Today we will wrap up our short series on the blessings of mentoring. We will be reflecting on Acts 16:1-5, Paul and Timothy: Mentoring the Next Generation of Leaders. Paul comes across this young man Timothy and sees the potential in him since others spoke so well of him, so Paul takes Timothy along with him on one of his journeys to different cities. Paul invests in Timothy, training him, sharing what he knew and had learned about Jesus, encouraging him as he became a pastor, and challenging Timothy to faithfully engage his gifts and calling. What Paul does is mentor Timothy into his faith, call, and character.
Paul and Timothy: Mentoring the Next Generation of Leaders
October 2, 2022
On Paul’s second missionary journey, Paul takes Silas with him after his disagreement with Barnabas over John Mark. While on this missionary journey, Paul comes across a young man named Timothy, whose mother is Jewish and a believer and whose father is a Greek. Paul sees something in Timothy and so invites Timothy to join him and Silas. In order to make things easier for Timothy and himself, Paul circumcises Timothy because of the Jews in the area. When you read Paul later on concerning circumcision, we can see that Paul is still fairly early in his own growth around this whole new idea that God loves the Gentiles and has chosen to embrace Gentiles as he has always embraced the Jewish people.
Paul, Silas, and Timothy are travelling to the churches Paul and Barnabas had already planted to bring the Gentile followers of Jesus the decisions made by the apostles at the first Synod of Jerusalem: they don’t have to live up to the Jewish religious rituals, but that faith in Jesus calls them “to abstain from food polluted by idols, from sexual immorality, from the meat of strangled animals and from blood.” These were areas where the Gentiles had particular weaknesses and things the Jews had big issues with as they revolved around who do you worship, holiness issues, and magic power transference showing a trust and dependency on yourself instead of God.
As Paul, Silas, and Timothy travel from city to city and church to church, Timothy is able to see how Paul interprets Scripture and shows how it points to Jesus, he watches how Paul preaches, builds relationships in order to plant churches, but Paul also acts as a mentor to Timothy, teaching him about Jesus and how Jesus fulfills the prophecies from the Hebrew Scriptures.
It's in the letters to Timothy from Paul that we get a deeper picture of their relationships and how Paul has become Timothy’s mentor. In Paul’s first letter to Timothy, he begins by writing, “To Timothy my true son in the faith: Grace, mercy and peace from God the Father and Christ Jesus our Lord,” and then a few verses later, “Timothy, my son, I am giving you this command in keeping with the prophecies once made about you, so that by recalling them you may fight the battle well,” there is a close bond between the two of them, so much so that Paul feels like a father to Timothy, wanting to see Timothy do well and know Jesus well. Even though Timothy was quite young, he quickly gained Paul’s trust and became a trusted companion and colleague for more than 17 years.
Paul’s goal is to nurture the “gift of God which is in you through the laying on of my hands.” It seems rather appropriate to talk about mentoring on a day when we’ve just ordained a new deacon. Along the way, different people have influenced the faith of Peter, whether it was his parents, Sunday School teachers, cadet counsellors, perhaps teachers or a man in church who took an interest in Pete and helped him understand more about Jesus and his own gifts. In the church, mentoring always has as part of its goal, to help the person discover gifts that the Holy Spirit has given them and then begin to help them grow their gifts and begin to use them, whether in the church or within our community. When Paul needed an someone to return to Thessalonica to encourage the new believers there, he sent young Timothy. Later on, Paul sent Timothy to Corinth, where he preached for some time. Paul mentored Timothy and then quickly had Timothy begin to use the things he’s learned from Paul.
