The Great Labor Shortage: Why You’re Needed By Younger Men
Paul tells Timothy to do his best as a worker, advice that also applies to us as Christian men. Yet, when it comes to transferring spiritual wisdom to younger men, there’s a great labor shortage. Here’s why you’re uniquely qualified to solve this problem.
By Patrick Morley
Founder & Executive Chairman
Winter Park, Florida
For several weeks on the blog and in our men’s Bible study, we’ve been exploring the first two chapters of 2 Timothy. Click here to read previous articles.
Paul’s advice to Timothy holds significant implications for us as mature Christian men who want to grow in our faith and disciple others.
In 2 Timothy 2:15, he writes:
Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a worker who has no need to be ashamed, rightly handling the word of truth. (emphasis added)
For years, Paul has been a “worker” in building the church, investing in Timothy in particular—his spiritual son, brother, and co-laborer. Now he is passing the torch to Timothy, imploring him to invest in others.
A Labor Shortage
The Greek word used here for “worker” is the same word that’s used in Matthew 9:37-38. Jesus has compassion on the crowds because He sees that they are harassed and helpless like sheep without a shepherd.
And then He turns to His disciples and says: “There are a lot of us willing to do this work, but there just aren’t many people who are interested.”
Right? That’s what a lot of Christians say today at least. “Nobody cares. No one wants to hear about Jesus. No one has any interest in truth anymore.”
But that’s exactly the opposite of what Jesus says in Matthew. The problem isn’t a lack of interest; it’s a lack of workers:
Then he said to his disciples, “The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few; therefore pray earnestly to the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into his harvest.”
Earlier in 2 Timothy, Paul tells Timothy to recruit workers who can also equip others. Why? Because the laborers are few.
It’s as true for us now as it was for Timothy then—someone is needed to do the work of bringing in the harvest. You are needed.
Today’s article is about one specific opportunity for harvest where the labor shortage is being acutely felt: young men.Someone is needed to do the work of bringing in the harvest. YOU are needed.Click To Tweet
The #1 Thing You Have to Offer Younger Men
Not long ago, I was invited to join a group of men in their 20s and 30s for the final week of their study of my book The Christian Man. A couple of them were single, a couple were engaged, and the leader, who had only been a believer for about five months, was the first-time father of an infant.
Although the topic was Sharing Your Faith, we somehow ended up talking about marriage. In fact, every time I get together with guys who are newly married or thinking about getting married, we end up talking about marriage.
But the most striking thing about the time I spent with them was how they were grappling and searching to find answers to things that, for me, seem like second nature.
Here’s a lighthearted example. A few of them talked about how they are meticulous about how they squeeze the toothpaste out, while their partner grabs and squeezes it from anywhere—or the other way around. I recommended, “Two tubes of toothpaste.”
It’s a very small, simple idea that can save you some headaches. But it’s the kind of thing you don’t know until you’ve had some time in the saddle.
Many of you have had some time in the saddle—whether it’s related to marriage, singleness, parenting, finances, career, habits, etc.
Younger men have strength and passion. What they are lacking is the experience and wisdom you’ve picked up along the away.
How has God provided for you to guide younger men as they are trying to solve the problems they feel? The answer is that the lessons you’ve learned are exactly the same lessons young men need.The lessons you've learned are exactly the same lessons young men need.Click To Tweet
As more seasoned men, we are stewards of these lessons and experiences. We’ve been given a trust. So how do we manage it?
Doing Your Best
First, when it comes to guiding younger men, we need to be willing to work. But we also need to do our best. Paul elaborates on what that looks like:
Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a worker who has no need to be ashamed, rightly handling the word of truth. (2 Timothy 2:15, emphasis added)
When Paul tells Timothy to do his best to have “no need to be ashamed,” it should give us pause for reflection.
Mirror Labs, the research and development division of Man in the Mirror, is dedicated to reaching younger men. One of the things we’re hearing is that younger men have a hard time finding older men whose lives are worth imitating. They see a lack of integrity.
