The Importance of Mentoring for Succession by David P. Craig

Two Gulf Baseball players

Paul instructed Timothy, “You then, my child, be strengthened by the grace that is in Christ Jesus, and what you have heard from me in the presence of many witnesses entrust to faithful men who will be able to teach others also” (2 Timothy 2:1-2, ESV).

Jesus commission to the disciples: “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age” (Matthew 28:18b-20, ESV).

 Succession Isn’t An Option

In Joe Aldrich’s excellent book on evangelism he retells this insightful legend on successionism related to the great commission:

There is a legend which recounts the return of Jesus to glory after his time on earth. Even in heaven he bore the marks of his earthly pilgrimage with its cruel cross and shameful death. The angel Gabriel approached him and said, “Master, you must have suffered terribly for men down there.” “I did,” he said. “And,” continued Gabriel, “do they know all about how you loved them and what you did for them?” “Oh, no,” said Jesus, “not yet. Right now only a handful of people in Palestine know.” Gabriel was perplexed. “Then what have you done to let everyone know about your love for them?” Jesus said, “I’ve asked Peter, James, John, and a few more friends to tell other people about me. Those who are told will in turn tell still other people, and my story will be spread to the farthest reaches of the globe. Ultimately, all of mankind will have heard about my life and what I have done.” Gabriel frowned and looked rather skeptical. He knew well what poor stuff men were made of. “Yes,” he said, “but what if Peter and James and John grow weary? What if the people who come after them forget? Haven’t you made any other plans?” Jesus answered, “I have no other plans. I’m counting on them.” Twenty centuries later, he still has no other plan. He’s counting on you and me. High on God’s “To Do” list is the evangelization of the world. His early disciples adopted his priorities and devoted themselves to reaching their world. Christ counted on them, and they delivered. Have we done as well? (Joe Aldrich. Lifestyle Evangelism: Learning to Open Your Life to Those Around You. Portland, OR.: Multnomah Press, pp. 15-16).

It is my contention that what is true of evangelism above is also true of discipleship with particular regard to the succession of developing leaders in the church. There are many ways to go about developing leaders. I would look to share one of the simplest yet incredibly effective ways to make this happen.

If we desire to be effective leaders it’s absolutely essential that we also become effective disciple makers and mentors. I have been helped in the whole idea of succession in leadership by many mentors I have had along the way in my thirty years of ministry in the church. The most beneficial concept I’ve learned will be shared in this chapter from the big idea gleaned from Ron Lee Davis’ wonderful book: Mentoring: The Strategy of the Master (Thomas Nelson: Nashville, 1991). In that book Davis articulates a great strategy for successful succession in leadership based on having a Paul, a Timothy, and a Barnabas in your life. Unfortunately, this book is no longer in print, and many people have never heard about this great idea. In this chapter I will share how you can benefit from the idea of having a Paul in your life – someone more spiritually mature than you in a particular skill or area of character; a Timothy – someone you are investing in – to develop particular strengths in character and skill; and a Barnabas – a colleague that is committed to your success as you seek to invest your life in others.

 Mentoring and Discipleship Defined

I once led a Bible study with about twenty men present on a weekly basis. I can remember one night we had over thirty men show up and the topic was on discipleship and mentoring. Most of the men were non-believers or new believers and they all shared they had never been mentored or discipled and wanted to know what the difference was between the two of them. On a whim I asked these men, “how many of you had a father that was a follower of Christ that you would want to emulate in your own life?” To my total shock only one man in over thirty had a dad who was even a believer! I realized right then and there that I needed to get super serious about discipleship and mentoring in my church. I had taken for granted the modeling that I had received from a wonderful Christian dad and presumed that most men in my church had the same. Boy was I wrong!

I have read a lot of books on “mentoring” and “discipleship” in my life. One of the better definitions on mentoring comes from Paul Stanley and J.R. Clinton in their book Connecting where they define mentoring as “a relational experience in which one person empowers another by sharing God-given resources.” They define discipling as “a relational process in which a more experienced follower of Christ shares with a newer believer the commitment, understanding, and basic skills necessary to know and obey Jesus as Lord” (J. Robert Clinton and Paul D. Stanley. Connecting: The Mentoring Relationships You Need To Succeed In Life. Colorado Springs, NavPress, 1992).

