September 12, 2014.
“Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus by command of God our Savior and of Christ Jesus our hope, To Timothy, my true child in the faith: Grace, mercy, and peace from God the Father and Christ Jesus our Lord.”
(I Timothy 1:1-3)
Recently my class went over a lesson on mentorship and its importance in our spiritual walk as a whole. This topic is one that had become near to my heart over the past two years as I saw how much good could come from being a mentor or being mentored and how vital it was to the continuation of spreading the gospel once we are gone or even when we move to a new place. In biblical terms, mentoring is often referred to as making disciples and is prominent throughout the bible when leadership was going to be passed off. Moses had Joshua, Eli had Samuel, Elijah had Elisha- John, his disciples, Jesus, the Apostles and Paul had Timothy (and arguably Titus). I’m sure these are just a few of the mentor/mentee relationships in the bible. Obviously there is something to this model. Let’s examine a few examples.
Mentoring a New Leader
If you know anything about Judaism or even Christianity, I would imagine you have a least heart of Moses. Moses is one of those “big name” people in the bible, as God did so much through him for his people. 400 years of being slaves to the Egyptians was ended through Moses. The red sea was parted by Moses, as did the other plagues come from God through the words of his servant. The whole law that the Jews based just about everything off of was given through Moses (aptly referred to as the law of Moses). Can you imagine having to follow that?
That’s exactly what Joshua was appointed to do- lead the children of Israel after Moses died. Now, for full disclosure, Moses did not always do what was right in the sight of God. In fact, for one act of disobedience, Moses was not allowed to enter the promised land. This is where Joshua had to take over. Joshua was one of the 12 spies who went to scout out the promised land, being one of the only two that came back convinced that they could take the land because God was on their side. Because of his courage and confidence in the Lord, he was appointed the next leader who would take the children into that very land. When Moses died, this is what God says to Joshua:
“After the death of Moses the servant of the Lord, the Lord said to Joshua the son of Nun, Moses’assistant, “Moses my servant is dead. Now therefore arise, go over this Jordan, you and all this people, into the land that I am giving to them, to the people of Israel. Every place that the sole of your foot will tread upon I have given to you, just as I promised to Moses. From the wilderness and this Lebanon as far as the great river, the river Euphrates, all the land of the Hittites to the Great Sea toward the going down of the sun shall be your territory. No man shall be able to stand before you all the days of your life. Just as I was with Moses, so I will be with you. I will not leave you or forsake you.Be strong and courageous, for you shall cause this people to inherit the land that I swore to their fathers to give them.”
Joshua had been trained under good hands and entrusted with the promise of God. God tells Joshua that just as He had been with Moses, so He would be with him. What words of both comfort and responsibility! Joshua does walk in step with the Lord overall and in his final address to the people, he is able to charge them with this well known passage:
“And if it is evil in your eyes to serve the Lord, choose this day whom you will serve, whether the gods your fathers served in the region beyond the River, or the gods of the Amorites in whose land you dwell. But as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord.”
Spiritual Training for the next Spiritual Leader
In the time of the kings, the spiritual guides for the people were often the prophets of that day. One of the greatest prophets in terms of power was Elijah. Elijah was a prophet who was not afraid to stand up against 950 false prophets at once (I Kings 18), call down fire from heaven to consume those who would being him to the king (II Kings 1) and even raised the dead on one occasion (I Kings 17). But when Jezebel, a very evil queen, threatens to kill him, he runs to a cave and tells the Lord that he is the only one left (there’s much more to this story, but for the sake of time I am leaving it at this… you should read it, it’s one of my favorites). The Lord responds with basically “Get up and go do what you are supposed to do. You’re not the only one left.” (Complete paraphrase). Part of the Lord’s response was to anoint Elisha as prophet in his place:
“And the Lord said to him, “Go, return on your way to the wilderness of Damascus. And when you arrive, you shall anoint Hazael to be king over Syria. And Jehu the son of Nimshi you shall anoint to be king over Israel, and Elisha the son of Shaphat of Abel-meholah you shall anoint to be prophet in your place.”
