What can the church do to raise good men?
Preachers from every generation have targeted their messages towards a group of people they see as full of potential: young men. But this potential for good and building the kingdom of God has caught the attention of our enemy as well. J.C. Ryle, a pastor from the 19th century put it this way, “The devil uses special diligence to destroy the souls of young men, and they don’t seem to know it.”
But there is hope. The Bible tells the grand story of how God restores our relationship with Him through the Resurrected Christ. Through the collection of these disciples of Jesus, the church, young men can be guided through the path that leads to life. Our young men need our love and attention. We must encourage them and invite them into our lives. Ask to hear their ideas about the future. Lead them in an understanding way.
Challenge them. Discipline them. And tell them why. Hebrews reminds us that fathers discipline sons because they love them (Hebrews 12:3-17). Many of our young men have never experienced that kind of discipline. A spiritual father who loves them enough to tell them the truth and explain why could make all the difference in their discipleship journey.
Speak to their potential
The reason the Bible spends so much time giving specific instructions to young men is that they have so much potential. Even God’s enemies throughout history have picked up on this fact and have tried to redirect this potential for their own purposes. Consider the Babylonian Empire in the story of Daniel and his friends.
Nebuchadnezzar and the Babylonian army destroyed Jerusalem around 605 BC. One of his first orders of business was to capture the leading young men to brainwash them in Babylonian culture. He was looking for young men “skillful in all wisdom, endowed with knowledge, understanding learning, and competent to stand in the king’s palace, and to teach them the literature and language of the Chaldeans” (Daniel 1:4).
It’s amazing how similar these qualifications are to the kind of young men who are called to serve in the kingdom of God. This does not mean that God requires a certain level of intelligence or education. In fact, the twelve young men Jesus chose were likely those who had missed the cut of the most prestigious Rabbis in Jewish society.
“Now when they saw the boldness of Peter and John, and perceived that they were uneducated, common men, they were astonished. And they recognized that they had been with Jesus.” - Acts 4:13
Our young men must have hearts that love God and minds that desire to know Him and learn more about Him. When they know their potential as young men in the service of God, the world will recognize that they have been with Jesus.
Lead them in knowledge and understanding
As Daniel’s story continues, one of the greatest testimonies to the power of God is his supernatural understanding. Daniel is able to see and interpret Nebuchadnezzar’s dreams, leading him to conclude that “Truly, your God is God of gods and Lord of kings, and a revealer of mysteries, for you have been able to reveal this mystery” (Daniel 2:47). This echoes Joseph’s rise to power in Egypt in Genesis 41, a key puzzle piece in God’s salvation of Israel.
Not everyone is expected to know and interpret the dreams of world leaders. But the Bible calls young men to seek knowledge, wisdom, instruction, and understanding. When He was asked by a young man what the greatest commandment was, Jesus said it was to love God with everything, including our minds.
Provide protection through authority
One of the greatest measures of our faith in God is the way we submit to the authority He has placed over us. The Bible makes it clear that the job of the elder is to shepherd the flock of God in an understanding way. The job of young men is to submit to the spiritual authority of the elders He has placed in their lives. Pastors will be judged on how they lead, and the church will be judged by how they submit (or rebel) to their authority.
“Shepherd the flock of God that is among you, exercising oversight, not under compulsion, but willingly, as God would have you; not for shameful gain, but eagerly; not domineering over those in your charge, but being examples to the flock. And when the chief Shepherd appears, you will receive the unfading crown of glory. Likewise, you who are younger, be subject to the elders.” - 1 Peter 5:2-5
Consider the example of Jesus when He was a young man. If anyone would have a good enough excuse to buck the authority over Him, surely God incarnate would! But Jesus sets the example of submission to both spiritual and parental authority. At 12 years old, Jesus was “in the temple, sitting among the teachers, listening to them and asking them questions” (Luke 2:46). And when His parents finally found Him after a frantic search, “he went down with them and came to Nazareth and was submissive to them” (Luke 2:51).
Jesus set the standard for young men to submit to the authority placed above them. We must set an example worth following for our young men to grow into the men of God they were created to be.