Teachers make some of the most natural mentors. They are in a position to influence knowledge, skill, character and students’ future choices. Teachers are often a sounding board, especially at the college level when young adults are seeking guidance for careers and vocations.
I was fortunate to attend a Bible-teaching university. Not all the students were believers – some parents sent their children to Christian schools in the hope that a conservative, religious education would “straighten out” their kids. But what we found was an enclave of professors for whom Jesus was central in everything they did as educators.
Of course, there’s no guarantee that a student will emerge from college with a whole and correct worldview. Post-graduation, I had several issues that needed to be overcome by grace and scriptural maturity. And many of today’s statistics show disturbing percentages of Christian graduates from secular as well as religious universities and colleges who leave school with a watered-down theology or even walk away from the Lord for a time. But strong mentors can help shore up a student’s faith.
One professor of mine who did a lot of shoring up in my heart was Dr. Walters. As a popular Bible teacher, he had a unique giftedness to make every student feel special. Over the years there were scores of them. He never thought a question too idiotic. He gently and with scriptural insight showed errors in thinking. He took the time to love and to listen.
And his influence went beyond the classroom.
I remember going to his house for tea, cookies or ice cream, sitting with a couple of friends just basking in his wisdom, his advice, and his genuineness. Most of all it was amazing to watch his life. Characterized by unfailing faithfulness to his wife who was slowly taken by a degenerative disease, and undeterred involvement in the lives of his children and students. Possessing an uncompromising faith in Almighty God, students flocked to be near him, and ultimately, to emulate him.
That’s a key aspect of mentoring – a striving to be a vessel for the Lord that can and should be emulated. I don’t feel that I’m there yet in so many areas, despite Dr. Walters’ amazing example. Of course, my husband tells me in many areas I am. Even so, I pray for the day that I can say, like Paul, “Whatever you have learned or received or heard from me, or seen in me – put it into practice.” (Philippians 4:9, NIV)
Allow this week’s study to encourage you as you become or grow to become a mentor. I pray that the Holy Spirit would keep your eyes and heart wholly focused on whom you serve, whether you are a teacher by profession, a file clerk, or a stay-at-home mom.
DAYS 1 and 2
I. Read 1 Timothy 3:1-7; Philippians 2:19-23.
Timothy was put in charge of not just one church but several. In his working in this particular area of Asia Minor, Timothy was to begin and evaluate congregations, putting in place leaders who would wisely shepherd those in their charge. The first verse indicates that some expressed a desire to lead.
“It is quite true to say that a man who sets his heart on holding
office has laudable ambition.” 1 Timothy 3:1 (Philips Translation)
Wanting to be in full time ministry is obviously a good thing. Here, Paul is specifically talking about an aspiring overseer, elder, bishop, pastor – one who stands for the gospel and teaches doctrine in a corporate setting. Eventually, Timothy would need several men to guide the congregations that would come from the burgeoning group of believers in Asia Minor. Paul knows Timothy is the right man to choose and mentor. And Paul gives the young pastor a list of qualifications to use as a guideline, not only for others but as a reminder for him, too.
- List the qualities of an overseer from these verses.
- Which qualities, in your opinion, are the most important for leadership, and why?
- Psalm 32:8 is David writing of God’s promise to instruct, teach and counsel him in life. How might this promise aid the one who lacks confidence in the mentor role?
II. Read 2 Kings 20:1 through 2 Kings 21:2 (Skim beginning at 2 Kings 18 for a fuller story); Ephesians 3:14-19.
In I Timothy 3:4-5 there is an emphasis on the home life of an overseer. Managing the household and keeping children under control are often listed under wives’ responsibilities. Yet verse 5 indicates that fathers need to be the ones to set the basic guidelines and expectations of the home. An elder’s leadership in the domestic realm is an indication of his readiness to lead in the church. His work at home becomes a training ground, his first ministry. With all the varied personality traits, skills, abilities, strengths and weaknesses represented in a given family, a father (and mother) could face many of the same issues as with a congregation.
Does this mean the family needs to be perfect? Not at all. But it does mean that if a potential elder has an unruly, undisciplined, or unprincipled family situation that remains unchecked by him due to “ministry responsibilities” – or any other distraction – perhaps he’s not ready at this time for the position.
The Bible is replete with examples of all the messy, yucky, wonderful and lovely bits that make up families. Some of the most memorable ones come in the books of the Old Testament that chronicle the lives and reigns of the kings of Judah and Israel. The account of Hezekiah gives some insights into choices and the resulting view for the outside world.
- What were some things Hezekiah did right?
- What happened at the end of Hezekiah’s reign that altered his permanent record in the Bible?
- How do you think being a good husband and father might evidence itself in the ministry of a pastor or elder?
- How did your home life affect how you might approach someone in a mentor situation?
- Much of what we carry into adulthood – both good and bad – comes from what we experience in our families growing up. What could be a word of encouragement from the Ephesians 3 passage to someone you mentor?
I. Read 1 Timothy 3:6-7; Genesis 39:21-23; I Samuel 2:26; Proverbs 3:1-4, 8:32-35; Luke 2:52; Romans 14:16-18.
The final two characteristics for elders in I Timothy 3:6-7 have qualifiers attached to them by Paul. An overseer must: 1) not be a new believer, and 2) have a good reputation outside the church.
- What could result if these two traits are not adhered to?
- Who is bent on ruining the reputation and effectiveness of elders, according to Paul?
- From the context of the above passages, what are some ways that finding favor with God and with men comes about?