Ted Engstrom in his book The Fine Art of Mentoring brings discipleship and mentoring together in this way, “A discipler is one who helps an understudy (1) give up his own will for the will of God the Father, (2) live daily a life of spiritual sacrifice for the glory of Christ, and (3) strive to be consistently obedient to the commands of his Master. A mentor, on the other hand, provides modeling, close supervision on special projects, individualized help in many areas—discipline, encouragement, correction, confrontation, and a calling to accountability” (Ted Engstrom. The Fine Art of Mentoring. Brentwood, TN.: Wolgemuth & Hyatt, 1989, p. 17).

There are many other good definitions in my files on discipleship and mentoring. Sometimes the definitions are almost identical. Usually the definitions of discipleship focus on knowledge of the Scriptures, whereas mentoring focuses on the “how to” or “hands on” application of the Scriptures and various skills and character development. Ron Lee Davis states simply, “mentoring is a process of opening our lives to others, of sharing our lives with others; a process of living for the next generation” (Ron Lee Davis. Mentoring, p.16).

 The Search for a New Definition

In my opinion Jesus discipled and mentored the disciples. The word “mentor” is not found in the Bible, but the concept is in all sixty-six books. If ever someone “opened,” “shared,” and “lived” his life for others – Jesus did. If ever someone taught people to love and obey God, and serve others – Jesus did. A word I have made up over the years to help people get the bridge between discipleship and mentoring is “investoring.” The word investoring combines the spiritual, intellectual, emotional, and applicational elements of discipleship and mentoring. Investoring is the process of investing in someone’s eternal future by storing up in them the knowledge, skills, character and obedience of Christ as revealed in the Scriptures to the glory of God. Thus investoring combines all the elements of discipleship and mentoring – the intellect, the heart, and the hands for the sake of Christ’s glory. It involves a conscious and intentional commitment into someone’s life where you are storing Christ in him or her.

 Investoring is a Community Project

You may say, “But I’m not Jesus!” And you are 100% correct. That’s why we need a plurality of leaders and disciples working together to help one another conform to the image of Christ. Paul told the Corinthian church, “Be imitators of me, as I am of Christ” (1 Corinthians 11:1, ESV). One of the dangers of being a leader is that you think everyone needs to think like you, be like you, and act like you. It’s no wonder our churches are so dysfunctional. As leaders we need to do all we can to be, look, and act like Christ, but we also need to realize that we need the whole body of Christ to participate if we are going to be effective in investoring for the sake of Christ. It’s no wonder that the Apostle Paul told the Corinthian church to keep on practicing and pursuing the spiritual gifts (1 Corinthians 12-14). It takes a community of personalities, experiences, skills, and character to make healthy multiplying disciples of Christ.

The Trinity is a community in unity. Leadership in the Old Testament and New Testament has involved Prophets, Priests, and Kings, Elders, and Deacons in community and unity. If we take the great commission seriously then it’s important that we think intentionally and strategically about investoring and sucessionism in our ministries.

 No Plan B

Investoring should take into consideration reaching the lost, building them up in the faith, and unleashing them for a life long ministry of investoring. We will draw some important principles from the following parable by Win Arn:

