More Principles for Discipling Younger Men

Note: This is part 3 of 3 of a series, “Discipling Younger Men.”

Last week, we looked at five principles for discipling younger men. Here are five more to end this brief look at how an older man can disciple younger men.

Teach younger men the Word of God, encourage them to uphold it, and warn them of what happens should they fail.

Paul bookended 1 Timothy with admonitions to Timothy to uphold the word of God, complete with warnings of those who had not done so and had rejected the faith (1 Tim 1:18–20; 6:20–21).

We might expect Paul to tell anyone these things and especially Timothy. But more than that, the references above include the use of Timothy’s name after Paul’s initial greeting (cf. 1 Tim 1:2). Paul made an emphatic personal point by calling Timothy out by name to heed his admonitions.

Don’t assume that conviction comes by osmosis. Sometimes a powerful, penetrating, and heartfelt admonition from an older, loving Christian man to a younger, teachable man will make an indelible mark on his soul. It may be that this admonition will be the very means God uses in encouraging the young man to persevere when he finds it difficult to serve.

Show younger men Christian love.

“My true child” (1 Tim 1:2), “my beloved child” (2 Tim 1:2), “I long to see you, that I may be filled with joy” (2 Tim 1:4)—these were not mere formalities. Paul loved Timothy deeply and let him know it. Timothy’s tears tell us that he deeply loved Paul as well (2 Tim 1:4).

Discipleship is not a rigid, scheduled thing to be communicated as a master to his pupil. The bond of Christ is a bond of love, and to pass the doctrine and practice of the faith to a younger man should naturally create a deep and lasting relationship. If you don’t communicate your Christian affection for those who are longing for it, they will gladly run to those who do.

Once a younger man is responsible enough, give him tasks of his own.

After being expelled from Thessalonica, Paul sent Timothy to minister in his stead (1 Thess 3:2, 6 with Acts 17:14–15; 18:5). Paul sent Timothy to Corinth, knowing that they would be disappointed not to have Paul himself (1 Cor 16:8–11). Paul sent Timothy to Ephesus to minister to a situation that involved false teachers and maybe even the discipline of elders (1 Tim 1:3–4; 5:19–20).

Sometimes we want everything to be done our own way, and so we do it ourselves. Not only does this mindset keep opportunities away from eager, young men who want to minister, but it also keeps people from receiving the ministry from these younger men. It may even quench their desire to serve, and when the time comes to hand a ministry over, the young men will have no desire to take the reins or may have left for other fields to labor. There may be some risk involved, but if carefully done, delegating and giving ministry to young men will multiply the work of Christ, giving God all the greater glory.

If necessary, encourage others to let the younger men serve.

Paul gave a firm word to Corinth to accept Timothy in his absence (1 Cor 16:10). His youth and simply not being Paul (who they really wanted to come) may have otherwise provoked his rejection.

While we do not want to be “lawnmower parents” to our spiritual children by removing every obstacle in their way, there are times where it may be helpful to step in and create opportunities for ministry through a word of recommendation. A sure word from an older Christian opens a door to ministry better than the word of the young man himself, which carries the risk of seeming self-serving.

Remember, younger men will disciple younger men just as you discipled them.

Paul selflessly served the church, and Timothy ended up loving people just like Paul did (Phil 2:19–22). He even shared Paul’s resolve, being willing to serve even if it meant going to prison (Heb 13:23; cf. 2 Tim 1:8).

If you do not disciple young men, they will not disciple young men, leaving every man unable to disciple anyone else—the exact opposite of how to obey 2 Tim 2:2. But, if you disciple young men well, Lord willing, they will disciple just the same.

Summary

Everyone needs a Paul, and we ourselves should grow from being a Timothy into being a Paul to others. Hopefully, these ten principles have been helpful, as I know they have been for me. May God bless you as men (and women) with a fruitful ministry of discipleship!

Principles for Discipling Younger Men

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.

Paul and Timothy: A Prime Example for Discipleship 

Note: This is part 1 of 3 of a series, “Discipling Younger Men.”

This purpose of this post and the text two and is to encourage Christian men to reach out and disciple younger men. As to what we mean by “discipling younger men,” I hope to encourage us in ministering to young men in the church who are noticeably younger in age (i.e., probably younger than 18 years old) and have not yet reached the point where they can confidently make disciples on their own. But we won’t stop there—I hope to encourage us to disciple these young men further as they grow into being Christian men who in turn disciple others just the same.

While many are familiar with the Pastoral Epistles and have some idea of the relationship between Timothy and Paul, I never tire of looking at how the older Paul discipled the younger Timothy. Their discipleship relationship makes for a prime example for our study.

After getting a rough idea of the ages of Paul and Timothy, we will attempt to do a chronological walk through their relationship, looking more through the eyes of Timothy than Paul, and gather principles for discipling younger men along the way.1 

The Ages of Paul and Timothy

Paul called himself “an old man” (presbytēs)2 in the sixth verse of Philemon, a letter written in AD 60, indicating that he was 60 years old or older at the time.3 About 30 years earlier, he was probably 30 years old when Luke described him as “a young man” (neanias), a term that could range from 20 to 40 years old.4 He was converted at this time (Acts 9:1–19a) and then spent roughly two decades in missionary ministry before Timothy joined him in Acts 16:1–5.

