For the next few weeks at TJI we will be bringing you a series of posts on the need for preachers to encourage each other. Ministry can be lonely and we really do need each other. We need to understand each other, support each other and encourage each other. Loneliness, isolation (even in a large group), depression, the difficulty of assessing effectiveness, and discouragement are some of satan's biggest tools to cause us to stumble and or give up. We thank these writers and pray their words will help in energizing you! Let us encourage each other. Our first writer this month is a favorite of TJI readers (and of it's publishers) - Jay Lockhart Jaylockhart@whitehousechurch.org.
There never was a time when I did not want to be a preacher. My first sermon effort was when I was about twelve years old, and it did not turn out well. Later, as a teenager, I was given the opportunity to speak quite often for five minutes before our preacher’s sermon on Sunday evenings. During this period of my life I was blessed to have two preachers at my home congregation who served as my mentors: Ross Swindler and Paul Hall. Without their help I probably would never have fulfilled my dream to become a preacher.
In my college days I was privileged to have others who served as my teachers and who became my mentors. One who especially helped me in fulfilling my ministry was the incomparable Batsell Barrett Baxter. He was a Christian gentleman in every way, an outstanding teacher, and a great preacher. When I first met him I had been preaching every weekend for about three years and was in need of a mentor like he became.
I say all of this in order to impress upon each one of us who preaches that we need mentors and, as we become more mature in preaching, we need to become mentors. I believe that preachers need one another because of the importance of the work of mentoring.
YOUNG PREACHERS CAN MENTOR EACH OTHER
The dictionary defines a mentor as “a friend who is an advisor or teacher.” With this being the case, young preachers can be friends, advisors, and teachers of each other. It is good for a young preacher to have a close friend, perhaps about his own age, in whom he can confide, think out loud, discuss ideas, and be comfortable enough to know he can say anything that is on his mind without the fear of being
Younger men can discuss with each other their mutual problem areas, their frustrations, how to get along with members of the church (especially elders), what books they are reading, what their preaching plans are, the proper use of their time, their goals for their congregations (including the ultimate goals, the intermediate goals, and the immediate goals), family time, and many other matters which they have in common. By doing these things they can be mentors to each other.
OLDER PREACHERS CAN MENTOR YOUNGER PREACHER
When we think of older and younger preachers and their work together, our minds focus upon Paul and Timothy, the one the apostle called “my son” (2 Tim. 2:1). Timothy had doubtless been converted by Paul on his first missionary journey and joined him as a travelling companion on the second journey. Their relationship was one between an older preacher and a younger preacher. In Paul’s two letters to Timothy the warm relationship between the teacher and the student becomes apparent. When Paul wrote his letter to the Philippians he said of Timothy, “For I have no one like-minded,” and “you know his proven character, that as a son with his father he served with me in the gospel (Phi. 2:20, 22). Paul depended upon Timothy, and Timothy depended upon Paul. When Paul was in prison in Rome and knew he was soon to be martyred, it was Timothy he asked to come to see him (2 Tim. 4:9, 13, 21). What an encouragement the young preacher was to the older preacher! And, no doubt, Timothy looked to Paul as his mentor. The letters to Timothy are filled with instruction concerning how the young preacher could successfully fulfill his ministry.
Young men have much going for them: vigor, excitement, vitality, and energy. However, there are some things that come only with age: wisdom and experience. With the passing of years every preacher gains experience and, hopefully, wisdom. I say hopefully because time does not guarantee wisdom. But, everything else being equal, the older preacher has acquired enough wisdom to be, when shared, of benefit to the younger preacher.
First, the older preacher can help the younger preacher to recognize and avoid certain pitfalls which confront all preachers. Some of these include the proper use of money and how to put the breaks on debt, how to arrange his time, how to relate to other preachers, how to avoid neglecting is family, how to guard against improper relationships with women, and how to choose his battles wisely since every issue is not worth dying for.
Second, the older preacher can help the younger preacher in how to build his relationship with the elders of the church.
Third, the older preacher can help the younger preacher discover how to successfully enjoy longevity with a single church.
Fourth, the older preacher can help the younger preacher deal with discouragement.
Fifth, the older preacher can help the younger preacher to be content to do his local work with success even if few notice and he is not invited to speak on many lectureships or in gospel meetings.
Sixth, the older preacher can help the younger preacher to understand that he is probably neither as good as some folks believe him to be nor as bad as a few think
Seventh, the older preacher can help the younger preacher learn what to say and do when visiting the hospital, how to set up and conduct individual Bible studies, and what needs to be done on a daily basis in ministry.
Obviously, there are many other things that older and younger preachers can do for each other. However, these are mentioned to help us think of mentoring as one of the reasons preachers need each other. As older preachers, let us seek out younger preachers and be mentors to them. May younger preachers seek out experienced older preachers to encourage them in their long and faithful service and to learn from them. Fortunate is the preacher who has mentors in his life. We really do need each other!