August 22, 2016

How to Train Your Timothy: Passing on the Baton in Ministry - Paul Sungro Lee

We believers have been called to preach the gospel to all corners of the earth, starting with our own “Jerusalem” (Acts 1:8).  But, is it a realistic and even possible task?  Yes, I believe so.  That is why the Scripture tells us in other texts: “ … Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.  How, then, can they call on the one they have not believed in?  And how can they believe in the one of whom they have not heard?  And how can they hear without someone preaching to them?” (Romans 10:13-14)  This text instructs us that it is the preachers who are able to bring good news to everyone who would believe and get saved.  In other words, the key to the world evangelization lies with the preachers, both male and female.

     Therefore, training and sending of preachers is probably the most critical ministry the church of Jesus Christ faces today.  However, I believe that three important persons get involved and play a significant role to help shape a godly character in making of a preacher:  (1) God  (2) the Mentor  (3) the one being disciple.  In this section, I would like to draw your attention to a role of the mentor.  After all, the Great Commission is about making disciples of different nationals by going to them (Refer to Matthew 28:19-20).  If you are put to a position of the mentor to somebody, or if you wish to disciple somebody as your ‘Timothy’ either on mission field or at home, this writing is for you.

     "Jesus went up on a mountainside and called to him those he wanted, and they came to him.  He appointed twelve - designating them apostles (Mark 3:13-14)."

     This text informs us that your ‘Timothy’ should be recruited and trained in the church, in the way Jesus called his apostles on a mountainside: the word "mountain" in the Bible often symbolizes the church (Refer to Micah 4:1).  Keep in mind that in most cases God has your Timothy IN your church!  And notice that Jesus called them on a mountainside not on a mountaintop.  It means that your Timothy often could be found among those unrecognized in your church.  Do not only look at the qualifications that may appear at surface when choosing your Timothy.  Try to look for his potential.  In other words, look at who God can make out of him instead of who he may be today.  Envisioning his future will help you make a right choice.  Remember God chose David, the least among the sons of Jesse, to succeed King Saul and make His name and glory known to the nations!

     It is fascinating that in the Bible it is always the teachers who chose the students contrary to common sense of the world today.  Today, students search and choose the schools to go and teachers to sit under for their teaching.  But, remember that it was Moses who chose Joshua in the Bible.  It was Elijah who chose Elisha.  Also, Jesus himself chose his apostles who would become his successors for the work of his kingdom.  It is the mentor who must pray and choose his God-given Timothy.  Be sure to take time in much prayer before choosing your Timothy, as the Lord Jesus showed us an example in Luke 6:12-13 prior to choosing his apostles.

     I am well aware that there are a great many curricula and teaching plans around us as to training Timothy and successors in ministry.  Carefully choose the ones that can work for your ministry style, leadership style and spiritual gifts, etc.  Keep nurturing your Timothy with God’s word.  Provide necessary correction, rebuke and encouragement, along with great patience and careful instruction (Refer to 2 Timothy 4:2).  Continue to love him at all times – even when he may discourage you.  And, remember that the greatest Timothy training method is THE EXAMPLE OF YOUR LIFE.

     You should keep in mind that your Timothy does not belong to you, after all.  You should not try to train him to be your man.  If so, you will not be shaping God’s character in him but your own!  Lead him to grow to full maturity in the Lord.  Such an attitude does not start with the training methods but with your heart’s desire of being a servant.

     In addition, have a fatherly heart.  A teacher can be jealous of his student’s greater success, but a mentor would be happy to see his Timothy to reach a higher mark in ministry – even higher than his own.  A father would not ask his own son to accomplish less than what he achieved.  Rather, he would gladly sacrifice to pour out all his insights and know-how into his son, so that he may achieve even more.

     If each and every senior pastors would embrace such a heart in dealing with their assistants, the body of Christ shall experience an explosive growth.  Jesus did not feel jealous about his disciples doing greater works than him (See John 14:12).  Let us remember the example of our Lord who sacrificed himself on behalf of his disciples, including us, so that millions may be included in the kingdom today.

     A mentor should value his Timothy.  Cover your young Timothy’s many mistakes.  I admit that if it weren’t for my mentor’s cover-ups and patience, I would not have become who I am today.  We can see that when Apostle Paul dealt with his disciples with his work-oriented personality until his regrettable confession at the end of his life (See 2 Timothy 4:11), nobody, including Timothy, was there for Paul during his imprisonment.  “ … get Mark and bring him with you, because he is helpful to me in my ministry (2 Timothy 4:11).”  We all know that it was Paul who rejected an idea of taking again young Mark who did not show much enduring faithfulness in his first missionary journey; Paul decided to go with Silas after a great dispute with Barnabas (Refer to Acts 15:36-41).  It seems that Paul valued the achievement of his work more than his PEOPLE during the earlier days of his ministry.  We can learn this priceless lesson before later days of our life: God values people more than works!  Value your Timothy.

