Leaders are greatly needed for the God-given mission of the church. Jesus gave this charge to his disciples on the occasion of his ascension into heaven: “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, to the close of the age.” (Matt. 28:19-20 KJV) To further amplify this, we are told in Acts 1:8, “But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.”
Go to the whole world to make disciples of all nations. Really, all nations? That seems overwhelming and yet that was the mission. All disciples of Christ were to do this.
How is this possible? This seems impossible for a group of 12. And yet it happened because they saw their mission to be to make disciples of those who believe… everywhere. Rarely does the church today see this as the mission. The central command in Matthew 28:19-20 is to “make disciples.” To accomplish this, they were to be going ever outward with the gospel “even to the ends of the earth (Acts 1:8).” As they went, they were to baptize all believers and then to “teach them to obey all that Christ had commanded.” All that Christ commanded. This is discipleship but it is also the core principle of mentoring.
The Great Commission is possible when every follower of Christ disciples, or mentors, others.
We know from the Book of Acts that the early church wrestled with this command. It was not immediately clear to them that God meant all peoples everywhere, including the Gentiles. How else could you understand this: upon reflection they could have thought that Christ meant the Jews of the dispersion. After all, that is who was gathered in Jerusalem for the feast of Pentecost (Acts 2:5-12). We see Peter wrestling with this in Acts 9:32-11:18.
Next, we see Barnabas being commissioned by the Apostles in Jerusalem to go to Antioch to check out what is going on there where Gentiles were coming to faith in Christ. “When he arrived and saw the evidence of the grace of God, he was glad and encouraged them all to remain true to the Lord with all their hearts. He was a good man, full of the Holy Spirit and faith, and a great number of people were brought to the Lord.” (Acts 11:23-24) Barnabas had the spiritual discernment to see how God was working among the Gentiles and he was led to affirm them as genuine believers and to work on their behalf to provide leadership to them so that they could grow in grace and in knowledge of the Lord. As a result of the great door of ministry that opened in Antioch, he was led by the Spirit to go to the city of Tarsus in Turkey to find Saul and bring him to Antioch to work alongside him in discipling the many new believers there. They continued to labor there for a full year (cf. Acts 11:25-26). They became partners in the harvest with Barnabas as the leader along with Paul. From here we can follow Barnabas as he mentors Paul to be an Apostle to the Gentiles. Barnabas knew that this was God’s call on Paul’s life as he was the one who brought Paul and introduced him to the Apostles and the church in Jerusalem. On his conversion on the road to Damascus God told Paul (then Saul of Tarsus) through Ananias, that he would be His Apostle to the Gentiles (Acts 9:15-16).
In Acts 11:9-18 Peter reports back to the Church in Jerusalem on what has occurred among the Gentiles. In Acts 15 Barnabas and Paul report to the Apostles in Jerusalem on the fruit of their first missionary journey. During that journey, their steps had been dogged by the Judaizers who insisted that any Gentiles who believed must be circumcised. After debate, the Apostles determined that Gentiles were indeed authentic believers and did not need to be circumcised. And so, the debate over the meaning of the great commission was finally settled.
Challenges to the Mission of the Church Today
We live in a world with a rapidly changing culture. The church is panting to keep up. The reality is that we are moving in the direction of irrelevancy. Cultural change is moving faster and faster. We tend to make changes 10 years after a change has come. Occasionally, we might adjust to face change as it happens now, but almost never do we anticipate change that is coming and work to address it in our life and message.
The training of church leaders has too often been relegated to seminaries that tend to focus on interpreting the scripture in its original context rather than how to apply scripture to our world today. One usually learns relatively little about contemporary life and culture. This is further complicated by the fact that seminaries usually do little to train people to be leaders of the church in contemporary culture. We need leaders who see where the culture is moving and step up to lead the church to address that culture.
Such training, I believe, will not mainly come from seminaries but will come out of churches who are intentionally raising up leaders through mentoring which today is a lost art in the church. In this article we will address what mentoring is and examine the ministry of Barnabas investing in the development of the Apostle Paul along with others.
Mentoring is also needed to raise up leaders for expanding the ministry of the church into new and strategic areas. We must also mentor leaders from the younger generation to rise to fill the shoes of those that have preceded them. Too many pastors continue to serve as the lead person in congregations to the very end of their lives. In far too many cases when they die the church dies with them because there is no one in the church to take their place.
