Paul’s second letter to Timothy offers wise guidance for young leaders. It was a timely text for 128 first-year staff to study last week at InterVarsity’s Orientation for New Staff in Madison, WI. I had the satisfying assignment of leading the manuscript-style Bible studies.
There I was, a 37-year veteran teaching new campus staff who will be training student leaders (like many of you) so that you can better serve those God calls you to influence next year. This is a pattern Paul used to guide Timothy who guided the elders in Ephesus who then taught the members of their witnessing community.
As Paul writes from prison in Rome, he voices deep concerns about the Ephesus church for their false teachers and divisive controversies. He gently worries about Timothy; is he a little ashamed of the gospel, or a bit overwhelmed in his leadership role?
Paul bolsters Timothy for faithfulness in his calling and emphasizes five divine provisions for effective leadership. Let me summarize them for you as student leaders and campus staff:
- Remember your own experience—how you came to believe in the Jesus Story and how you have been changed (and are being changed) as a result. You have your own unique encounter with the living God (2 Timothy 1:3-5).
- Think about your role models—the men and women who have helped you along the path of discipleship and who are investing in your growth and development now. Keep learning from trustworthy teachers (2 Timothy 3:10-11).
- Fan into flame the gift of the Holy Spirit —and all that the Spirit brings into your life, such as power, love and self-discipline. In prayer and worship and action you can ask God to re-ignite these gifts (2 Timothy 1:6-7).
- Believe fully in the gospel of grace centered on Jesus—the Story that begins before creation and lasts into eternity, that reveals Jesus as incarnate in the lineage of David and resurrected by the power of God, that speaks of death’s destruction and the gift of life (2 Timothy 1:8-12 and 2:8).
- Place your confidence in the God-breathed Scriptures—they make you wise for salvation and equipped for all kinds of good work because through them God reveals himself and his truth. Let God’s Word “dwell in you richly,” as Paul says elsewhere (2 Timothy 3:14-17).
These extraordinary expressions of God’s grace are available to you right now, this summer. Find ways to lean into these provisions. Reflect on your story—what did God do in your life this past school year? Connect with your mentors, even at a distance. Stay eager in prayer to see the Holy Spirit aflame in your life. Rehearse the profound implications of the gospel for your life, perhaps by reading at least one book for theological nourishment. And don’t neglect to spend time in the Scriptures so that you will be better equipped for your leadership role next year, starting with NSO!
To sum it up, echoing Paul: By grace God gives you these five gifts, so “Be strong in the grace that is in Christ Jesus” (2 Timothy 2:1).