I wrote this blog for Crossroads Community Church, where I will be serving come January. I thought it would be appropriate here.
At the end of Matthew’s gospel, Jesus spoke what has come to be known as the Great Commission. Jesus began by telling his disciples that all authority was his (Matthew 28:18). He concluded by assuring them that he would be with them always (Matthew 28:20). Sandwiched between these two awesome realities lies the Great Commission. Jesus said this: “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, Son, and the Holy Spirit, teaching them all things that I commanded you.” There’s quite a bit packed into Jesus’ statement, so let’s break it down into bite-sized pieces. There are four main verbs in this commission. Go, make disciples, baptizing and teaching. In the original Greek, one of these verbs is an imperative, meaning it’s essential, you must do it. The other three are subordinate clauses to that imperative. Can you guess which the imperative is? I’m sure you guessed correctly. The imperative is to make disciples. We make disciples by going, whether across the sea or across the street, and by baptizing and teaching. Jesus is telling us that his church is meant to be first and foremost a disciple-making body. A disciple is a learner. We are called to be disciples of Jesus and our relationships within the body of Christ should be geared so that all of us learn more and more about and from Jesus. It is with this truth in mind that we created the Paul, Barnabas and Timothy model of mentoring. Let me explain it to you.
Each of these well-known New Testament figures represents a type of a relationship that is essential in the discipleship process. And much like the Five Hour Foundation, discipleship is foundational to our growth in faith. Each of these three characters is important to nurture and mature us as followers of Jesus. That’s why you will continue to hear us encourage you to cultivate, as foundational for your life and for the Crossroads community, these types of relationships.
What do these three relationships look like?
Paul was, of course, the great apostle to the Gentiles. A former persecutor of the church, Jesus revealed himself to Paul on the Damascus Road and changed his life forever. Paul’s missionary journeys are detailed in the Book of Acts. And Paul’s letters to the churches he founded, as well to his ministry companions, take up nearly one-third of our New Testaments. Paul is a classic mentor. He poured his life into people. Paul was a spiritual father to many believers, and he once called Timothy a ‘son in the faith.’ Each one of us needs a spiritual mentor in our life, like Timothy had in Paul. We all need someone who is older, wiser, more experienced and deeper in the things of Christ. We all need to be poured into by another brother or sister. Their influence can range from scriptural studies and encouragements, to working through hard times in our marriage or with our kids. In many ways, this is what Pastor Bill’s nxtSTP ministry is about. God’s vision for that ministry is to engage the Boomers and beyond to invest in the future. That is also why your pastoral staff and leaders are here. We all need to be poured into like the apostle Paul did. So ask yourself, “Do I have a Paul in my life?”
Barnabas was a companion of Paul on his first missionary journey after Pentecost. Paul and Barnabas were peers, and sent out from the same church ministry in Acts 13. They walked through life and served God together. They were friends and without a doubt, they were mutually edified by each other. When Jesus sent out his disciples in the Gospels, he sent them out two by two. It is commonly explained that Jesus knew they needed fellowship and protection. He wanted his disciples to have fellowship because he knew that they were created for relationships. In the same way, we need to be able to share our lives with others in friendship. Jesus also wanted to his disciples to be protected, because life could be treacherous. It’s the same for us. When we are alone, we are more vulnerable in so many ways, but when we are in relationship, someone has our back. We can count on them. So Jesus sent his disciples out two by two, and this is exactly what we mean by the Barnabas model of mentoring. Not only do we need a Paul, someone who will pour into us, but we also need a Barnabas, with whom we will walk through this life of faith. A Barnabas is our spiritual peer, a friend in the faith, someone we co-labor with and someone who will be a source of fellowship and protection. They will encourage us in the faith, and we will do the same for them. We all need someone who knows us with more regularity and depth then our Paul. So ask yourself, “Do I have a Barnabas in my life?”
Timothy was, as I already explained, Paul’s son in the faith. Timothy was considerably younger than Paul. Yet Paul made a substantial investment in Timothy. Although young, God was using Timothy mightily in the pastoral ministry. Timothy was the recipient of mentoring at the hands of Paul and it paid eternal dividends. So not only do we need a Paul in our lives to pour into us, not only do we need a Barnabas to walk alongside us, we all need a Timothy as well. We all need to be pouring into someone for their benefit and growth. Take a minute and think back on the individuals that we have discipled. Whether we have been a Christian for thirty years or for thirty minutes, there is always someone who will be blessed by our spiritual investment in their lives. And not only will they be blessed, but everyone who they reach out to will also be! In the more modern vernacular, this is our spiritual ‘paying it forward.’ As we have been blessed by our “Paul’ and encouraged by our “Barnabas,” we then seek out someone we can bless as we have been blessed, our own personal Timothy’s that we can pour into as a Paul. So ask yourself, “Do I have a Timothy in my life?”
So there you have it! Now you understand our Paul, Barnabas and Timothy model of mentoring and discipling. Brothers and sisters, can you imagine if every person in our entire family of faith endeavored to have, as a starting point, these three relationships? Can you imagine how much growth would take place? Jesus wants his church to be a disciple-making body, so I encourage you to pray about your Paul, Barnabas, and Timothy relationships today. God will surely meet you as you pray about this concept, step out in faith, and seek these people out. And the impact will be amazing!