It is a common phenomenon today to see new church plants led by a younger leader who reaches people in their own generation who then grow old together. The day of the multi-generational church seems to be over. Today’s church youth rarely continue attending the church of their youth when they enter adulthood. If these new churches do not intentionally mentor the next generations with the gospel, these churches too will die.
We are facing a real crisis in the church. From an informal survey that I do when speaking, I have learned that 95% of those who attend church regularly come to faith and commit to a church between the ages of 18-25. But it is also true that many of the those who grow up in a church will leave the church during those same years. Remarkably, many committed Christian youth grow into leaders through evangelism and discipleship in campus fellowships during their college years yet, sadly, return home after college to churches that are not interested in investing in their continued development nor place them into leadership roles alongside older, mature leaders.
I can tell you that my most effective years in ministry have been the years following my “retirement.” Over the past 14 years I have had the opportunity to invest in the lives of many, many young leaders who I advise, encourage, and invest in. I have watched them go way beyond anything I ever did. In my old age I get to hang out on the corner with a wonderful group of young, insightful, and gifted church leaders. As I let them stand on my shoulders, they have gone way beyond anything that I have thought or accomplished.
Many committed Christian youth grow into leaders through evangelism and discipleship in campus fellowships during their college years yet, sadly, return after college to churches that are not interested in investing in their continued development nor place them into leadership roles alongside older, mature leaders.
Key principles foundational to mentoring:
- The John the Baptist principle: John 3:30 “He must increase, but I must decrease.” John the Baptist understood that his role was to be the forerunner of Christ, preparing the people for the coming of the Savior.
- II Timothy 2:2: “And the things you have heard me say in the presence of many witnesses entrust to reliable people who will also be qualified to teach others.” Pass on what you have been taught to faithful believers so that they too can teach others.
- We are privileged to allow a younger generation to stand on our shoulders to see and go further than we have done.
Lessons on Mentoring from Barnabas and Paul
Barnabas is one the most important people in the New Testament, yet he is rarely mentioned in the church today. Once you get to know him, you will understand why he goes unnoticed. That is because he was often a quiet, behind-the-scenes kind of guy. But his influence was great…as he chose to work through others. Rarely was he the high profile, up-front guy.
He is first mentioned in Acts 4:36-37. There we read: “Joseph, a Levite from Cyprus, whom the apostles called Barnabas (which means Son of Encouragement), sold a field he owned and brought the money and put it at the apostles’ feet.” Note the following:
- His name was really Joseph, a Levite from the Island of Cyprus in the Mediterranean.
- His name was changed by the Apostles to “Barnabas” because he was a ‘Son of Encouragement.’ So great was his ministry of encouragement that that became his name. We will see how encouragement was his spiritual gift. Here in Acts 4:36-37 this ministry was first seen in his generosity in giving to meet the personal physical and financial needs of believers in the church. This is a key principle of mentoring – encouragement, saying to others, “Yes, you can.”
- He is next mentioned in Acts 9:26-30 in connection with the conversion of Saul of Tarsus. How anxious would you have been to meet Saul? After all, he was the leader of those who had killed Stephen in Acts 7:54-8:1. And when he was converted to be a believer in Christ, he was on the road to the city of Damascus to persecute believers there. As a new believer he desired to give testimony of his new faith in Christ before the church in Jerusalem, but they were not anxious to meet him, fearing that it was a trick to capture and persecute them too. It was Barnabas who overcame this fear and led him to find Saul to hear his testimony. Believing that he was a genuine believer, he brought him to the Apostles and himself bore witness before the church to the genuineness of Saul’s conversion. What an encouragement! How many of us had a Barnabas early in our walk with the Lord who took the time to get to know us and who came to believe that God was truly working in us – even though our stories before we knew Christ were stories of great brokenness and sin? Barnabas really believed 2 Corinthians 5:17: “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come!”
- And so began the long partnership of Barnabas with Saul (whose name is later changed to Paul, the Apostle). Together, they were eventually commissioned by the Antioch Church to be missionaries to the Gentiles (Acts 13:1-12). Their ministry together continued through Acts 15 when they went together to Jerusalem to defend the Gospel coming to the Gentiles without the requirement of circumcision. During that first missionary journey Barnabas and Paul ministered together as one. As you read the account of their ministry you can’t tell who does what. Initially, it is ‘Barnabas and Paul,’ later it’s ‘Paul and Barnabas.’ Barnabas is a spiritual giant who is quite content to let Paul shine. Here we see Paul standing on the shoulders of Barnabas in the work of the ministry. In a very real sense, Paul is the spiritual son of Barnabas.
