- “Christians are hypocrites.”
- “Christians are ignorant and racist.”
- “Christians are weak and superstitious.”
- “Oh, he is ‘one’ of those …” (You fill in the blank)
Secularists routinely use their multiple media outlets to bombard not only America with this type of misinformation but the rest of the world as well. Often their purpose is to minimize you as an individual and your ministry in order to discredit your work for the cause of Christ.
I witnessed this first hand when I was attending Liberty University in the early eighties. Liberal writers and TV personalities would often visit Lynchburg in order to follow up on some story based upon a controversial statement Dr. Falwell made publicly. What often made it into print, or on the telecast, was almost always one-sided placing Dr. Falwell and the University in a negative light. Typically, Liberty in those days was most often portrayed as a small, insignificant liberal arts college that catered to the fringe elements of Christian society. Today Liberty is the largest evangelical university in the world with more than 80,000 students; she is no longer considered small or insignificant.
But I don’t want to mislead you, we as Christians often do the same thing as we make certain assumptions, not only about nonbelievers, but fellow Christians as well. During the last twenty-five years in ministry I've served with Christians who sometimes seek to minimize the ministry of others. Their reasons, although different from secularists, are often rooted in the same soil. The secularist usually minimizes the Christian and his/her faith for political and philosophical reasons. Believers tend to diminish the work and ministry of another because of a lack of respect, or out of fear, and personal insecurities seeking to elevate self. In both cases it always comes back to having an inflated view of one’s importance. Note the words the Apostle Paul spoke to Timothy in his service to the church at Ephesus.
1 Timothy 4:11-16 (ESV) Command and teach these things. 12 Let no one despise you for your youth, but set the believers an example in speech, in conduct, in love, in faith, in purity. 13 Until I come, devote yourself to the public reading of Scripture, to exhortation, to teaching. 14 Do not neglect the gift you have, which was given you by prophecy when the council of elders laid their hands on you. 15 Practice these things, immerse yourself in them, so that all may see your progress. 16 Keep a close watch on yourself and on the teaching. Persist in this, for by so doing you will save both yourself and your hearers.
Paul’s instruction to Timothy was to let no one “despise” his youth. Some have suggested one was still considered to be a “youth” until he was no longer of the age to serve in the military, which by the way was the age of thirty-nine. The word “despise” is kataphronéō and means to “hold in contempt or to think lightly of.” The Apostle was encouraging Timothy not to be intimidated by others in the Church because of his young age.
The principle here moves beyond the youthfulness of Timothy, and can be applied to every believer and the ministry they have been called to perform. No follower of Christ should be intimidated or made to feel inferior because of age, spiritual gifts, areas of service, or the size of one’s following.
Timothy’s work was vital to the church body in Ephesus. He was to conduct himself in such a manner in order to demonstrate his spiritual maturity as a pattern for others to follow. Every Christian has been blessed with at least one spiritual gift that is to be used for the edification of the Church, and ultimately for the glorification of God. The Apostle Paul addresses this in First Corinthians 12 as he speaks to the variety of gifts given, and the importance of every member in the body of Christ.
My encouragement to you is this, just as we would stand up against those outside the Church who would seek to minimize our service to God, we should also stand up to those inside the Church who attempt to do the same. If God has called you, then He has also equipped you for ministry. Let no one “despise” you for any perceived limitations, or fear-based petty self-centeredness. Serve the Lord with all your might in order that He would be glorified, and then you will have the praise of God.