In so much as the Sovereign God of the Universe has chosen to use human beings to accomplish His will, the necessity of mentoring future leaders is more important in the church than any other business, organization, or entity on the planet. If the Lord Jesus had not accomplished the will of His Father in preparing eleven disciples to lead the church in the first century, Christianity would not have the worldwide preeminence it has today; and the world would be without hope. Unlike any other business, organization or entity, mentoring spiritual leaders takes on an unparalleled significance in the congregation of God’s people. Outside of the vicarious Substitutionary atonement, nothing Christ did on the planet more clearly glorified the Father than the development of the apostles for the proclamation of the gospel after His departure under the empowerment of God the Holy Spirit. The Lord Jesus Christ provides all leaders and most especially pastors with a perfect example of the mentoring leader—this example must first be understood and then put into practice by those who have been ordained to equip the saints in obedience to the Great Commission (Mt 28:19-20).
Dr. Elmer Towns presents the Lord as the perfect example of the mentoring leader. Towns points to Jesus as the leader who led people through one-on-one ministry. This mentoring, which could be described as discipleship on steroids, began with a careful selection of the men Christ believed would most glorify the Father in their extension of His work on the planet. S. Lance Quinn, a professor at The Master’s Seminary, is careful to note that Christ spent time in prayer before he selected His disciples (MacAthur 2005, 264). Everything the Son did had a specific purpose behind it. It certainly is not too much to surmise that Christ modeled the importance of communing with God before selecting those whom they will strive to mentor in a personal way. Every pastor must seek the face of God and know His will, as much as possible, before he begins to pour his life, in a unique and special way, into individuals. Moreover, Quinn believes that Acts 6:1-6 provides an example of how the early church leaders were especially careful in whom they selected for more training and increased responsibilities. He writes, “Leaders today must carefully select others to nurture and teach for service in the body of Christ” (Eph. 4:11-16) (Ibid.).
Fortunately, the Lord did not leave the church without guidance with regard to the careful selection of those who must be mentored for future spiritual positions of leadership. 1 Timothy 3 provides a list of the qualities the spiritual leader needs to have to serve in the office of pastor. The pastor who devotes huge periods of time mentoring someone who will never be employed by a church to preach is not being a wise steward of his time. Acts 6 also provides another example of the qualities that need to be potentially present before someone is mentored toward a position of spiritual leadership. Acts 6:4 indicates that the men had to be wise, full of the Holy Spirit and men of integrity. Furthermore, Paul makes it clear to Timothy that if someone is not “apt to teach” he cannot serve as a spiritual leader, an elder, in a local church (1st Tim 3:2). Pastors must see potential in someone to teach and preach the Word of God to be a candidate for private mentorship. Towns would do well to provide a list of the potential characteristics the pastor should be looking for in a mentee; but certainly wise, apt to teach (and teachable) and a man of integrity would be some of the top considerations.
According to Mark 3:14: “Christ appointed twelve that they might be with him.” This seems to give an indication that Christ spent time with disciples—time is the essential element of mentoring. In fact, the entire historical narrative of the adult ministry of Christ is one of Him spending time with the disciples. They left their current professions to follow Christ—the time Christ spent with the disciples was more than nearly any married leader could spend with disciples today. These men ate, slept and drank Jesus for about three years. The gospels record the highlights of the events of the life of Christ, but in between these highlights are days and days of walking, talking, associating, sharing, and teaching. Finally, it must be noted that even within the twelve disciples there is an indication that Peter, James and John received even more attention and direction. Applying this model, the pastor is justified in pouring more into the life of any single potential spiritual leader as he sees fit in order to advance the kingdom of God. Paul Chappell of West Coast Bible College sadly believes that, “Many church leaders get so caught up in administration and paperwork that they forget to invest in the lives of their people” (Chappell 2000, 176).