Now it came to pass that a group existed who called themselves fishermen. And lo, there were many fish in the waters all around. In fact, the whole area was surrounded by streams and lakes filled with fish. And the fish were hungry. Week after week, month after month, and year after year these, who called themselves fishermen, met in meetings and talked about their call to go about fishing. Continually they searched for new and better methods of fishing and for new and better definitions of fishing. They sponsored costly nationwide and worldwide congresses to discuss fishing and to promote fishing and hear about all the ways of fishing, such as the new fishing equipment, fish calls, and whether any new bait was discovered. These fishermen built large, beautiful buildings called “Fishing Headquarters.” The plea was that everyone should be a fisherman and every fisherman should fish. One thing they didn’t do, however; they didn’t fish. All the fishermen seemed to agree that what is needed is a board which could challenge fishermen to be faithful in fishing. The board was formed by those who had the great vision and courage to speak about fishing, to define fishing, and to promote the idea of fishing in far-away streams and lakes where many other fish of different colors lived. Large, elaborate, and expensive training centers were built whose purpose was to teach fishermen how to fish. Those who taught had doctorates in fishology. But the teachers did not fish. They only taught fishing. Some spent much study and travel to learn the history of fishing and to see far-away places where the founding fathers did great fishing in the centuries past. They lauded the faithful fishermen of years before who handed down the idea of fishing. Many who felt the call to be fishermen responded. They were commissioned and sent to fish. And they went off to foreign lands . . . to teach fishing. Now it’s true that many of the fishermen sacrificed and put up with all kinds of difficulties. Some lived near the water and bore the smell of dead fish every day. They received the ridicule of some who made fun of their fishermen’s clubs. They anguished over those who were not committed enough to attend the weekly meetings to talk about fishing. After all, were they not following the Master who said, “Follow me, and I will make you fishers of men”? Imagine how hurt some were when one day a person suggested that those who don’t catch fish were really not fishermen, no matter how much they claimed to be. Yet it did sound correct. Is a person a fisherman if year after year he/ she never catches a fish? Is one following if he/ she isn’t fishing? (Win Arn, The Pastor’s Church Growth Handbook, vol. 1, Monrovia, California: Church Growth, Inc., 1979, pp. 151-154).

Win Arn is addressing the church’s obsession with talking about evangelism, but doing precious little actual evangelism. I think it’s just as bad in the arena of making multiplying disciples and leaders in the church. We have a lot of programs, meetings, and training sessions, but we actually do very little relational investoring. We need to answers Arn’s question about investoring. “Are we fishing?” “Are we catching any fish?” And may I add, “What are we doing with the fish once we catch them?” How are we really doing at making disciples and raising up, training, and unleashing leaders in the church?

 Simple Steps Toward Investoring

Every pastor I know is extremely busy. However, we need to ask the question, “Am I making disciples?” “Am I doing anything that resembles what Jesus did two thousand years ago with his twelve disciples?” Yes, you are preparing sermons. Yes, you are counseling. Yes, you are doing weddings and funerals. But the kicker is “Am I making multiplying disciples?” If you were to die today what would happen to your leadership team? What would happen to your church? Many pastors are very skilled, gifted, and have amassed a large following. However, is this following made up of invested in, stored into, Christ-like leaders? I think it’s of crucial importance that we answer this question with a resounding “YES!” However, you will not be able to answer “Yes” without an intentional plan for successional investoring.

The good news is that every pastor has the three things you need for successful investoring: time, a calendar, and the ability to make your own schedule. As a pastoral life coach one of the main things I help people with is fulfill their vision by scheduling the steps needed to achieve your vision. Here is an example. Many pastors say to me, “I don’t have any non-Christian friends, so how am I supposed to reach non-Christians for Christ?” I then ask them, “When do you intentionally get together with non-believers?” They always say, “What?” And I say when’s the last time you invited a neighbor over for a barbeque or to watch a football game, or to play tennis? In other words what bridges can you build with people in your sphere of influence for the sake of investoring?

I was speaking at a conference for a young church planting team in Argentina about this concept of investoring with the lost and a thirty-year-old businessman came up to me afterwards as if I had just discovered plutonium or something. He said, “You mean I can invite my co-workers on a fishing trip and build a friendship with them, and share my faith with them over time?” “Yes! Absolutely!” This man has since that time led several of his friends to Christ – some of which are now, like him, leaders in the church.

As pastors we expect to be equippers of the saints to do the work of the ministry right? What about Paul’s admonition to Timothy, “As for you, always be sober-minded, endure suffering, do the work of an evangelist, fulfill your ministry” (2 Timothy 4:5). You may say, well I preach the gospel every week – that’s my work in evangelism.” But don’t forget the word “always” in the passage. Evangelism shouldn’t just take place on Sunday’s but “always.”

