Fundamentals of Biblical Discipleship Part 4: Spheres of mentoring:
Pastor to layman part 1
When we consider the importance of discipleship within the local church, the first sphere, that we should consider is the pastoral role of discipleship. I understand that local church discipleship does not rest fully upon the pastor’s shoulders, yet he plays a pivotal role in local church discipleship. He sets the tone in the church, and his philosophy of ministry heavily influences the thinking of the people in the local church. This leadership only makes sense when we consider the nature of pastoral office. The term pastor has the idea of a shepherd. The pastor must be among many other qualifications a patient, competent teacher, not given to blows, and not a novice. These aspects of his giftedness and spiritual character demonstrate his spiritual and practical aptitude to be involved in the personal mentoring of other believers. I understand that there are both laymen and pastors who read these articles, so this section will be two pronged. To the layman, how teachable are you? Are you willing to be mentored if mentoring is provided? Will you be faithful, and take seriously the time invested in you by your pastor? Do you see that the careful preparations of a pastor in the pulpit and the careful preparations of a pastoral in personal counseling are not to be taken lightly? Do you realize that ignoring the assembling of believers in the local church through special meetings, Sunday school, and regularly scheduled meetings are opportunities to be discipled and mentored? Pastors teach the word based upon the needs of the congregation as they equip the saints to do the work of the ministry, so I ask how willing are you to be mentored? To those who labor in the word, I also want to challenge you as you think about this area of pastoral mentoring. How well are you “equipping the saints to do the work of the ministry?” Are your people becoming doctrinally and practically grounded in the truth? We will focus on II Timothy 4:1-2 as we meditate on the pastoral responsibility to mentor and disciple the flock. For those who are not pastors, please do not skip this section, because the pattern laid before the pattern is the same pattern that the layman is to follow as he mentors others within the body.
I want to focus on a familiar passage that relates the pastoral responsibility to mentor and disciple his people. II Timothy 4:1-2 says “I charge thee therefore before God, and the Lord Jesus Christ, who shall judge the quick and the dead at his appearing and his kingdom; preach the word; be instant in season, out of season; reprove, rebuke, exhort with all longsuffering and doctrine.” Timothy’s role in the church of Ephesus was definitely going to be pastoral. Notice Paul’s charge involved the responsibility to preach, reprove, rebuke, and exhort. Before we explain the specific elements of mentoring/discipling, please keep in mind the overarching attitude that should grace every minister of the gospel. He must have a gentle, patient spirit. The word longsuffering means to steadfastly or patiently endure. Discipleship is like training a child, which takes patience! It is no wonder the Paul called Timothy his son in the faith. No man is naturally patient and steadfast, which is why Paul referred to this character quality as one of several evidences that a believer is walking in the Spirit, Galatians 5. Let us be patient with the people that we disciple in the faith! Also notice that Paul emphasizes the content of Timothy’s work. Timothy was instructed to preach, reprove, rebuke, and exhort them with doctrine. Sadly, in some churches today, doctrine is a bad term, but that is to be the foundational content of the work one does as he disciples young converts. Every pastor ought to be doctrinally grounded in the faith, so that he can wisely teach his people. This focus on doctrine will help us to be Biblical in our practice.
Next, he gives the practice of mentoring, which involves four basic elements. The first can and must have an element of the next three; however the next three may stand alone at times as a pastor mentors his people in the faith. Paul says, “Timothy, preach!” A preacher is a heralder who proclaims the truth. Preaching should be on the front side of discipleship as much as possible, though it will obviously not always be on the front side. In other words, a pastor hopes that his preaching is preventative as much as possible. It is much easier to head off an issue that to go back and repair or re-teach when issues have already developed. I encourage pastors to primarily preach expositional messages through New Testament books rather than topically. The epistles cover so many issues that are sometimes uncomfortable, and are also sometimes overlooked. These uncomfortable and overlooked passages are often exactly the passages people need to hear preached to head of issues in the future. Old Testament narratives provide excellent examples that illustrate vividly so many of these difficult issues as well. I am not saying there is never time to preach through topics, rather I am saying that preaching through topics should not be our primary method. I challenge our men in the pulpit not to ignore or weave around those controversial and uncomfortable issues at the expense of your people’s growth. Preach the word, and layman, listen!