No other first-century figure modeled leadership like the apostle Paul. Whether teaching the Savior’s words to new Christians in a house church or correcting errant saints in the heat of a church business meeting, the apostle was a leader’s leader. Byron Baggett said “Lead people, not organizations.” That’s what Paul did. The organization of the first-century church was carried on the very human shoulders of inspired people who were recruited strengthened in their faith, and disciplined in ministry skills by other leaders. The bottom line is this: Leadership is influence.
Paul knew how to train leaders by pouring his love for the Lord into their hearts, and minds. They in turn used his words to teach others. They used his life as a lesson in Christian greatness. Leaders on the verge of a new millennium are encouraged to “try on” his leadership sandals. The principles he so effectively modeled can be applied in every general, district, or local church setting.
One of Paul’s most effective leadership methods was mentoring. Before Timothy became a great pastor in the New Testament church, he was a great pupil—a pupil of his mentor, Paul the apostle. Paul knew the principle of leadership multiplication. Following the example of the Galilean, the apostle knew he could catch more fish by teaching others to fish than by casting his solitary line into a multitude of spiritual fishing holes.
Quite simply, mentoring is teaching by example. In one classic illustration. a little boy sat on a boat dock with a hand-rolled fishing line. cork bobber, metal-washer sinker, and a safety-pin hook. Alongside him stood the very picture of a fisherman, a veteran with custom-made rod and reel, TV-shopping-network lure, and brand-name prescription sunglasses. The veteran soon became agitated as the little fellow with the safety-pin hook hauled in one perch after another.
Finally, the frustrated angler got the courage to ask, ‘AII right’ What’s your secret?”
Never taking his eyes off his line, the little boy patted the boat dock with his worm-slimed hand and said, ‘ Sit down here, mister.”
‘And?” the designer angler replied curtly.
‘And you’ll catch more fish!’ the little boy answered.
‘Well, mister, when you’re standing up like that, you’re scarin’ the fish!” the young teacher advised.
Facing a new millennium, the church, like the fisherman, needs teachers who will share their secrets. The “Now Hiring” signs are hanging in the windows of our organizations and churches. More spiritual fish and more fishing holes call for more skilled fishers, a new breed of Spirit-anointed, skilled leaders. Who will recruit them? How will they be trained? These questions must be answered in a hurry, but they can indeed be answered, by men and women willing to mentor new leaders—to teach fishing—to fulfill the Master’s Great Commission.
The leadership commission of the apostle hasn’t been nullified. “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” (2 Timothy 2:2). We have a continuing mandate to mobilize leaders to reach the lost, equip the believers, and encourage the church. Mentoring is a tried and proven method for accomplishing that task.
What is a mentor? A mentor is a godly leader/coach who has committed time and energy to sharing his or her ministerial and administrative skills with a spiritual son or daughter, a believer who has obvious spiritual gifts and a teachable spirit. The process is best exemplified in the relationship between the apostle Paul and his son in the faith, Timothy. “Timothy, my son. I give you this instruction in keeping with the prophecies once made about you, so that by following them you may fight the good fight” (I Timothy 1:18).
The task of attracting and mentoring our future leaders lies in your hands. First, look for someone in your church or organization with obvious leadership skills. The person may not currently have a prominent position. Perhaps he or she has few platforms or boardroom skills. But when assigned a task and a crew of volunteers, he or she accomplishes stated goals with ease and unity. That’s your potential fisher.
Second, ask the Lord to give you wisdom; patience, and endurance for mentoring and monitoring that future leader. Claim the promise that lames the apostle made to everyone in the Lord’s army, including the officers: ‘If any of you lacks wisdom, be should ask God; who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to him” (James 1:5).
Third, learn how to teach fishing. Over the years, I’ve discovered seven basic principles for effective mentoring:
1. Knowledge combined with experience is the best mentoring process. “What you heard from me, keep as the pattern of sound teaching, with faith and love in Christ Jesus’, (2 Timothy 1: 13). An effective mentor encourages potential leaders by patiently leading them through ongoing, on-the-job learning experiences. Jesus learned in the Temple by listening to the Jewish teachers and in the carpenter shop by watching His skilled adopted father, Joseph. The most effective mix is a combination of formal training and informal learning experiences.
2. A leader’s personal life is the greatest lesson. The development of exemplary leaders comes by modeling exemplary leadership. The how is best taught by a trusted who! Paul reminded Timothy, “I thank God, whom I serve. as my forefathers did” (2 Timothy 1:3). Someone modeled the lifestyle that Paul fleshed out in the lives of others.
3. Mentors are lifters. Great leaders make everyone feel worthwhile. Timothy learned about encouragement from Paul while on the job. ‘We sent Timothy, who is our brother and God’s fellow worker in spreading the gospel of Christ. to strengthen and encourage you in your faith” I I Thessalonians 3:21. Encouragement is a vital ingredient in the mentoring process. Send a note or E-mail. Make a quick phone call. Stop in. Let your student know ‘out loud” that you appreciate his or her efforts.
4. Mentors need strong shoulders and listening ears. Paul reminded the church at Corinth about his constant and compassionate concern for them. “I face daily the pressure of my concern for all the churches,” he wrote (2 Corinthians 11:28).
5. The inspiring examples of other leaders inspire leadership. In his invitation to Rome, Paul taught Timothy the importance of good resources. “When you come, bring the cloak that I left with Carpus at Troas, and my scrolls, especially the parchments” (2 Timothy 4:13). Paul the teacher understood that the wisdom of God’s Word is exemplified through the writings of its students. Year 2000 mentors have the advantage of audio, video, print, and Internet resources that can, and must, be readily shared.
6. Mentors are transparent. Paul wasn’t afraid to share his tragedies as well as his triumphs. “You, however, know all about my teaching, my way of life, my purpose, faith, patience, love, endurance, persecutions, sufferings…. Yet the Lord rescued me from all of them” (2 Timothy 3:10. 1 1). Rose-colored glasses won’t help leader-recruits see better. They need to understand that the fields ‘white unto harvest” have some weeds!
7. Mentors are guardians. “Timothy, guard what has been entrusted to your care” ( I Timothy 6:20). Even as Paul taught that truth, he understood the weight of his own guardianship. Mentors will do their share of groaning under the weight of possibilities for their charges. They also delight in understanding the faithfulness of their Lord. They seek to combine intercession with instruction in the power of the Holy Spirit.
Dr. Laura Schlessinger, the contemporary broadcasting and print guru, closes her radio segments with a word of advice that has evolved over the past two years. She used to close her programs with the adage, “Now, go take on the day.’ Her new closing represents the task of leaders who seek to invite, inform, and inspire a new generation: “Now, go do what is right!”