Although I am over thirty years old, married, with four children, some of my older brother’s childhood friends still call me “Lil Rel” (my brother’s name is Jerel). It was the name I was affectionately called as I tailed along with my brother’s crew around Linden, NJ. Yet, I wasn’t disrespected as one might expect. I was made part of the group; one of the guys. Though it also meant I had to keep up with their pace while biking or hold my own while playing basketball. But that combination of affirmation and responsibility helped me to realize my capabilities and helped me mature as well. In our text for this morning, Timothy, the youngest on the missionary team including Paul and Silvanus, is sent to Thessalonica to minister to this Gentile church plant. Timothy – and Paul’s interaction with him – serve as an example for how we as the church can encourage the younger within our own congregation. It should be noted that Timothy was not a teenager or “college aged” disciple at this point. It is very possible that Timothy was in his thirties yet was younger in age and in Christian experience than Paul or Silvanus. Therefore, the comments below are not only helpful for the youth of the church, but also for newer believers in the faith.
First, the Apostle Paul serves as a huge encouragement to Timothy in that he calls Timothy a “fellow worker” (1 Thessalonians 3:2) with he and Silvanus. Timothy is not an underling or a minister that is “lesser than”. The Thessalonians would have for sure wanted to see Paul once again for their encouragement, but Paul lifts Timothy in a way that assures the Thessalonian church plant that they will receive the same ministry they would get from him. As a church, we are called to do the same to those younger in our midst. We are called to encourage them by affirming their giftings and callings, not as second-class Christians, but as fellow members with less experience. Paul had to encourage Timothy another time when he was sent to Ephesus, and this should be the same encouragement we give to younger believers: “Let no one despise you for your youth, but set the believers and example in speech, in conduct, in love, in faith, in purity.” (1 Timothy 4:12)
Along with Paul’s written affirmation, he encourages Timothy by giving him a great responsibility. Timothy was tasked with ascertaining the fidelity of a young church plant. Even more, he was charged with speaking to the church concerning their sexual behavior and possible deviancy (1 Thessalonians 4:3ff). This was no easy task. But giving great responsibility that may seem beyond one’s capability is a true encouragement. I’ve seen it this week as our family has been tearing down and clearing out space for newer furniture. Some time ago, I considered myself handy in building our own furniture. The past few days, Ian (our eight-year-old son) and I have been breaking down the old raggedy DIY furniture. After “knighting” Ian with some work gloves, he was given a hammer and an impact drill for demolition. The look on his face when given “adult” responsibilities was one of sheer confidence and joy. During membership interviews with our covenant children, the one thing the elders implore is that as communicant members, no matter the age, they are given the responsibility of voting on church business and serving within the congregation. It is an encouragement for them to know that they are needed and capable.
With that said, let us encourage the younger Christians by affirming who they are in Christ and giving them great responsibilities for the sake of God’s kingdom. Who knows, we may even have another Timothy in our midst.