Sunday, November 14, 2010

Mentoring the Next Generation of Christian Leaders

This is the eighth and last post of a series on Godly Leadership.

In my last article I talked about people who have the lower gifts although all must desire the higher gifts. But what happens when one desires the higher gifts and might have the potential to have those gifts?

Discipleship is part of the great commission. Discipleship is not simply giving people theological information. Discipleship involves teaching people how to apply the scriptures. But it goes even beyond that. One can have all the knowledge and experience to apply truth, but not have the desire for God. Discipleship focuses on imparting that desire and how to fuel the desire with knowledge and application of the scriptural truths.

As I discussed in the last article, everyone in the Body of Christ has gifts given by the Spirit to minister within the Body. While each is to be a leader in his or her own right with regard to the gifts each has been given, there must be some leadership to help them plug in where they are needed in the Body. I have had highly trained, well-gifted, full-time ministers tell me that they wished they had some of my gifts. Yet none has yet to call on these gifts from me. If they see a need for my gifts in the Body of Christ, they should ask me to use the gifts I have in the way that they would use them if they had them. We should envy no one their gifts, but call on those people who have the gifts we need to help us as we minister in the Body of Christ. Call this “mentorship on the go”. It’s the ministry we give to each other on momentary basis by helping each other to grow in ministry by seeking the gifts in each other that God has provided for our fellowship.

John Piper addressed this briefly. Look at this video. Starting at about the 3:00 mark, he discusses something that we don’t generally think about:

What I see too often follows this pattern. Someone has a gift and has the desire to use that gift but doesn’t have an outlet that is apparent for use of that gift. There is no opportunity. These people are typically frustrated in ministry and can become defeated. So when they express their defeatedness, the typical response is to acknowledge that the person has a gift to use. This is not helpful because that’s the source of their defeat. They are unable to use their gift.

Piper talked specifically about prayer, but it applies to all aspects of the use of any gift. For example, one may say, “I don’t think I’m good enough to teach.” This really means, “I think I can teach and I have learned much that I desire to share with others, but I don’t get the idea that I’m really needed among a sea of other teachers, or other people don’t really seem to want to learn anything from me.” A typical response may be, “You are a very intelligent man. I wish I could understand things as well as you do.” The intent may be to encourage, but it still doesn’t change the fact that that person is unable to use his gift. In fact acknowledging a gift that is not being used in this way as such is almost like saying, “I want to have your gift to use it for myself, but I don’t want you to use your gift to minister to me.”

Therefore, not mentoring can be an issue of pride for many leaders. Some leaders may feel threatened by others in their congregation who want to grow in ministry. Some leaders may simply not have the time. But at some point the idea of taking on too much ministry can be a matter of pride. This is where a minister thinks that he is the only one capable of doing all that needs to be done instead of building up others, mentoring them, to do join in the work, and trusting God even in the differences in their gifts to accomplish His purposes through different people.

In any case, with regard to using the particular gifts we have been given, or developing especially the greater gifts, mentors are necessary. It is my firm belief that Christian leaders need to mentor the next generation of Christian leaders. Perhaps this is where the wisdom comes that allows people to know how to make particular decisions or determine particular direction with only general principles. I wouldn’t know because I’ve never had anyone mentor me after this fashion, but I highly suspect that this is true.

Jesus mentored the twelve. Paul was mentored by Ananias and the disciples in Damascus. Paul mentored Timothy. Paul instructed Timothy to mentor others in his church (2 Tim 2:2). Mentoring is a Biblical pattern and I suggest it is vital to a church to raise up new generations of Christian leadership through intentional mentoring.

And with that ends this series on godly leadership.

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