This is where our schedule comes in. I coach leaders to use their calendars to schedule their investoring. I think the most important thing we need to schedule is our time with God first. Right now as I write these words it’s August. So one of the first things I do with pastors is help them schedule blocks of time with God. Some of those times are one-hour blocks and some two-hour blocks of time – for prayer and devotional time with God. Next to schedule blocks of time with your spouse – dates, prayer time, study time, discussion time, financial discussion and so forth. Then schedule blocks of time for family and individual dates with your kids – sporting events, dates, discipleship, and various intentional meetings for investoring. Lastly, to schedule times with unbelievers – tennis, golf, barbeques and the like. We need to schedule investoring times with men that are investoring in us (Paul’s); encouraging us (Barnabas’); and men we are investoring in (Timothy’s).

 The Power of a Paul in Your Life: Investoring Relationship #1

Timothy had a spiritual Father – the Apostle Paul. For me my physical father was also my spiritual father. My dad is ninety years old as I write this, and yet there is no one who has been a greater influence on my spiritual life. He taught me primarily by his actions not by his words. I never woke up without him reading the Bible on his lap in the morning. He instilled in me a love for the Scriptures because he lived them out in real life. My dad was an international businessman and as a result we traveled a lot. There was never a Sunday where we missed church. He loved to hear the word preached and to spend time in worship. He taught me to tithe, study the word, be involved in the church, and have Christo-centric lenses with which to filter all of reality – all through his modeling of these things.

It’s important to have many Paul’s. My dad is a tremendous example to me, but he’s not perfect – he has strengths to imitate and weaknesses to avoid. It’s important as pastors that we recognize this in our heroes. I have a Paul who helps me with finances. We have been friends for many years and I have learned a ton about giving, saving, and investing from my “financial Paul.” I have another Paul who helps me with my attitude. I can always count on this Paul to help me with my thinking when I see the glass half empty rather than half full. He has the ability to steer my thoughts heavenward when they are going wayward!

I’ve approached good preachers to help me with my preaching; others to help me with leadership skills; and still others to help me with counseling, conflict management, and various helps with growth in character and skill development. The main thing to remember is that you constantly schedule times with your Paul’s to grow in Christ-like character and skill.

Here are some specific examples I’ve had with Paul’s over the years. One year I was struggling with creativity in preaching. I had been preaching topically for several years and this well-known preacher was an expositional preacher. I called him and invited him out for coffee and he graciously met with me over a period of several months to teach me how to put together expositional sermons. It was the highlight of my week to meet with this excellent expositor of the Word and learn how to become an expository preacher. He would critique my previous weeks sermon; give me ideas of how to have a stronger introduction, big idea, main points, application, and conclusion. As a result I became a much better Bible student, and preacher. The many ways this “Paul” helped me with my preaching were and are incalculable. I learned how to put together an outline, develop a manuscript, and preach without notes from this individual. He radically changed the way I think, prepare, and preach sermons for the glory of God.

Another year I focused on “joy” in my life as a key element missing in manifesting the fruit of the Spirit. I read books on joy, but found a wise older man to meet with every other week for coffee who was known for his joy. I asked him about his habits, thought process when difficulties come, and many other issues related to joy. He’s since gone home to be with the Lord and I still struggle with joy in my life, but I often reflect on what this man taught me about joy, and just thinking about him – brings joy into my life – because he so reflected the joy of Christ in his own.

A Paul can be a life-long mentor for you, or a short-term relationship. The key is that you are proactive in finding and pursuing relationships with Paul’s. The steps I’ve taken in pursuing Paul’s are these: (1) Ask leaders around me what my blind spots are or areas where I could use some growth (I’ve been told in the past I needed more skill in communication – thus the preaching – and needed to smile more – thus the pursuit of joy); (2) Set a time frame for the particular skill or character development. For example, I spent three months learning how to preach expostionally, and one year learning how to become more joyful. This doesn’t mean I don’t still work on becoming a better preacher or becoming more joyful. As a matter of fact – I’m currently looking for mentors in both of these areas again! (3) Commit to your relationship with your Paul. Write out some goals and a plan that you will both agree to – time; place; boundaries; expectations; and some goals. (4) Don’t break off the relationship – but give a time of closure to the process. Most people that you want to be a “Paul” in your life need to invest in others as well. Thank them for their time and release them and encourage them to invest in other “Timothy’s.” (5) Never stop praying for, looking for, and asking for people to invest in you.

