I’d like to share three models that illustrate what mentoring is all about (2 Timothy 2:1-2, 3-4, 5-6). I see this in the lives of three people in the Bible:
The first model is that of Barnabas. He was the guy named Joseph, a Levite born in Cyprus (Acts 4:36) but everyone called him Barnabas, the son of encouragement. Of course his father was not named “encouragement” but rather it is a figure of speech that indicates he embodied the characteristic of encouragement.
At first, he sold his property and gave the proceeds to the Jerusalem church (Acts 4:36-37). He introduced Saul to the Jerusalem church (Acts 9:26-27). The church chose Barnabas to go to Syrian Antioch to investigate the unrestricted preaching to the Gentiles there (Acts 11:19-24). He became the leader to the work and secured Saul as his assistant (Acts 11:25-26). They took famine relief to the Jerusalem church (Acts 11:27-30). On Paul’s first missionary journey, Barnabas at first seems to have been the leader (Acts 13-14). Paul and Barnabas were later sent to Jerusalem to try to settle the questions of how Gentiles could be saved and how Jewish Christians could have fellowship with them (Acts 15:1-21). They agreed to go on another missionary journey but separated over whether to take John Mark with them again (Acts 15:36-41).
In Galatians 2:1-10, Paul recalled how he went with Barnabas to Jerusalem and how the apostles approved of their Gentile mission (probably the same event as Acts 15). In Galatians 2:13, however, Paul indicated that on one occasion Barnabas wavered on the issue of full acceptance of Gentile Christians. In 1 Corinthians 9:6-7, Paul commended Barnabas for following his practice of supporting himself rather than depending upon the churches. Colossians 4:10 simply states that Mark was Barnabas’ cousin.
Related to mentoring, think about it, every person needs encouragement, and who better to give that encouragement than a follower of Jesus? The life of Barnabas was one of service to others, encouraging others, investing of himself into others. This model sets the example for others, puts in a good word for Jesus and brings others into a community of faith. Every Christian mentor needs a Barnabas to receive encouragement.
Another model of mentoring is taken from the life of Paul and Timothy. Timothy was the young man who grew up in a faithful and devout home (2 Timothy 1:5, 3:15). Paul invests much of his life into Timothy, and refers to him as a child in the faith (1 Corinthians 4:17, 1 Timothy 1:2, 2 Timothy 1:2). Perhaps Paul was instrumental in Timothy’s conversion, when he came to Lystra on the second missionary journey. Timothy was a disciple who was well respected (Acts 16:1-2). Paul also sent Timothy on several missions (Acts 17:14-15, 18:5, 19:22, 20:4, Romans 16:21, 1 Corinthians 16:10, 2 Corinthians. 1:19, 1 Thessalonians 3:2, 6).
When Paul was unable to go to Corinth, he sent Timothy to represent Paul and his teachings (1 Corinthians 4:17). Later when Paul was in prison, he sent Timothy to Philippi (Philippians. 2:19). Timothy was a man of commitment and compassion (Philippians 2:20-22) and as Paul’s ministry neared the end, he challenged Timothy to remain true to his calling (1 Timothy 1:18).
As Paul faced death, he asked Timothy to come to be with him (2 Timothy 4:9). At some point in his life, Timothy was imprisoned; but he was released (Hebrews 13:23). Paul wrote letters to Timothy because he is unable to visit in person (1 Timothy 3:14-15). The point is that Paul took this young disciple and challenged him to be all he could be for the kingdom of God. How can we multiply our efforts to reach the world? Every Christian mentor needs a Timothy to guide as a protégé.
This is a not-so-well-known character in the New Testament. He was a friend and fellow worker of Paul (Philippians 2:25-26). He had delivered to Paul a gift from the church at Philippi while the apostle was in prison. While he was with Paul, Epaphroditus became seriously ill. After his recovery, Paul sent him back to Philippi, urging the church there to receive him “with all gladness” (Philippians 2:29-30). I read that the name Epaphroditus was common in the first century Greek-speaking world, meaning “favored by Aphrodite.”
In regard to mentoring, all of us need to make difficult decisions and struggle with life issues, but having someone upon whom you may trust and depend is quite valuable. Having an Epaphroditus in your life (at work, leisure or worship) allows your heart to be knit together with others in the bond of Christ. It is a true statement that the mentor receives as much personal benefit from the mentoring relationship as does the protégé. For the protégé, personal satisfaction and professional development are natural outcomes of fulfilling one’s potential. For the mentor, he receives significant satisfaction from having assisted another person on a long-term permanent basis.
The Ephaphroditus relationship cannot be forced, but should come natural. Sometimes members want the staff to teach, or mentor or reach people they know; after all, they’re “professional” ministers. But in many ways it is not good for the staff to do it. For one, it’s not biblical. The staff is called to equip the saints for the work of service (Ephesians 4:11-12). On a practical level, the average member in the pew has already built the relationship of trust with those who need to be mentored or reached. It makes more sense for a pastor to say, “I am able to see your friend once a week, but you see him every day for lunch. Wouldn’t it make a better strategy for me to train you so that you could mentor your friend or lead him to Christ?” So, every Christian mentor needs an Epaphroditus to enjoy on a peer level.
Three models, with a recurring theme: relationships. We are to encourage others, and seek one who is an encouragement to us; find a protégé into whom you can pour your life and invest in the future; and have a peer relationship whereby your hearts are knit together in Christ.