by Phil A. Newton
Jesus “was his own school and curriculum” when it came to his training model, observed Robert Coleman. Despite lacking knowledge of a specific curriculum that Jesus used in training his disciples, contemporary pastoral mentors can certainly utilize the broad areas in which Jesus implemented training for their own mentoring ministries. In previous posts we looked at the local church as the training ground for ministry and how Jesus majored on building relationships with those he trained. In this post we will look at three areas of priority in Jesus’ training model that serves as a model for pastoral mentors: relationships, proclamation, and focus.
First, since Christian ministry is relational, Jesus trained his disciples in relationships. He brought them into a circle of relationships in which they would face the challenge of applying the love, service, forgiveness, gentleness, encouragement, et al. that they saw and heard from him. Here the local church setting proves comparable to the close community in which Jesus trained his disciples. Jesus folded the intimacy of the family structure into the community that walked with him. He brought together diverse backgrounds and cultures into one congregation. His followers did not attend a meeting but rather they engaged their lives with one another in community. Friendships crystallized with the Twelve and the Seventy as Jesus sent them out by pairs for ministry. Not that tensions never surfaced! Relationships bring fallen beings into close enough proximity for disagreements to multiply and pride to irritate. Yet that is just the point in this setting as one of the best platforms to validate the power of the gospel. In the local church mentoring setting, mentees learn the consciousness of being God’s fellow workers who engage in teamwork for pastoral and missionary work.
Second, since mission involves the message of the gospel, Jesus trained his mentees in proclamation. As Paul later wrote, “And how will they hear without a preacher?... So faith comes from hearing, and hearing by the word of Christ” (Rom 10:14, 17). Both preaching and teaching in Jesus’ ministry ultimately pointed to his death and resurrection, a model that shaped Peter’s sermons as his mentee (e.g., Acts 2:14–42; 3:11–26; 10:34–43; etc.). This proclamation has its basis in Scripture, modeled by Jesus’ discussion with the two disciples on the road to Emmaus (Luke 24:13–50). Local church mentors face the challenge of training their mentees to be heralds and teachers who rely upon the gospel message to transform those to whom they minister. When Jesus sent out the Twelve and the Seventy he actually entrusted them with the ministry of proclamation despite their apparent weaknesses and immaturities. He had modeled and taught them but only by releasing them to teach and preach would the training reach its goal. Pastoral mentors may hesitate to turn a mentee loose in a preaching opportunity. Yet by actually doing proclamation and receiving the mentor’s wise critique, as Jesus did with his own (Luke 9:10), a mentee learns to faithfully proclaim the good news.
Third, Jesus kept his disciples on focus for their mission. Distraction seems to come easily for those in ministry. Jesus used care, however, to make sure that the relationship between him and his disciples did not drift into a “lecturer-student connection,” and thus lose sight of their kingdom-focus. He modeled the outward (missional) kingdom-focus by his ministry to tax collectors, Gentiles, and sinners of all stripes (Luke 14:1–24; 15:1–32; 19:1–10). Jesus’ person-oriented rather than task-oriented mentorship offers the appropriate model for mentors to embrace in keeping focus with those they train. Incrementally, Jesus led his disciples in shattering the barriers that could easily have halted their focus on outward mission. He did not expect more of his mentees than he had prepared them to deliver. After training and modeling this focus in mission, Jesus left his followers with the certainty that they would take the gospel across every conceivable barrier erected by the prejudices of men (Acts 1:8). This same incremental, layering approach that Jesus used in training for mission remains the model for pastoral mentors as they build a kingdom-mission focus in their trainees.
The idea of mentoring young people for ministry might appear too daunting to even start, yet the simplicity in the model of Jesus encourages potential pastoral mentors to embrace the challenge of training the next generation for ministry. Like Jesus, stick to the simple training model that he displayed by giving priority to relationships, proclamation, and focus.