At my home church, we are doing an after-mass series on the Apostle Paul. Beside seeing Chris Wesley strut his stuff, it has had me thinking about how the Church approaches ministry with young people. Let’s check out some examples of Paul’s interactions with the young church’s youngchurched.
PAUL & STEPHEN
Was the first Christian martyr a young person? I’d like to think so. In Eastern Christian iconography, he is portrayed as a young, beardless man with a tonsure. He is shown wearing a deacon’s vestments because he was part of the first deacon class upon whom in Acts 6 had disciples praying over them with laid hands in an act of commissioning / ordination.
Stephen comes off as younger as well, a little combative and certainly righteous and brash. I mean, listen: You stiff-necked people, uncircumcised in heart and ears, you always oppose the Holy Spirit; you are just like your ancestors. He does not seem to be working on winning friends and influencing people as much as going for the win.
At his end, Stephen offends the crowd. They take him to the outskirts of town and stone him to death. Saul is his pre-conversion times… before the Spirit inspired name change. Saul was consenting to his execution (Acts 8:1). He was a Pharisee, a self-described Hebrew of Hebrew parentage (Philippians 3:45). In the early Acts of the Apostles, there broke out a severe persecution of the Christian sect in Jerusalem, and Saul was serving his Jewish faith by trying to destroy the church; entering house after house and dragging out men and women, (handing) them over for imprisonment.
PAUL & EUTYCHUS
Acts 20: 7 – 12 tells the story of a brief encounter, although for poor Eutychus, it must have seemed like a lifetime. Paul was teaching at the time of the breaking of the bread and he was described as having kept on speaking until midnight. In an upper room of questionable ventilation and oil lamp fumes, we find a young man named Eutychus who was sitting on the window sill, sinking into a deep sleep as Paul talked on and on. (and the Gospels were probably being generous not to include on and on and on and on.) Poor kid falls asleep and falls three stories down. Paul races down the steps, throws himself on the lad, and claims that he is still alive… a miraculous cover-up.
PAUL AND TIMOTHY
Timothy is a young disciple that accompanies Paul on his mission and then serves in the community of Ephesus to Let no one have contempt for your youth, but set an example for those who believe, in speech, conduct, love, faith, and purity. Until I arrive, attend to the reading, exhortation, and teaching. Do not neglect the gift you have, which was conferred on you through the prophetic word with the imposition of hands of the presbyterate. Be diligent in these matters, be absorbed in them, so that your progress may be evident to everyone. Attend to yourself and to your teaching; persevere in both tasks, for by doing so you will save both yourself and those who listen to you. 1 Timothy 4:12 – 16
Paul has different methodologies in his ministry with young people. First, he attempts to correct (or cleanse) what was wrong with mis-guided youth, then he nearly catechiszes another into a catatonic state, and then finally he challenges yet another to live up to the gifts which have been conferred upon him.
When others view your youth ministry do they suspect that you lean more towards Paul’s relationship with Stephen, Eutychus, or Timothy?