Let’s continue the previous thought about the people-intensive scale and scope of ministry.
Imagine you’re the perfect church attender. You hear at least 52 sermons a year. In 10 years, that’s 520 sermons! Yet would we expect to see 520 changes in your life?
Someone who is mentored doesn’t just listen to a sermon, but reflects on it and seeks to implement it. They discuss it with their friends, they pass on what they’re learning, they follow up in the coming weeks and months. They are active, deliberate, intentional. They see faith as a way of life, the changed life, a life that is constantly being exposed to the Spirit and aligned with the way of Christ and growing closer to the Father every step of the way. Mentoring goes deep.
This is about more than a skill set. As an undergraduate in a campus group, I was made a Bible study leader and also given the opportunity to start an apologetics ministry. At leadership workshops, a number of us were given skills and training over the course of several years. I learned a great deal in these workshops, but how much was my own life being opened up, my heart, my priorities? I’m not sure. There is of course a personal and spiritual impact even in a big group setting, but it’s scattered. The skills I learnt were excellent, but what are skills apart from a life of discipleship? Looking back, I wonder if my skills were out of kilter with my heart. Learning skills and even practicing them cannot make up for selfish motives, undo personal brokenness, or foster spiritual maturity. That’s where mentoring makes a unique contribution to a person’s flourishing.
Now, I guess we’d all like to be mentored. But 2 Timothy leaves us asking another question: will you be a mentor?
Many ministers today give their own name to their ministries: ‘Joseph Prince Ministries’, ‘Joel Osteen Ministries’, ‘Joyce Meyer Ministries’ and so on. If Paul’s ministry had a name today, it would probably be something different. Who is the minister here? Never Paul alone; he always works in a team. And although Paul is uniquely ‘the one sent to the nations’, he is not a boss. He refers to his team as co-workers, as brothers and sisters. They are family. All of them are uniquely important; none is better than the others; each of them is vital to the ministry. And this letter is to one special co-worker. If Paul were alive today, it is not hard to imagine a name for his ministry: ‘Timothy Ministries’.
Paul’s ministry is about who’ll be next. His legacy is people. The question here is not ‘Do you have a mentor?’ so much as ‘Who are you mentoring?’
As we think about the future, we consider what we will leave behind, and it’s not a question of what but of who. How will my ministry continue when I am no longer there? Yet if ministry is not about numbers, then there is something more important than finding a successor. To ask, ‘Who will I leave behind?’ is to ask, ‘What kind of people will I leave behind?’ Will they be disciples of Jesus? Will they be Christlike, Spirit-shaped ambassadors of the Father who love God and love others?
Arthur Davis is an Aussie living in Tanzania, writing at meetjesusatuni.com.