II. Read John 13:35; 1 John 3:13-18, 4:20-21; re-read 1 Timothy 1:5.
Going back to the object Paul put forth as the goal for instruction, Paul succinctly reduces it to one word. Love. As we studied the first week, this must be the absolute goal of our teaching and mentoring. And here we discover how vital love is in our witness as a community to those around us.
- What are some of the signs John describes that show we may not be keeping love as our focus?
- How does the outside world identify believers as Christ followers?
- What in your life is preventing you from truly displaying love as your goal in mentoring or instructing?
- Is there a situation with a sister or brother in Christ you need to take care of that is currently affecting your mentoring capability?
I. Read 1 Timothy 3:8-13 and Acts 16:1-6.
Stephen was one of the first to receive the title of “deacon.” Deacons were originally helpers to the elders and so had similar qualifications. The term also is used throughout the New Testament more unofficially for those who served, and today we often bestow this title on laymen who volunteer to help in a variety of capacities within the church.
- List the qualities of a deacon. How do they compare to that of an overseer?
- What is the same? What is different?
- What is promised in verse 13 to deacons who serve well?
- What can we glean and pass on as a mentor from these characteristics and promises?
II. Re-read 1 Timothy 3:11.
Tucked in the middle of the qualifications is a sentence of identifiers for women. Some have thought these pertain to what would be termed “deaconesses.” But others believe – since the list isn’t set apart as such and because the description for deacon continues some short verses later – it’s meant for the wives of deacons. If the latter, the family is again emphasized in the successful ministry of the leader.
- What are the qualifications for women listed in verse 11?
- Do these traits characterize us?
- How could ignoring these particular things in a woman’s life put a strain on or mar a husband’s effectiveness?
III. Read Acts. 9:36-42.
This is one of the tiny, parable-like biographies of which God seems to be very fond – He’s put quite a few into His word for us to enjoy and contemplate. Tabitha was a special woman who lived in the town of Joppa after Pentecost at the time of Peter’s ministry. Tabitha (or Dorcas, if you prefer the Greek translation) means “gazelle.” This lovely name was frequently employed as a proper name for women in Biblical times.1 As we read, it seems her godly character fits her name – lovely, graceful, and a beloved mentor.
Tabitha had a heart for serving and abilities to bring hands-on, physical assistance to those in need. Mentors teach what they know, not just through direct instruction but by example as well. Those whom she helped perhaps caught some of her skill and definitely her generous spirit. Even though we don’t know many more details about Tabitha, we do know that she passed away after a fruitful life, was mourned deeply by those around her, and was raised from the dead by Peter.
- Where had they laid Tabitha’s body?
- Who was in Tabitha’s room when Peter arrived with the two men sent to bring him from Lydda? Why might this detail be important?
- For what kinds of things was she known? Try to come up with a description of what she would have been like.
- What was the result of her miraculous resurrection?
- How can you use the small story of Tabitha to help you as you mentor?
I. Read 1 Timothy 3:14-16; Acts 2:42; Romans 15:5-6; Hebrews 3:13, 10:23-25.
It’s common for young women to question. But the difficulties of life are sometimes met from older believers with statements of impatience, indifference or even tradition. Yet Paul calls the church “God’s household” and “church of the living God, the pillar and foundation of the truth.” (NIV, 1984) The answers are here, in Christ. The solutions are in God’s word. Intentionally mentoring means pointing people back to the Lord, to the Bible, and back “home” to the church. It comes full circle. God wants us to learn and grow. But we were never meant to go it alone. We need Godly leadership, as the first portion of this chapter covered, and we need each other. Paul’s bold words bring to light the importance of coming together in times of regular, corporate worship as the family of God.
In the Acts passage, Luke tells us that the early church members were devoting themselves to fellowship which literally means “partnership” or “sharing.” As partners with Christ and with other Christ followers, it is our “spiritual duty to stimulate one another to righteousness and obedience.”2 It means collectively coming together for that intentional purpose.
- What would you say to a younger woman who felt that attending church wasn’t important?
- With your gifts and talents in mind, how could you stimulate others to righteousness and obedience in a corporate setting?
II. Re-read verse 16.
The words of verse 16 are likely a part of an early Christian hymn, according to commentators.3 This song is a concise look at the gospel, the basic tenets of our faith wrapped up in a single, poetic verse. Since music often makes a connectedness of mind and soul, the two together make for a powerful combination. The gospel heals. Music heals. And songs that declare the truths of the Almighty and of scripture are a vital part of corporate worship.
- Paul talks about the “great mystery” of our faith (here and also earlier in verse 9). What do you think he means by this phrase?
- Using I Timothy 3:16 as a template, write your own short statement of faith.
Whether you teach in a school, university or church, as a volunteer at an organization, or in your home, you can’t expect perfection from yourself (no matter how great an educator and communicator you might be) or from those you mentor. But you can lean on and anticipate the perfect work of God who empowers and puts people together in the first place.
1. Jamieson, Fausset & Brown, “Text Commentaries: Jamieson, Fausset & Brown (Blue Letter Bible: Acts).” Blue Letter Bible. Last Modified 19 Feb, 2000. www.blueletterbible.org.
2. MacArthur, John. The MacArthur Study Bible, NASB, Updated Edition. Thomas Nelson, Inc. Nashville. 2006. Page 1603 notes on Acts 2:42.
3. McGee, J. Vernon. Thru The Bible With J. Vernon McGee, Vol. V. Thomas Nelson, Inc. Nashville. 1983. Page 445.
[button caption=”Lesson Download” link=”https://thriveministry.box.com/s/s4pmbsf3268a64m3h8xd”][/button]