- But our story would not be complete without talking about the division that came between Barnabas and Paul. On that first missionary journey they had also taken John Mark along with them. John Mark was a nephew of Barnabas, and he was also the one who wrote the Gospel of Mark. At that time, Mark was immature, and he grew weary in the work of ministry to the point that he gave up and headed back home. As Paul and Barnabas prepared for a second missionary journey, Barnabas once again wanted to take John Mark along. Paul balked at this. This led to a parting of the ways between them. Paul headed one direction with Silas, and Barnabas took John Mark and went again to Cyprus, his home country. But this is not the end of the story. Barnabas continued to disciple John Mark for gospel ministry. And Paul and John Mark later reconciled and teamed up again. But it was Barnabas who continued to mentor John Mark as a leader in the mission of the church. Note the following passages:
My fellow prisoner Aristarchus sends you his greetings, as does Mark, the cousin of Barnabas. (You have received instructions about him; if he comes to you, welcome him. (Colossians 4:10)
Epaphras, my fellow prisoner in Christ Jesus, sends you greetings. And so do Mark, Aristarchus, Demas and Luke, my fellow workers. (Philemon 23-24)
Only Luke is with me. Get Mark and bring him with you because he is helpful to me in my ministry. I sent Tychicus to Ephesus. When you come, bring the cloak that I left with Carpus at Troas, and my scrolls, especially the parchments. (2 Timothy 4:11)
Barnabas’s Ministry is in Keeping With 2 Timothy 2:2.
Finally, let us summarize what all this means for the preparation of leaders in the church. Of particular importance is the role of leadership to mentor, or disciple, believers for the work of ministry for the building up of the body of Christ (cf. Ephesians 4:11-16). The Barnabas story is a beautiful picture of 2 Timothy 2:2: “And the things you have heard me say in the presence of many witnesses entrust to reliable people who will also be qualified to teach others.”
So, who is your Barnabas? And who are you Barnabas to? The gospel that has changed our lives is a treasure not to sit on but to be passed on to others. God calls each one of us to the ministry of Barnabas. Yes, the ministry of encouragement is essential if the body of Christ is to be fully discipled and mobilized in God’s great mission of reaching the lost.
Stop now and give thanks to God for those who have had a Barnabas encouragement ministry to you. But also, pray that God would use you as a Barnabas to someone else. Pass on what you have received so that the light of Christ may shine in and through others, to the glory and praise of our great God and Savior, Jesus Christ!
God calls each one of us to the ministry of Barnabas. The ministry of encouragement is essential if the body of Christ is to be fully discipled and mobilized in God’s mission.
Let us summarize what all this means for the preparation of leaders in the church. Of particular importance is the role of leadership to mentor, or disciple, believers for the work of ministry for the building up of the body of Christ (cf. Ephesians 4:11-16).
Mentoring is an intentional process in which a leader opens his/her life to another whereby he/she shares his life, faith, burdens/hurts, grace lessons, and knowledge and experience for the growth and development of the other unto maturity in Christ. Intentional mentoring takes place when a mature, godly leader invests him/herself in another’s life so that they can reach their God-given potential.
Leaders are Called to Develop Leaders
- Leadership is a calling from God that is recognized, affirmed, and cultivated by those already in leadership and it leads to their strategic placement and supervision in ministry.
- One of the primary responsibilities of a pastor is the identification and placement of people into leadership positions. This is for at least two reasons:
- The work of the ministry in the church is larger than one or even a few can do. So, others are needed. Examples:
- Jethro’s challenge to Moses (Exodus 18).
- The Apostles and the selection of the Seven (Acts 6:1-6).
- Jesus’ selection and training of the twelve disciples.
- Yes, he taught multitudes, but he gave himself to the twelve for three full years.
- They, in turn, carried the gospel in many directions, reaching the lost and establishing churches.
- The ripples of this humble but profound continues to this very day.
- Second, the continuity of leadership to subsequent generations demands intentional mentoring of leadership. Examples:
- Moses to Joshua
- Samuel and the school of the prophets
- Elijah to Elisha
- Mordecai to Ruth
- Naomi to Ruth
- The work of the ministry in the church is larger than one or even a few can do. So, others are needed. Examples:
Qualifications of a Biblical Mentor
The leader must meet God’s standard of character, faith, knowledge, and spiritual gifts found in Titus 1 and 1 Timothy 3.
- A mentor must be well-established in the Christian faith, not a recent convert.