Even when Timothy becomes a pastor, Paul continues to write Timothy, mentoring him through words of encouragement and guidance. Once you’ve had the joy of being in someone’s life as a mentor, there is a connection that will always remain and opportunities to continue to offer encouragement, guidance, and blessing will still come up, especially if you hear that they might be struggling. We see this is Paul’s letters to Timothy. In 1 Timothy 4, Paul offers words of encouragement as it seems that there are those in the church who don’t take Timothy seriously because he’s young. “Command and teach these things. Don’t let anyone look down on you because you are young, but set an example for the believers in speech, in conduct, in love, in faith and in purity. Until I come, devote yourself to the public reading of Scripture, to preaching and to teaching. Do not neglect your gift, which was given you through prophecy when the body of elders laid their hands on you. Be diligent in these matters; give yourself wholly to them, so that everyone may see your progress. Watch your life and doctrine closely. Persevere in them, because if you do, you will save both yourself and your hearers.” Paul reminds Timothy that his example of how he lives out his faith is the most important thing and to hang in there.
When the church empowers its youth, young adults, and even those new to the faith, to lead and use their gifts quickly in the church, when it actively encourages and builds them up, it creates a life and energy in the church from the Holy Spirit. There are generational differences and gaps, always has been and always will be, how many of our parents and grandparents didn’t shake their heads and mutter about how the youth of today aren’t like us when we were young? How often don’t those of us who are older say or think the same thing right now? Things change, society and culture change and it’s our young adults who understand it and they are the ones who can, together with older and more experienced members of the church, lead the church well in speaking into our culture and community in ways they can hear and understand.
We mentor our youth and young adults in the faith so that they can have an answer for what they believe. Danny Q on the website A Plain Account writes, “I’ll always remember a moment in one of my evangelism classes where the professor kept pressing the point that part of what evangelism means is that at some point, we’re going to have to say words about Jesus to someone else. This came up within a larger conversation about mission and witness where words like practices and “just being present” and justice were tossed around. It was a good conversation, but I haven’t been able to shake the reality that something about what it means to be a follower of Jesus means that I say something about it. This hit me even harder when my kids were born. What will I say about Jesus? How will I talk about God? Will it stick? Will they stay a part of the church? How does our learning how to speak, or making the story our own help them learn how to do it?”
Jesus came from heaven and became a person just like us, so that he could take the curse of sin on himself so that we can come close to God the Father again. We receive forgiveness, we experience hope, we find new life and strength in Jesus through the Holy Spirit. But we need to tell the world, we need to learn how to talk about Jesus. Paul knows this and he encourages Timothy in his second letter, “I give you this charge: Preach the word; be prepared in season and out of season; correct, rebuke and encourage—with great patience and careful instruction. For the time will come when people will not put up with sound doctrine. Instead, to suit their own desires, they will gather around them a great number of teachers to say what their itching ears want to hear. They will turn their ears away from the truth and turn aside to myths. But you, keep your head in all situations, endure hardship, do the work of an evangelist, discharge all the duties of your ministry.”
What I love about mentoring is that mentors help us prepare for, not only the good times in life, but especially the hard times. Mentoring often begins with people praying for our young adults and youth, at YMLT we talked about having prayer cards for our young adults, give prayer cards to the older congregation members to pray for them, something anyone can do. Paul encourages Timothy, and through his own life experience, lets Timothy know that he needs to continue to invest in his gifts of teaching and leading, but also that there are going to be those who will reject his teaching because the gospel call is one of love, forgiveness, but also of sacrifice and even rejection. It’s in those times that we lean on the wisdom and life experience of our mentors, leaning into the reassurance that we can make it through the difficult times that Jesus won’t abandon us and will give us the strength and wisdom we will need, often working through others around us.
When Paul is imprisoned in Rome, it’s Timothy he asked to “come before winter” to comfort him. the mentor is greatly blessed by his mentee, mentoring relationships often turn into life long relationships that bless both persons. Jesus mentored his 12 disciples, but in the mentoring, Jesus was blessed through their friendship, emphasizing that he no longer considers them servants, but friends, a beautiful gift that comes from mentoring. May the Lord bless you and lead you into mentoring, whether as a mentor or a mentee. The blessing will be for a life time.