I like to have a new Paul in my life each year. I usually have a Paul for some aspect of my character (e.g. – love, patience, joy), and another in a particular skill area (finances, parenting, preaching). The sky is the limit in your growth with a Paul in your life.

Here is what I look for in a Paul. I primarily look for someone who is Christ-like. I’m looking for an area in my own life where I don’t look like Jesus, but for someone I know who does look like Jesus in a particular area of character or skill. I also want someone that believes in me and will commit to me. Therefore, if they meet these criteria I set up a time to meet with them, and give them a head’s up about why I’m meeting with them. For example, when I met with the expository preacher I told him that I admired his preaching and asked if he would be willing to meet with me over a period of three months to show me how he puts together a sermon. I was going through the book of Philippians at the time, so he worked with me on outlining the book, asking questions of the text, and coming up with illustrations and applications from each pericope.

Do you have someone with excellent skills that can help you to improve in areas where you are weak? Do you have someone who is spiritually mature and models biblical values in your life? Do you have someone who is a Christ-like model worth emulating? Do you have someone to go to for wise counsel and advise? Do you have a Paul who is pouring his life into you as the Apostle did with Timothy? Be proactive – prioritize and pursue your Paul now.

I would also urge you to be a Paul for others. What skills and character traits can you help another Timothy with? Are you being proactive with intentionally developing character traits and skills in the lives of others around you? There is an old Chinese Proverb that says, “If you are planting for a year, plant grain. If you are planting for a decade, plant trees. If you are planting for a century, plant people.” You have areas of strength that will be greatly strengthened when you “investorize” them in others for the glory of God.

 The Presence of a Barnabas in Your Life: Investoring Relationship #2

Do you have someone in your life that encourages you regularly? Do you have someone who supports you, believes in you, and guides you? Chuck Swindoll once stated, “A person is never more like Christ than when full of compassion for those who are down, needy, discouraged, or forgotten.”

Enter Barnabas – “the son of encouragement.” Who wouldn’t want to have a Barnabas in their life? He was generous with his finances (Acts 4:32-37); reached out to Paul when everyone else was skeptical about him (Acts 9:26-31 & 11:25-30); spent time with Mark when he had failed (Acts 15:36-39). If it where not for Barnabas we would not have Paul’s epistles not Mark’s gospel. Neither would we have the rapid spread of the gospel as recorded in the Book of Acts. The fact of the matter is nothing empowers good leadership like encouragement.

People like Barnabas are hard to find. The fact of the matter is – they usually find you. Honestly, for every 100 Jezebels and Judas’ out there, you will find a Barnabas. My only advise on finding a Barnabas is to do your best to be a Barnabas. Someone once told me, “Be kind to everyone, because everyone is facing some kind of battle.”

Most the people in my life that have been a Barnabas for me have gone to be with the Lord. I have a few left, but not many. I simply would say to treasure the Barnabas’ in your life. Be around them as much as possible. Also be like Barnabas as much as you possibly can. There were essentially four keys to Barnabas’ life: (1) He was a man of integrity (Acts 11:24); (2) He was full of the Holy Spirit (John 14:16-17, 26); (3) He was full of faith; and (4) he was teachable (Acts 13:43, 50). Constantly be a Barnabas to others and pray that God will bring you a Barnabas by His grace.

Just like your time with God, your spouse, your kids, and your Paul. If you have a Barnabas schedule time with your Barnabas at least once a month. In seasons of dryness schedule more times as needed. Also, please schedule times to be a Barnabas for others – caregivers, people with cancer, and those who are depressed and suffering – they need to be encouraged in Christ desperately.

