Before I was in the ministry, I worked for an online retailer. During my first year-and-a-half at the company, I managed the customer service department. We hired mostly young people in their late teens and early twenties. For many of them, it was their first job after finishing high school or college.
Over the course of hiring for the various customer service positions, I received many resumes. Some were creative and others were simple records of education and previous experience.
A resume does not get you a job—it gets you an interview. While the interview probably carried the most weight in terms of whether or not someone would get the job, there were other things I would routinely look at before offering someone that position. One of those things was their social media footprint.
In an interview, most people are presenting their best self. Many go into an interview after watching videos and researching how to impress their potential future employer. But how they represent themselves on social media gets a bit closer to who they really are as a person and a potential employee. Even that is not completely accurate, though, because even online, we typically only show what we want others to see.
How we present ourselves, in person and online, forms our reputation. We all want a good reputation, but how diligent are we at developing it? Is it possible to develop a reputation at an early age—for good or for bad? Of course, the answer is yes, but we have to be intentional about it and self-aware enough to act accordingly.
Another way to think of reputation is that it is developed by our example. It’s sometimes sobering to really consider the impact that our actions can have on others—some may not want to be a part of God’s Church if we set a bad example or have a negative reputation.
On the other hand, God tells us that He can use our good example to save others! And one person who showed this kind of example was the young evangelist Timothy.
Timothy accompanied the Apostle Paul starting with Paul’s second missionary journey. He was even sent to minister to some of the most difficult churches of the first century—Thessalonica and Corinth (1 Thessalonians 3:1–2; 1 Corinthians 4:14-17; 16:10).
That all started because of Timothy’s positive reputation among family and fellow Christians in Lystra, Derbe, and Iconium. “Then he [Paul] came to Derbe and Lystra. And behold, a certain disciple was there, named Timothy, the son of a certain Jewish woman who believed, but his father was Greek. He was well spoken of by the brethren who were at Lystra and Iconium” (Acts 16:1–2).
Paul’s final two letters before he died are addressed to Timothy. Even though Paul knew Timothy was “a true son in the faith” (1 Timothy 1:2), he also knew that Timothy still had to continue setting a good example.
When Timothy joined Paul on his second missionary journey, he was a in his early or mid 20s. By the end of Paul’s life, he was probably in his mid-40s—still not an old man, and he was going to have to deal with false teachers, encourage proper worship of God, and learn to lead on his own. Paul stressed to Timothy that the good example and reputation he developed as a young person —and maintained throughout his life —would save himself and others:
Let no one despise your youth, but be an example to the believers in word, in conduct, in love, in spirit, in faith, in purity. Till I come, give attention to reading, to exhortation, to doctrine. Do not neglect the gift that is in you, which was given to you by prophecy with the laying on of the hands of the eldership. Meditate on these things; give yourself entirely to them, that your progress may be evident to all. Take heed to yourself and to the doctrine. Continue in them, for in doing this you will save both yourself and those who hear you (1 Timothy 4:12-16).
A lot may be different about the times we live in today, compared to those of Timothy and Paul. One thing that hasn’t changed, though, is the impact of a good (or bad) reputation. It’s never too young to start intentionally developing a good reputation. It will not only get noticed by others, but also may even play a part in encouraging and inspiring someone.