Every leader needs mentors and models – typically other leaders just ahead of where we are in our growth and our journey. Every leader also needs to be mentoring and modeling those just behind us. This is the only way for discipleship to take on the multi-generational nature described by Paul in 2 Timothy 2:2, “You have heard me teach things that have been confirmed by many reliable witnesses. Now teach these truths to other trustworthy people who will be able to pass them on to others.” (NLT)
In order to both mentor and be mentored effectively, it’s important to see how the relationship between Paul and Timothy developed over time. It unfolded in three phases.
Phase One: Parenthood – In Paul’s first letter to Timothy, he addresses him as “my true son in the faith.” (1 Timothy 1:2) We first meet Timothy in Acts 16 when Paul is heading out on his second missionary journey. He stops in Lystra to pick up the young disciple who accompanies him, assists him, and serves as a sort of apprentice under him. Timothy’s biological father was Greek, but no evidence is ever given that he was a Christian. So Paul filled the shoes of a spiritual father to Timothy.
Phase Two: Pacesetting – The second phase of our ministry mentoring is pacesetting – being the example of what mature ministry looks like. In Paul’s second letter to Timothy, he points out that, “you know what I teach, and how I live, and what my purpose in life is. You know my faith, my patience, my love, and my endurance…” (2 Timothy 3:10-11 NLT) Paul sets the pace with his life and challenges Timothy to learn by keeping up and emulating his lifestyle.
No generation is exempt from the call to fulfill the Great Commission or to serve God’s purposes as fully as possible. The next generation is always watching, so we get to set the pace.
Phase Three: Partnering – In the book of Romans, there is a somewhat obscure reference that Paul makes to Timothy in Romans 16:21, “Timothy, my fellow worker, sends you his greetings.” Timothy has gone from being a son, to a student, and now to being a colleague and a co-laborer. We spend plenty of time desiring and praying for more laborers, but perhaps not enough time investing in those with the potential to become our partners in the mission.
We serve today because of the repetition of this three-phase process for centuries. It didn’t stop with Timothy. The baton has been passed to you who are reading this, and it is our responsibility to be parents, pacesetters, and partners with the next generation until Jesus comes!
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