- A mentor must be a person of good reputation and above reproach.
- A mentor must be faithful to his or her spouse.
- A mentor must level-headed and self-controlled, not controlled by bad habits or addictions.
- A mentor must be honest and genuine.
- A mentor must love what is good, upright, and holy.
- A mentor must be teachable – biblically literate, daily studying and holding firmly the truths of Scripture.
- A mentor must be able to teach others.
- A mentor must be hospitable, ready to welcome both friends and strangers.
- A mentor must have a gentle and gracious spirit, not given to violent outbursts of anger, not quarrelsome.
- A mentor must not be a lover of money and material possessions.
- A mentor must be a mentor in the home first; that is, a mentor must prove that he or she can nurture, love, teach, train, and counsel his or her own children before attempting to be an example to others.
Who is your Barnabas? And who are you Barnabas to?
- The mentor needs wisdom to discern who God is calling and placing in ministry.
- The mentor needs humility to recognize his own limitations and to recognize the gifts in another that are needed in a situation.
- The mentor serves as a sponsor and space maker to make a place for ministry development.
- The mentor lends his credibility at times when the person under development has little, no, or even a negative reputation (such as Saul just after his conversion).
- The mentor brings the person under development to minister alongside him/her.
- Jesus taught his disciples all that he received from his father in order that they, in turn, might pass it on to others (cf. 2 Timothy 2:2).
- Jesus used a “show and tell” methodology of teaching his disciples.
- Jesus performed a miracle and then explained it to his disciples.
- His major teachings often came after he performed a miracle.
- The parables were given often in the context of ministry dialogue and/or conflict.
- Those that are faithful in a little will be asked to be faithful in much.
- This sharing of life is that of growing into Christlikeness. Paul called others to imitate him even as he imitated Christ. It is not about becoming like me but becoming like Christ.
Examples of Mentoring Relationships in the Bible
- Moses and Joshua
- Samuel and the school of the prophets
- Paul and Timothy, Silas, and Titus
- Barnabas and John Mark
- Naomi and Ruth
- Pricilla and Aquila with Apollos
Eligibility Requirements to be Mentored
2Tim. 2:1-7: “You then, my son, be strong in the grace that is in Christ Jesus. And the things you have heard me say in the presence of many witnesses entrust to reliable men who will also be qualified to teach others. Endure hardship with us like a good soldier of Christ Jesus. 4 No one serving as a soldier gets involved in civilian affairs–he wants to please his commanding officer. Similarly, if anyone competes as an athlete, he does not receive the victor’s crown unless he competes according to the rules. The hardworking farmer should be the first to receive a share of the crops. Reflect on what I am saying, for the Lord will give you insight into all this.”
In this passage we see several requirements:
- The person must evidence growth in the grace of Christ.
- He/she must be reliable (faithful)
- He/she must be fruitful.
- He/she must be submissive to those over them, evidencing biblical submission in Christ.
- He/she must be hardworking in the work of ministry.
One of the greatest joys in ministry is to raise up multiple generations of leaders for the harvest. The spiritual harvest can be monumental as you follow the generations that follow you. One final charge: do not forget to mentor your own children. There is no greater joy than to see your children walk and serve in the work of the Lord.
I am so thankful for a phone call I received back in 1999 from a dear older fellow pastor who would incredibly show interest and care for me. One morning he called me to tell me that he had prayed for me that morning. I thought that a little strange as I knew that he prayed for me regularly. But then he said that he had called me not to tell me that he had prayed for me, but rather, what he had prayed for me. He said that he had prayed that God would teach me to care for the church that lived in my own home. I have five children who at that time who were 11, 10, 9, 5, and 3 in age. This challenge stayed in my heart in the succeeding weeks.
He prayed that God would teach me to care for the church that lived in my own home.
I pondered what these words meant. Several weeks later I had returned from a Saturday board meeting of the organization I headed. I laid down on the couch and fell asleep, and I did not get up for 16 weeks. I had no energy to get up. I learned that I had a severe case on mononucleosis. I ran a high fever for many weeks. As I laid in bed, I became a fly on the wall of my own house. My family’s life continues as usual around me. I heard what I had been ignoring for far too many years. I had no idea what I had been missing. The phone seemed to ring constantly, and the doorbell rang often, not to mention the swirling life of five young children. This led me to make significant changes in my life that resulted in my investing myself in the lives of my wife and children. Today, I have the joy of seeing my children and their children walking in the way of the Lord. For that word of encouragement, I am eternally grateful.