 The Potential of a Timothy in Your Life: Investoring Relationship #3

Do you have someone you’re investoring in? Are you investing in the spiritual life of your children? What about those who don’t know Jesus or are young in the faith? Are you teaching anyone how to study their Bibles or how to share their faith? There are so many Timothy’s and so little time!

Timothy’s are the easiest to find. Paul’s are harder to come by, and Barnabas’ are fewer and far between. However, you can definitely be a Paul to a Timothy right now. There is an area in your character as well as a skill that you can teach and model for someone else. I have found that men in particular need help in how to show love to their wives (desperately); raise their children (ultra-desperately); and in sharing their faith with neighbors and co-workers (ultra-ultra-desperately).

Based on our key verse on investoring in 2 Timothy 2:1-2, “You then, my child, be strengthened by the grace that is in Christ Jesus, and what you have heard from me in the presence of many witnesses entrust to faithful men who will be able to teach others.” – We see in a nutshell that investoring involves five essential aspects:

(1) It’s relational. The “you” in verse one refers to Timothy and the “my” refers to the Apostle Paul. People learn how to better love and follow Jesus in the context of a focused and purposeful friendship. Timothy learned about life and ministry as he spent time observing and learning from Paul – mediated through his unique personality, gifting, and style.

(2) It’s grounded in Theology. The Apostle Paul imparted what he had received “in the presence of many witnesses” (marturon “martyrs”). These were men and women that had died for their beliefs and convictions based on the Scriptures. In the first century a martyr denoted a public witness to the truth. The meaning of the word martyr into its present meaning is evidence that Christian truth telling could be terminally costly. In the Greek the word “entrust” means making a secure run to the bank to deposit a treasure. These “treasures” for the martyrs were not based on anything material, but based on the great doctrinal truths that make up the gospel: Christ’s atonement for sin, His ascension, His resurrection, and soon return.

(3) It’s intentional. All of us are involved in many un-intentional relationships – encounters with the mailman; the checker at the market; and so forth. However, in the case of Paul and Timothy we see a relationship that was established for a specific purpose – The succession of church leadership. Intentional relationships usually don’t happen unintentionally or spontaneously. Therefore, it’s important that we work hard at being creative and specific with our intentions in pursuing Paul’s and finding Timothy’s to invest in. Being a Barnabas can be spontaneous but will be manifested more when we are intentional in seeking to encourage others.

(4) It’s transformational. The people who have made the biggest impact on my life have been up close and personal. We can learn much from audio, video, and books, but there is absolutely no substitute for real life modeling in the midst of the ups and downs of life.

(5) It’s reproducible. Paul specifies that his goal with Timothy is that he “will be able to teach others.” The goal is always multiplication. We are not to be stagnant pools of knowledge, but rivers with many outlets. We want to refresh and renew and revive the leaders around us.

 The Bottom Line

Leadership in the Bible is all about succession. God never meant to have great leaders so that we simply remember or follow great leaders. He wants us to be great leaders so that we can point others to and emulate our Great Leader. Ultimately Jesus established the Church as the mission agency for unleashing the gospel through disciple making around the world. There is no plan “B.” God’s plan “A” is that His disciples would make disciples who would make disciples until He returns. Having and being a Paul, Timothy, and Barnabas isn’t the only way to make disciples. It’s a way. It’s a way I highly recommend. It’s intentional, purposeful and strategic. It’s hard work, but well worth the effort. It’s a time-tested and trusted model that we see woven all through the Bible – “Moses mentored Joshua. Naomi mentored her daughter-in-law, Ruth. Ezra mentored Nehemiah. Elijah mentored Elisha. Elizabeth mentored her cousin Mary.  Barnabas mentored Paul and John Mark. Paul mentored his spiritual son Timothy. Paul also mentored Priscilla and Aquilla, who in turn mentored Apollos” (Davis, p. 21). The question that remains for us to answer is who will you be “investoring” in for the sake of Christ and the expansion of His Church for His glory until He returns?

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