(I Kings 19:15-16)
And that’s exactly what Elijah did.
“So he departed from there and found Elisha the son of Shaphat, who was plowing with twelve yoke of oxen in front of him, and he was with the twelfth. Elijah passed by him and cast his cloak upon him.And he left the oxen and ran after Elijah and said, “Let me kiss my father and my mother, and then I will follow you.” And he said to him, “Go back again, for what have I done to you?” And he returned from following him and took the yoke of oxen and sacrificed them and boiled their flesh with the yokes of the oxen and gave it to the people, and they ate. Then he arose and went after Elijah and assisted him.”
(I Kings 19:19-21)
This seems to be a weird way to begin mentoring to me, but then again its right in line with Elijah’s character. I can only imagine what it would have been like to have arguably the greatest prophet in your time come to you and invite you to be his apprentice. Elisha knew how great of an opportunity he was being offered and rose to the challenge. Elijah and Elisha no doubt spent most if not all of Elijah’s remaining time on this earth together for Elisha’s training and they were so close that even when it came time for Elijah to be taken up into heaven, Elisha would not leave his side.
“Now when the Lord was about to take Elijah up to heaven by a whirlwind, Elijah and Elisha were on their way from Gilgal. And Elijah said to Elisha, “Please stay here, for the Lord has sent me as far as Bethel.” But Elisha said, “As the Lord lives, and as you yourself live, I will not leave you.” So they went down to Bethel. And the sons of the prophets who were in Bethel came out to Elisha and said to him, “Do you know that today the Lord will take away your master from over you?” And he said, “Yes, I know it; keep quiet.”
(II Kings 2:1-3)
God knew the importance of raising up spiritual leaders for the next generation.
The Example of Christ
Have you ever thought about the mechanism that Jesus used to establish and spread his kingdom throughout the world? He did not come and just start talking to as many people as possible. He did not establish a good moral with everyone (at least in his later years). He did not get on the internet and start a one man show (I’m being a bit facetious). What was his grand plan to proclaim the gospel to the world? Train twelve men. Twelve, one of which was a traitor. Yes, before you jump on me, I know Jesus had more disciples than just the apostles, but more of his training time was spent with them. And even of the 12, three were taught more closely (Peter, James and John) than the others. This is how Jesus made his disciples, and through these men He changed the world. When He had risen from death and was about to ascend to His father, he left them with this message:
“And Jesus came and said to them, “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.””
We know this as the great commission. What did he tell his disciples to do? Make disciples. That was the plan. That was the mechanism. It is still the plan today.
I opening this post with an excerpt from the beginning of Paul’s first letter to Timothy because I wanted to highlight the relationship they had. Timothy had become Paul’s child in the faith. Paul had trained and nurtured him in the truth, and had the utmost confidence in his disciple when it came time to send him out as a leader. He wrote to him to let him know that no man should despise his youth and to be confident in his abilities, for he had been well trained. He even sent Timothy, a young man, to appoint elders in the churches that were lacking them! Can you imagine what the older people in that church would have thought about taking instructions from this young man? But he had been well trained and was furnished to adequately accomplish this task. Paul had followed the example of Christ in his mechanism of keeping the gospel alive for future generations.
So how do we do make disciples today? Is our teaching more focused on reaching the masses, or well training the few, who will then train a few, and so on and so forth? I don’t think reaching out to the masses is a bad thing. Jesus did indeed preach to large crowds and talk to many people outside of his disciples. But he spent a concerted amount of time specifically with the few that he was training, and that plan was good enough to spread the gospel throughout the world. It will still work, and work very well, today. Jesus didn’t make mistakes. He did things for a reason. Mentoring and making strong disciples is very important to Christ, especially for spreading his gospel to the next generation.
Are you a mentor? Are you being mentored? If not, I would encourage you to give it a try. I think you will be exponentially blessed by what God will accomplish though this new relationship once you start. May His glory forever be proclaimed.
Suggested Daily Reading: I Kings 19, II Kings 2, Matthew 4, Mark 1.
The Lord bless your relationship with the brotherhood.