New Testament Mentoring: Paul & Timothy

What is our nation’s greatest natural resource? Is it the wood in our forests, the mineral oil under the sea, or the gold within our mines? As valuable as these are, they pale in comparison to the worth of our youth! Young people in our churches may be seen as the source of either enormous problems or great potential; as instability or intense creativity.

The good news is that the shortcomings of youthfulness can be transformed into usefulness for the Gospel and God’s glory. In ministry, we must not see youth just as who they are now, but for what they can become by God’s grace. It is with this attitude that we should mentor the next generation! While older Christians must not look down on the younger, the youth must also take personal responsibility and persevere in living out the truth (1 Tim. 4:12). Paul capitalized on this principle when he invested in and empowered young Timothy in notable ways that made him a successful minister (6:11).

Paul Mentors Timothy for Missions

Although Timothy’s dad wasn’t a believer, Paul knew he was the son of a godly woman, Eunice, who instilled in him a deep faith in Christ. Such confidence is essential to be steadfast in a disorienting world. The impact of spiritual mentors is formative in building moral values and missional priorities in new believers.

There was another supreme factor that had transformed Timothy’s life and ministry as well. He was a committed student of God’s Word. From childhood he had known the Holy Scriptures. God’s inspired Word is reliable, profitable, and able to show young people their need for salvation and equip them to point others to the One who offers it (2 Tim. 3:15).

Third, Paul saw in Timothy a saint of a good witness, as local believers in Lystra spoke well of him. This was because of his involvement in the church and their deep influence on him. Because of his proven character, Paul recruited and trained Timothy to be a vital part of his missionary team (Acts 16:1-3).

Our Mission

But what about young people who did not have a Christian upbringing? It becomes the mission of those of us who know the truth to be that godly influence leading them to Christ and encouraging them to follow him. Let us make every effort to understand their essential needs and develop their potential. We can’t forget that we were once young too, looking for models to emulate (cf. Paul had Barnabas, Acts 7:58). Let’s do whatever it takes to empower them for God’s mission.

How can mission leaders and churches play a catalytic role in empowering our youth for global missions? Young people respond well to challenges, provided they know that we have their best interest in mind.

Paul’s relationship with Timothy (2 Tim. 1:1-7) is a model demonstrating how this best works:

  1. Support them through regular communication; Paul wrote to Timothy (2 Tim.1:2)
  2. Confirm your unconditional love and demonstrate genuine interest in their welfare (v.2)
  3. Thank God for them and show how you are praying for and deeply care about them (v.3)
  4. Value them; demonstrate solidarity through their varied life experiences (v.4)
  5. Compliment and clearly display your belief in them; give them responsibility (v.6)
  6. Care enough to give correction, but always encourage them to remain faithful (v.7)

Mentoring for Ministry:

Carefully note how missions in the early church progressed. It started as “Barnabas and Saul,” then “Paul and Barnabas,” and eventually became “Paul and his companions!” (Acts 13:2, 9, 13; 16:3). If we are to expedite Jesus’ Great Commission today, we need to take a closer look at our singular task. The only verb in the commission is “make disciples.” Underline who specifically we are to go to: all nations! The target group in Jesus’ mind was sharply focused—literally to “unreached people groups.”

Paul’s mission strategy must be taken seriously if we are to develop a strategic technique to implement it. He evangelized, baptized, and then stabilized the disciples (14:21-22). The way he mobilized missionaries, brings us to our theme, Empower.

Paul makes this stunning claim to the Romans (15:19-20): “I’ve fully preached the Gospel from Jerusalem to Illyricum (the known world) and since there were no places left, he make plans to visit them en route to Spain. How did he do this without jet planes or social media? Look closely at what he does with the believers of the newly planted churches. He used the ATM method. No, he didn’t have an “automated teller machine” to fund their work creating a dependency that’s impoverishing. Paul intentionally Appointed, Trained, and Mentored local leaders to be disciple-makers that would create church-planting movements among the unreached around them (14:23 ff).

Mobilizing for Missions:

By the time he reached the age of fifty, Paul realized that he would not be able to make as many trips or minister for long periods of time in the future. He noticed that believers in churches had many teachers, but few spiritual “fathers” to mentor them for missions (1 Cor. 4:14-17). Paul had to work as a tent-maker to support himself (Acts 20:34), but he took every opportunity to mentor younger leaders. He rented Tyrannus Hall and used any free time between work to pour himself into the lives of younger leaders like Timothy, Titus, Silas, Epaphras (Col. 1:7), and others who, in turn, went out to pick up where Paul left off! How many of the seven churches in Turkey to whom John wrote in Revelation did Paul start himself? None! So how did they begin and thrive?

The main reason we have not completed Jesus’ Commission is because churches and Bible colleges today are producing pastor-teachers, but not enough apostles (missionaries), prophets, and evangelists (Eph. 4:12) who take the Gospel to the unreached. They must adopt the ATM method with a definite “exit strategy.” After a local church is started, they must entrust the Gospel and ministry to the trained leaders and then move on! They must not build on another’s foundation, but, as Paul did, proceed to where Christ is not yet known.

Discussion Questions:

  1. Is mentoring the next generation of leaders something that comes naturally to mission leaders, or should it be done intentionally? Why or why not? Note: This was important for Jesus! (Jn. 20:21)
  2. How is mentoring others to do what you have been called and sent to do a reward in itself? Share some challenges and joys you are facing in preparing someone to succeed you.
  3. In what sense is training future leaders who will replace and excel beyond us a mark of Christ-like leadership and proof of real success in ministry?