A Process for Discipleship: part nine

In order to disciple someone well, you need to understand where they are at spiritually.  In the previous few posts, we have been considering different spiritual conditions or stages.

Today, a fourth.

A fourth stage is that of a spiritual young adult.

John calls them young men.  1 John 2:13 and 14.  “I am writing to you young men, because you have overcome the evil one…” and “I am writing to you young men, because you are strong and the word of God abides in you and you have overcome the evil one.”

What is the characteristic of a spiritual young adult here? The word of God abides in them. They are strong and they have overcome the evil one.  The evil one works through lies, he is promoting false teaching, but young adults know the Word of God and love the Word of God and are able to identify and turn from false teaching.

They have the ability to discern between good and evil, because they have been practicing applying the Scriptures to real life.  They have a taste for truth and they have a nose for error.  And they get passionate about the truth and really especially about lies, they really do.  Because they know the danger.  Error, kind of disgusts them.

One of my former pastors describes a spiritual young adult like this, he says,  “You know you’re a spiritual young man when the cults don’t attract you, when false doctrine doesn’t allure you, when you’re not easily deceived. In fact, generally speaking, when you’re a spiritual young man you get angry at it. You want to fight it. It’s wonderful to see somebody arrive at that point in their spiritual development. They want to go battle the cults, straighten out the J.W.’s, correct the liberals. Why? Because they are strong in the Word, they know what the Word of God teaches. And in that sense Satan cannot deceive them. If Satan comes along and says, “Jesus is not God,” they don’t care how good his argument is, they don’t buy it. If Satan comes along and says, “God is not a trinity,” they don’t care how good his argument is, they are not going to buy it. They don’t care how clever the hypocritical lie speaker, or the false prophet is, they don’t buy it. If somebody comes along and says that Jesus was a sinner on the cross and went to hell for three days to suffer for His sin, they don’t believe that. If somebody comes and says the Bible is not the inspired Word of God inerrant, they don’t believe it, they don’t care what kind of argument that person amasses, they are not going to buy into that because they know what the Word of God teaches.”

Spiritual young adults are pretty fun to work with.  They are kind of like Timothy in the Bible. With someone like Timothy, what do you have? You have someone who is faithful, who is dependable, who is ready to serve.  Yes, he still needs a lot of encouragement and specific instructions, but they are moving.  They have been tested a bit, and have come through.

Spiritual young adults are usually pretty zealous, God-centered, other-centered, mission-minded, they are much more independent, though sometimes maybe a little bit too competitive, and they sometimes lose sight of the big picture. 

They might have to be warned, like Paul does Timothy, to flee youthful passions, and especially the passion to argue about things that don’t matter.  They can get drawn into silly discussions.  They sometimes can be a little naïve about the ministry, and need someone to come in and say, hey, understand this, in the last days, there is going to be difficulty.

But at the end of the day spiritual young adults want to glorify God and they want to serve others.  Now, they may tend to feel too much responsibility for how others respond.  If they respond well, they struggle with pride and if they respond poorly, they are overwhelmed with discouragement. 

They want to use their abilities for the glory of God, but they don’t always think very clearly about the best way to use those abilities.  They will sometimes grow pretty discouraged when things don’t go exactly the way they would like.

You might hear them say things like:

“I love my church and man, I hope I can help others come and join with us.”         

“I am praying for these people.  I love them and I want to see them grow.”

“I think I could lead a small group with a little help.  I have some friends I have been witnessing to and I think they would be willing to get together and talk about the Bible.”

“Joe and Susan missed church today.  I think I am going to call just to make sure they are o.k.  If I found out they are sick, I am going to make a plan to see if we can make meals for them.  I will start.”  

“I never knew ministry could be this difficult.  Man, I want to serve God, but I am getting discouraged.”

“Oh, I just came back from the Christian book store and I can’t believe all the error that I saw there.  We have got to do something about this!”

“I was reading the Bible today and I came across something that’s really humbling me.”

“I noticed we don’t have a children’s ministry at the church and I love children.  I would like to learn how to help this ministry get started.  Will you teach me?  What can I do?”

What spiritual young adults need is for someone to mentor them and give them practical, real life help in the ministry.  Basically they need wisdom.  They may need help in identifying the best ways to use their gifts.  They definitely need opportunities to serve.  They need someone to talk with about what is going on in their hearts.  They need someone to encourage them to keep going.  They need someone to tell them, you know slow down and then sometimes, speed up.  They of course need to go deep in their understanding and enjoyment of the gospel. They may be tempted to become self-righteous in their service and need someone to keep bringing them back to gospel-centered motivations.

If the person you are wanting to disciple seems to be a spiritual young adult, why don’t you begin meeting with them on a weekly basis for prayer and Bible reading? One on one Bible reading is an excellent practice.  Or get together for coffee, and ask their advice on specific issues, and see how they work on applying the Scripture to specific situations.  You might go with them to a Bible study and allow them to lead the Bible study and then on the way back talk about how it went.  Keep pushing them to study harder and to go deeper in their understanding of God.  Ask them questions about how what they are studying in the Bible is changing them.  You could give them a practical problem from ministry and then ask them to explain what they think is the Bible’s answer to that problem.  It may be helpful at this point to assist them in pursuing a more structured kind of training in the Scriptures.  Another approach is to have them disciple someone else along with you.

There are lots of things to talk about with spiritual young adults, like heaven and hell, systematic theology, church history, the doctrines of grace, the five solas, different ministry skills, how to deal with conflict.

I would encourage you as you work with spiritual young adults, to remember, people do things differently than you do, but just because it is different doesn’t mean it is wrong.  Be careful not to force your preferences on the spiritual young adult, but do challenge them to think through their convictions and be able to defend them.

Remember, no one ever gets beyond the gospel.  They need to think about the gospel now that they know more about the Christian life just as much as they did when they first were saved. Keep encouraging them.  Ministry is difficult and as they go out to minister they probably will tempted to become discouraged.  Make sure you are coming alongside of them.  They need to know you care!

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