I like to define integrity as a one-to-one correlation between my Bible, my beliefs, and my behavior. A lack of alignment can have devastating consequences for our character, witness, and lives.
If you can’t say with confidence that you have no need to be ashamed, spend some time reflecting on what’s gotten out of place. For example, if you recognize a lack of integrity in your actions, then it’s a safe bet that you will also see something going on in the core affections of your heart (your “belief system”) causing that behavior. And if you don’t like what you find in your belief system, then you will probably find that something isn’t lining up with the word of God.
The second thing Paul mentions is correctly handling the word of truth. To share scripture accurately with younger men, we need to be immersed in it ourselves.
In the preceding verse in this letter, Paul writes:
Remind them of these things, and charge them before God not to quarrel about words, which does no good, but only ruins the hearers. (2 Timothy 2:14, emphasis added)
When he says “these things,” Paul has just reminded Timothy about the gospel of Jesus Christ. Young men need us to correctly handle the word of truth. They need us to keep reminding them of the gospel—and how it shapes everything else.
Here, Paul also includes a warning not to “quarrel about words.” As we’re focused on leading the life of a worker who is clinging to both integrity and accuracy, it’s vital that we don’t get distracted by arguing over lesser things. This could include politics, cultural issues, or anything that keeps us from doing and being our best at discipling someone else.
3 Ways to Guide Younger Men
As you prepare to be a worker, here is a sturdy foundation for you to build on.
1) Do everything in love.
Jesus didn’t say, “A new command I give you. Perfect your theology. All men will know you are my disciples if you perfect your theology.” Rather, He said:
“A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another. By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.” (John 13:34-35)
Now, should you try to perfect your theology? Absolutely. It’s incredibly important that if you want to have integrity and accuracy, you reflect your theology. But your first step is love. Do everything in love, Paul writes (1 Corinthians 16:14), without qualification or exception.
2) Don’t violate the process of relationships.
If we’ve been given a trust of learned wisdom and experience, then what does faithful stewardship look like?
Like anything else, there’s a process to building a relationship. We can err in two main ways—leaning in too much and not leaning in enough.
Have you ever had someone give you a ton of advice you didn’t ask for? Did you find it helpful? When you’re building a new relationship with a younger man, the point is not to bowl him over with your knowledge and highlight areas he needs to improve or things he should do differently.
If the trust and friendship required to support a conversation hasn’t yet been cultivated, then that’s not guiding someone on a journey with you; it’s dragging him!
But we can also hang back too much and miss an opportunity that God is giving us to share wisdom and experience with someone who wants it. Being hesitant or lacking intentionality, then, is also an example of not being a faithful steward.
Knowing how much to lean in at different times with different people isn’t always easy. It requires some emotional intelligence in how to respect the process of relationships. Pray and ask God to give you discernment in this area.
3) Give men what they need in the context of what they want.
Years ago, I was speaking to a gathering of mostly young men about humility and leading a surrendered life. Part of that talk included my business background.
Afterward, during the Q&A, one man in his 20s raised his hand and said, “Well, that’s all easy for you to say. You’ve already made your money.”
It struck me as a powerful insight. I realized that that room was full of young guys concerned about the things young men are concerned about—figuring out career issues, providing for themselves and perhaps a young family, and building their lives from the ground up.
Younger men want to solve the problems they feel. These felt needs may not always include the actual deeper needs that are present. But if we want to guide younger men, we need to give them what they need in the context of what they want.
THE BIG IDEA: Give men what they need in the context of what they want.
So if he feels a problem in his marriage, how does Christianity influence his marriage? If he feels like he’s struggling with parenting, how can Christianity help him be a better father? If he feels financially burdened, what do the scriptures say about money?
If we want to guide younger men, let’s guide them in the areas where they want to be guided, not in the areas where we want to guide them. Their felt needs are real needs, too. And then when you have built trust and friendship, you will have the opportunity to guide them into other areas as well.
Because just like us, they need the gospel of Jesus Christ—handled with accuracy, modeled with integrity, and communicated in love by a worker doing his best, with God’s help.