How do you respond when you are criticized for being too young to lead in ministry?
Many of those that lead worship are years or even decades younger than those for whom they lead.
Inexperience can lead to problems, as David even described his son Solomon as young and inexperienced in 1 Chronicles 29. How do you respond to such statements? Fortunately for us, Paul must have had to deal with similar issues with criticism against his mentee Timothy. The entire book is worthy of study, but for right now let’s focus on just one verse:
“Don’t let anyone look down on you because you are young, but set an example for the believers in speech, in conduct, in love, in faith and in purity.” (1 Timothy 4:12)
Paul lines out five specific areas for Timothy to develop, and those same five are excellent things for our young worship leaders make a focus:
—Speech: how you talk, what you say
—Conduct: how you act, what you do and live
—Love: how you relate to others
—Faith: the depth of your trust in God to act
—Purity: holiness in your personal life
How do you respond when others think that you are too young?
Paul’s admonition is clear: Be such an example that there is no room for criticism that can be substantiated. Let’s unpack these for a moment:
1. Speech: how you talk, what you say
Many times, it is not just what we say but the manner and tone in which it is said. Speaking before we really listen, or concentrating more on an answer while the other person is speaking, rather than making an earnest effort to hear their words and their intentions will only add to more confusion.
2. Conduct: how you act, what you do and live
Someone once said, “What you do is what you really believe, the rest is just hogwash.” We will act out of our who we really are. Consistent conduct, not behavior that is “on again and off again,” leaves a testimony of perseverance, of being solid.
3. Love: how you relate to others
Love (here, “agape”—selfless love) is part of the fruit of being Spirit-filled (Gal. 5:22). It is a reflection of the very nature and character of Christ, living through us. One only needs to refer back to Paul’s description of love in 1 Cor. 13 (love is patient, love is kind, it is not jealous, etc.) to see the power that love has as we relate to others.
4. Faith: the depth of your trust in God to act
Another part of the fruit of the Spirit, faith, is demonstrated when everything else may seem to the contrary. Hebrews 11:1, “Now faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see.” It is one thing to say that we believe that God is in control of all things and another to live that way when our circumstances seem to contradict that reality. We may be suffering under persecution or other things, but the reality is that God is in control, and as long as we are being obedient to His desires and ways, He will not allow anything that will not be for His ultimate glory and our good.
5. Purity: holiness in your personal life
“Integrity is what we are when no one is looking.” I’m not sure who said it first, but its truth is undeniable. The greatest struggle will probably not be with those that oppose your opinion on music, styles, etc., but the most difficult area to master is living out that commitment to holiness in our lives. Purity implies “without spot or blemish,” which is difficult in a culture whose worldview demands tolerance of virtually everything devoid of moral virtual, and intolerance for those with biblical standards. This is a commitment we must make every day, 24/7.
You cannot control how old you are, but you can control how you talk, live, relate, trust and commit to a holy life. Living a life dominated by these will silence the criticisms, making them just hollow accusations.
One might be surprised that Paul waited to place love until the third characteristic of how Timothy would avoid those around him from criticizing his age. Perhaps it is a reflection of a process. Out of a commitment to a pure and holy life comes the faith to believe that God is who He says He is and will do what He says He will do. Believing God will respond and live His life through us empowers us to respond in love, which shapes our conduct and our speech.
So the next time you are criticized for being “too young” for ministry, rather than try to argue or debate your way out of it, stop and refocus and compare yourself to what Paul gave Timothy.