When we first see Timothy in Acts 16:1–5, Paul is traveling through Lystra during his second missionary journey in AD 50–52 (Acts 15:40–18:22). Paul is about 50 years old, and Timothy’s age is not described. We do find, however, in 1 Timothy, written about AD 65, that Paul told Timothy to let no man despise his “youth” (1 Tim 4:12; neotēs), a word indicating Timothy was probably maybe 30 to 35 years old.5 Timothy would therefore have been about 20 years old when he joined Paul in Acts 16 and was born around AD 30.

Digging further, there seems to be enough from Scripture to say that Timothy at least knew who Paul was by the time they met in Acts 16. Paul had previously made disciples in Lystra towards the end of his first missionary journey in AD 47–49 (Acts 14:7–23; cf. 13:1–14:28), which probably included Timothy’s grandmother Lois and mother Eunice —they had been teaching Timothy the Scriptures since childhood and most likely believed the gospel when the apostle Paul came through their city, preaching that Jesus was the Son of God (cf. 2 Tim 1:5; 3:15).6 While there may not have been much of a personal relationship between the two (if any at all), it is quite possible that Timothy was in his mid to late teens when he first heard about Paul. After all, the apostle’s reputation would have included being stoned and left for dead after preaching in Timothy’s city (Acts 14:19–20).

Having explored the ages of Paul and Timothy, as best we can tell, Paul was about 30 years older than Timothy. Paul was somewhere in his late 40s when he first came to Lystra, and Timothy was in his mid to late teens. When Paul recruited Timothy in Acts 16, Paul was about 50, and Timothy was about 20. As we will see, this age difference made for a natural father/son discipleship relationship that would last until Paul went to glory. Perhaps this relationship meant all the more to Timothy since his own father was not a believer (cf. Acts 16:1).

Come back next week, and we’ll see the first of ten principles for discipleship in observing the relationship between Paul and Timothy in Scripture.

  1. The dating scheme that follows is approximate and not precise and comes from my accumulated study of the life of Paul and various books of the Bible. Exact precision is not necessary for our study, though we do at least want to have a good idea of the ages of Timothy and Paul at the outset (see below). Perhaps the resources I have leaned on most are the following: William W. Combs, “Life & Ministry of Paul: Class Notes” (Allen Park, MI: Detroit Baptist Theological Seminary, 2007); D. A. Carson and Douglas J. Moo. An Introduction to the New Testament (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2005); and Robert E. Picirilli, Paul the Apostle (Chicago, IL: Moody Press, 1986 and 2017). []
  2. All Scripture quotations are from the ESV. []
  3. Picirilli, Paul the Apostle (2017), 18–19. []
  4. Ibid. []
  5. William D. Mounce, Pastoral Epistles (WBC 46; Dallas, TX: Word, 2000), 258–59, explores the meaning of neotēs in biblical and extrabiblical literature, showing it can be used to describe either young children or even someone into their thirties or forties. He puts Timothy “in his late twenties to mid thirties” when he received 1 Timothy in AD 62. []
  6. Paul said in 2 Tim 3:15 that he had been schooled in the sacred writings since “childhood” (2 Tim 3:15; brephos), a word that has the idea of infancy In every other NT instance always refers to a “baby” or an “infant” (Luke 1:41, 44; 2:12, 16; 18:15; Acts 7:19; 1 Pet 2:2), whether still in or just out of the womb. []

Two Illustrations of Personal Discipleship

Discipleship involves teaching one another to observe all that Christ commands us to do (Matt 28:20). This takes place through the formal preaching and teaching of God’s Word when the assembly has gathered together. The New Testament illustrates other ways that discipleship can take place as well.

One such illustration is how Paul discipled Aquila and Priscilla. While in Corinth, Paul found this couple and “stayed with them and worked, for they were tentmakers by trade” (Acts 18:3). They ministered together in Corinth where Paul taught them and the believers in Corinth for eighteen months (Acts 18:11). One can easily assume that Paul had many conversations with them about God’s Word while making tents together. They were privileged to hear his teaching as well. In short, they were discipled.

After this, Paul traveled with Aquila and Priscilla to Ephesus, left the couple there, and continued his travels (Acts 20:18–23). At this point, we see another illustration of personal discipleship. Aquila and Priscilla heard some bold preaching by a man named Apollos. He was eloquent, knew the Scriptures well, and spoke with great fervency (Acts 18:24–25). However, his knowledge of Christ was incomplete. Aquila and Priscilla “took him aside and explained to him the way of God more accurately” (Acts 18:26). Briefly put, they discipled him. And what was the result? He showed from the Scriptures that Jesus was the Messiah and “greatly helped those who through grace had believed” (Acts 18:24–28).

We can never do without the regular preaching and teaching of God’s Word. We must also remember, however, that discipleship is personal and can take place apart from the weekly assembly of believers. Who are you discipling today?