     However, it is advisable to remain the same distance from all the Timothys around you instead of being close to a particular one.  (Obviously, your ‘Timothy’ does not have to be one only.)  Also, you should not depend on your Timothy to the point that without him certain works in your ministry would not get done.  Sow into the lives of as many people as you can.  Expect God to bring about the harvest from those who received it on good soil of their hearts (Refer to Luke 8:8).  In my experience as a mentor to preachers, I have seen those I least expected would often surprisingly turn out to be the most fruitful ministers of the gospel.  Sow your seeds widely.  Then, God will reap the harvest in the end.

     Succession is a critical stage - perhaps the most important stage in your ministry - because it will measure the true impact you have laid there.  Nevertheless, I have seen many strong churches and ministries go weaker – often even to the point of a split – after the succession.  If your ministry experiences either stagnancy or diminishment after the succession, you probably need to examine your planning and “ownership”.  If the work truly is the Lord’s, and you have so managed it, it should not only go on but produce even greater results after the ministry is handed over to your successor.

     There are too many speaking about “MY ministry” today.  We should keep reminding ourselves that we are called to be the Lord’s SERVANTS.  A servant does not have anything that can be claimed as his own possession, even after years of works of service for his master.  Praise from his master shall be the servant’s only satisfaction.  So is with the Lord’s servant.  All the works of ministry belongs to the Lord Jesus alone.  He has graciously decided to share some of his works with his servants.  We have been called to serve for our portion of works in our times.  There is no such a thing as “my own ministry”.  The work that you do will return to the Lord for an accounting as soon as your time and portion may be due.  My ministries would not last beyond my death.  But the Lord’s ministry will have an impact even beyond my time, to eternity!

     It has been said that a man is not successful until he is successfully succeeded by his successor.  In fact, this was a burden God put in my heart when I came to Kenya as a missionary in 1996 to initiate church planting throughout Africa, sent by the Evangelical Alliance for Preacher Training & Commission (EAPTC), based in Virginia, United States.  As the Lord has blessed our efforts, the work grew to 7 African countries with many local churches, Bible training centers and nursery schools established today.  It was a sovereign work of God when we witnessed nearly 200 new churches planted in those nations since then.

     During my days of leadership of EAPTC Kenya, my wife, Eunice, and I endeavored to commit ourselves to developing and mentoring a team of national ministers with the intention of eventually turning over the ministry to them.  We believed that it was the only way to consistent growth of the churches.  In March 2006, I handed over the leadership of EAPTC Kenya to a team of ministers that we had mentored during my ten-year leadership.  The team is now led by Pastor Edward Ouma.  With the change in leadership, we feel that the ministry has been enhanced, not weakened.  Signs we looked for in timing our succession were four things.  They were:  (1) confirmation both in personal and corporate prayers, (2) change of the circumstances leading to the need of national leadership, (3) proof of maturity in the national leadership, (4) commitment to self-support, self-governing and self-propagation within the ministry.  In our case, God has met all the above conditions at the beginning of 2006.  Then, my wife Eunice and I knew it was time.

     In choosing your successor, please do not consider how your successor may treat you later on.  Yes, it will be proper for your successor to treat his previous leader with care and respect, knowing that someday he will also need to pass on the ministry to someone else.  But that should not be the main factor in choosing of your successor.  Let the Lord choose and arrange the man/woman after his own heart (Refer to 1 Samuel 13:14).  Trust God to reveal the right person and the right time.

     Lastly, commit your successor unto the safe hand of our Lord and power of his word, as Apostle Paul did with the elders of the church from Ephesus in Acts 20:31.  Even after the succession, be sure to give your full support to your successor by PRAYING for him/her to make right decisions at every turn of the ministry.  Do not fall into temptation of continuing to TELL him what to do or how to do about the issues.  Remember that the Lord is very able to continue to build His own Body without you.  Do your best to help your successor firmly establish his/her roots in the new ministry.

* This article is excerpted from [Disciples of the Nations: Multiplying Disciples and Churches in Global Contexts]. To purchase and read the rest of the book, please visit Amazon or Wipf & Stock Publishers