Updated: Jun 16
Perhaps the most neglected dynamic of ministry training.
I was convicted recently by a simple, vital truth that I have not been giving proper weight.
I love the Paul-Timothy mentoring relationship (Phil. 2:22) as a model for ministry training that is:
1. Holistic – concerned about the formation of character, convictions, competencies; aware of context, culture and community; seeing and doing; ‘teaching, conduct, aim in life, faith, patience, love, steadfastness’ (2 Tim. 3:10).
2. Horizontal – serving side by side in the gospel (Phil. 2:22) as co-workers (Rom. 16:21; 1 Thess. 3:2); not about power play or cloning or career progression but rather brothers pointing brothers to Jesus.
3. Humbling – looking to the interests of others (Phil. 2:4); both the ‘Paul’ who gives the platform to ‘Timothy’ and spends time investing in him; and the ‘Timothy’ who forgoes a ‘normal job’, goes back to school and joins Paul in suffering for the gospel.
4. Hearing – ‘Follow the pattern of sound words that you heard from me’ (2 Tim. 1:13); ‘What you have heard from me’ (2 Tim. 2:2); there is a doing component but everything flows from quality time hearing the apostolic word of Christ.
5. Harvest field-orientated – sharing the compassion of Christ (Matt. 9:36); concerned not just to fill pulpits but to raise up those who will seek the lost; not just training leaders for ‘my church’ but genuinely happy for the best we’ve invested in to go away to serve in another part of the Lord’s harvest field.
I think that mentoring pattern is really important. But there’s one thing I’ve missed out of that list. I was struck between the eyes by it when reading 2 Timothy with Jonathan Griffith’s Ministry Medical recently:
I thank God… as night and day I constantly remember you in my prayers… (2 Tim. 1:3)
Prayer was the great secret behind the effectiveness of [Paul’s] discipleship of young leaders like Timothy. (Ministry Medical, p.17)
Paul prayed for those he was mentoring. It’s not a complicated point. But it made me think – in all I’ve written and taught on the subject of training and mentoring – how much emphasis have I put on the great need to pray for those we mentor? More importantly, how much do I actually pray for those I’m involved in training or investing in?
So here are four reasons why we (I talk to myself and anyone involved in training up others) desperately need to be praying for those we are seeking to mentor – and you’ll see there are implications for the whole shape of the mentoring relationship.
1. Because it reminds us who we are and whose we are. As we address our Heavenly Father, the Lord Almighty, we’re humbled and levelled; we’re reminded that trainer and trainee are fundamentally brothers, sinners saved by grace, little children of the Father, fellow servants of the King; we’re reminded that we are not to stumble or push our opinions on someone else’s servant for whom Christ died but rather seek to build them up (Rom. 14).
2. Because we can’t do anything and we need to feel that. A wise senior pastor recently said, ‘Raising up leaders sounds like a resurrection thing, and last time I checked we don’t have great skills in that department.’ On our knees we’re experiencing our complete inability to change hearts or accomplish anything of any lasting value. That’s important because a) it gives glory to God and b) it stops up from trying to force change ourselves. We become gentler.
3. Because we can’t do anything but God can. He is the one who raises the dead and raises leaders. He is the one who turns a son of thunder into an apostle of love; a Pharisee into a humbled preacher of grace; a cowardly denier into a courageous witness. He is the one who sends out workers into his harvest field and he commands us to pray that he would.
4. Because it expresses and increases and purifies our love for one another. Paul’s prayers for Timothy clearly flow out of a deep love (2 Tim. 1:4). And there is a positive feedback loop: the more you pray for people the more you love them and pray for them. And at the same time praying for people refines our intentions towards them and aligns our hearts with what God wants for them.
So how do we do that practically? Three quick suggestions from 2 Timothy 1:3:
1. “I thank God” – The most wonderful, joyful rocket to your prayers is starting with good time giving thanks for all the signs of grace in the life of a ‘Timothy.’ Try it.
2. “Night and day… constantly” - The Puritans pointed out that ‘continual’ lamb sacrifice was offered at morning and twilight (Num. 28:3-4) and so we can pray ‘continually’ for trainees by having set times – a system.
3. “Prayers” – The word is ‘petitions.’ Ask for specific things that they need. For a reminder of what they really need pray through 2 Timothy and then maybe the Order for the making of deacons in the BCP.