Next, the person doing the mentoring must remember that, like Christ, his role in the life of the disciple is to challenge them. He is the coach insisting that they can do it. The senior pastor must first model that he is taking up his cross, denying himself and following Jesus; and then he must challenge the mentee to do the same. Although John Maxwell writes from an exceptionally secular perspective failing to consider the necessity of calling his reader to a life of following Christ, he does articulate biblical principles without identify the source. He presents five principles for developing people in Developing the Leader in You worthy of attention. First, the leader must value people. Maxwell does not say it, but people are made in the image of God and thus worthy of value. Jesus modeled this perfectly. Second, the leader must be committed to people. In spite of the fact that Jesus knew Judas would betray him, Peter would deny Him, and some of the very people he healed and helped would be screaming “crucify him,” Christ would be not be deterred from his commitment to others. Third, the leader must be a man of integrity (Maxwell 1993, 117). This single principle is worthy of a separate dissertation. Christ models this perfectly as a man whose integrity was beyond question in every aspect of his life. He provides what Towns identifies as critically necessary—example (Towns 2007, 145). Jesus’ entire life served as “an example, that the disciples should do as he had done for them” (John 13:15; paraphrase mine). Fourth, Maxwell states that the leader must provide a standard for those he is hoping to develop. Maxwell does not identify what the standard is, but the Apostle Paul does for every spiritual leader. Paul instructs his reader to follow him as he follows Christ. To the church at Corinth he challenged them to “Be imitators of me, as I am of Christ” (1 Cor. 11:1). Finally, Maxwell indicates that the entire mentoring process is contingent upon the leaders influence over the people. Christ’s influence is beyond measure. His contribution to the disciple’s life, combined with the empowerment of God the Holy Spirit, influenced the apostles to turn the “world upside down” for Jesus (Acts 17.6).
Towns points to the opportunities that Jesus gave his disciples to “apply the lessons they were learning by delegating responsibility and authority to them to” preach the gospel as an essential part of the mentoring process (Towns 2007, 145). This is exceptionally important; the mentee has to have the opportunity to teach others. This is precisely what Paul communicates in 2 Tim. 2:2; there is a clear implication in this passage that these men who are faithful are going to be teaching others. Practical opportunities to teach and lead small groups under the observation and instruction of the spiritual leader are necessary to fully develop the mentee. Towns suggests that Luke 9:10 is an example of Jesus spending time with the disciples after they have done what He has prepared them to do—preach—and then meets them to go over their work. Perhaps He answers questions and gives them more guidance. Towns writes, “Jesus supervised His disciples by debriefing them following their ministry tours and taking them aside for further training that would improve” them (Towns 2007, 145). Quinn writes, “Any pastor who is not discipling others is abdicating a primary responsibility of his calling” (MacArthur 2005, 271).
Finally, Towns addresses the need for those who are “adequately trained as leaders” to be challenged to reproduce themselves. Without regard to his divine attributes, Christ reproduced himself in the lives of the disciples; and the Great Commission clearly points to the mandate to continue to produce disciples. Maxwell writes, “The more people you develop, the greater the extent of your dreams” (Maxwell 1995, 115). The pastor needs to understand that the more people he mentors, the greater extent his discipleship ministry will glorify God and accomplish the Great Commission. Therefore, his dream is not what drives him to go the distance, take chances, be transparent, teach others, empower subordinates, and devote his life to people; but his earnest desire is to see God glorified through his influence on others.
Mentoring and discipleship are not the same; the pastor needs to do both. He has a God- given responsibility to disciple as many converts as possible to the glory of God. Mentoring is not the same thing. Mentoring is the extra effort the spiritual leader puts into the lives of fully- devoted followers of Christ to help them become leaders of disciples of Christ. Jesus did not mentor everyone he came in contact with during his ministry. Moreover, he did not disciple everyone he met. A select group of men were identified and mentored to continue the work of the Lord. Paul understood this well and gave Timothy some mentoring guidance in 2 Tim. 2:2. MacArthur writes:
Timothy was to take the divine revelation he had learned from Paul and teach it to other faithful men—men with proven spiritual character and giftedness, who would in turn pass on those truths to another generation. From Paul to Timothy to faithful men to others encompasses four generations of godly leaders. That process of spiritual reproduction which began in the early church, is to continue until the Lord returns (MacArthur 1997, 1876).
Nothing has changed. God glorifies Himself by saving souls by the foolishness of preaching. In Romans 10:14-15, Paul asks: “How will sinners hear the gospel without a preacher? And how shall they preach unless they are sent?” Mentoring is what Christ did before He sent His disciples to preach, and mentoring still must happen before men are sent to preach. Now more than ever there is still a need to model every aspect of Christ’s life, including His passion to Glorify His Father through His mentoring work with the disciples as described in John 17.
Chappell, Paul. 2000. Guided by Grace: Servant Leadership in the Local Church. Murfreesboro, TN: Sword of the Lord Publishers.
Maxwell, John. 2002. The Maxwell Leadership Bible. Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson.
MacArthur, John. 2005. Pastoral Ministry: How to Shepherd Biblically. Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson.
MacArthur, John. 1997. The MacArthur Study Bible. Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson Bibles.
Towns, Elmer L. 2007. Biblical Models for Leadership. Mason, OH: Cengage Learning.