the shoulders of young people.
We have unwittingly placed a danger upon our young people – the danger of being in authority. We’ve sometimes put them in positions for which they’re ill equipped. This certainly isn’t a condemnation of so-called “young speakers’ meetings” or “young peoples’ meetings.” It is, however, an expression of concern for putting young people in positions of leadership for which they aren’t ready.
I applaud the older, wiser heads who protected us when my generation was growing up. They knew we were not mature enough, or knowledgeable enough to take on the mantle of leadership. Somewhere along the way, the older folks sat back and decided it was time to put that mantle on a generation lacking experience, wisdom and knowledge. It was unwise of the older generation to do that. It hasn’t served to help the novices (which all of us were at one time) develop into mature Christians. Rather, it has served to harm their spiritual development and oftentimes, resulted in a rebellion against the standards of God’s Word.
How do we help young people, or any novice in the faith, grow to maturity? Biblical principles show us the way.
Older people are given the responsibility to teach the younger. There are 2 obligations given: 1) to the older to teach and 2) to the younger to learn. If the older refuse to teach properly, then we can hardly place blame on the younger for failing to learn. It’s time for the older folks to look in the mirror. Too often the older retire from leading, teaching and bearing the responsibility of helping the novices mature.
While it is entirely possible for an older person to hold on to the past and refuse to pass on the mantle (for whatever reason), it’s necessary that the younger generation be taught responsible service to the Lord in the local congregation. Age catches up to all of us, if we live long enough. Our memory, our abilities and our physical strength sometimes hinder us from serving as we once did. That should help spur all of us to teach and mentor the young while we’re able – and so they’ll be prepared for service when our abilities wind down.
Young people need instruction. Older women are obligated by the scriptures to teach the younger women. Older men are obligated to instruct the younger men. Passing on the Truth of the Gospel to younger generations is the duty of every responsible adult Christian.
So, what can we do to improve?
One, the older generation has to be grounded in the Gospel. If we’re not devoted to the Gospel, then we can hardly be successful at teaching our young people. If we’re not living for the Lord in the way befitting age and wisdom, then we’re unable to have the positive influence demanded of us.
Two, the older generation can seize every opportunity to help the younger people – in every way. Preparation for godly service is needed. We need to teach our young people how to study the Bible. We need to teach our young people what God demands of them. We need to ground our young people in the first principles of the doctrine of Christ. We need to instruct our young people in Christian behavior. We need to pray for our young people. We need to lead them by example.
Three, we need to give our young people opportunities to serve. Young women need to learn how to cook and take food to those in need in our congregations. They need to learn how to visit the sick with their mothers, grandmothers or older women of the congregation. They need to learn their role in their own future Christian home. They need to learn that their role in the Church is vital to the strength of the congregation.
Young men need to learn public service, if they’ve got that ability. If not, they need to learn what they can do. Church buildings need to be cleaned, lawns need to be mowed, sick need to be visited, those less fortunate need to be cared for, songs need to be led, sermons prepared and delivered…on and on it goes.
In both cases, young women or men need to be involved, but not relied upon for leadership. It’s a mistake for a young person to be thrust into a position prematurely. I have seen too many young people overtaken with arrogance and conceit because a congregation thought too highly of them and their ability. While our brotherhood has many talented young people, we must avoid placing the mantle of leadership on them too soon. Maturity and sober-mindedness are required before a person can responsibly accept leadership.
It does take time. There is no substitute for the passage of time, but the mere passage of time doesn’t necessarily result in maturity or sobriety. We have to make wise use of that time to teach our young people what it means to serve God responsibly. We have to make wise use of that time to show them the things others showed us. Yes, we ought to remind them that we were once young, and inexperienced, and uninformed. Somebody taught us and now we want to teach them.
Accountability is central to responsible growth. If we neglect to hold our young people accountable to us (as parents) and to God, then we will fail them completely. We should expect hard work and good effort from our young people. We should expect them to behave as Christians, no matter the situation or circumstance. We should correct them when they need it. We should encourage them to serve loyally in the local congregation. We need to teach them the importance of their own Christian influence. And brethren, we should watch for their souls by guarding them from poor associations, both in and out of the Church.
Young people are subject to pressures and temptations somewhat unique to youth. We need to be mindful of this and help them through the difficult years of growing up. Subjects like dating only in the Church, how to behave on dates, how to behave in the public worship, how to answer those who will criticize their dress, how to talk to their friends about the gospel and a host of other subjects should be easily discussed with young people. No, every older person won’t be able to successfully affect every young person – but every young person needs one or more older persons who can and will openly discuss things that will help them grow in faithfulness to God.
We owe it to our children to save them. We’ll never save them unless we instill the gospel into their hearts. They must establish their own faith based on the Word of God.
Deut. 6:7 “And thou shalt teach them diligently unto thy children, and shalt talk of them when thou sittest in thine house, and when thou walkest by the way, and when thou liest down, and when thou risest up.”
Their time for leadership will come soon enough. Without the proper preparation our congregations and brotherhood will suffer. Without sufficient preparation they will not be rooted and grounded in the Truth. We owe them better preparation so their spiritual future can be bright for the Lord.
As they prove themselves responsible in small things we’re able to pass on to them larger things. Step by step we help them reach their full potential and spiritual maturity. We guide them and work hard for their success – because their success becomes our success. They become objects of our pride, rightfully so.
May the Lord bless our young people with wisdom to always live for Him. May He bless the older people with the wisdom to teach the younger the ways of the Lord. And may God bless all of us to live until the very end of our lives in faithful service.