Summary: This sermon looks at why we mentor others in the faith and leadership
History often turns on the smallest of events. Two hundred miles northwest of Jerusalem is a small Mediterranean island called Cyprus. On this island lived a man named Joses who was an unassuming Jew. We don’t know how he came to faith in Jesus. Perhaps he was among the visitors to Jerusalem during the Passover and the 3000 who heard Peter’s first sermon and came to faith. Whatever the circumstances, the message of the Messiah took root in his life and forever changed him and history. The depth of Joses newfound faith and commitment to Jesus and the mission of the church is shown in the sale of some or all of his property and giving the proceeds to the benevolence fund of the Jerusalem church. Following custom, the church leaders gave Joses a new name, Son of Encouragement or Barnabas. That name would speak profoundly about the impact this minor character in Scripture would have on the future of the church and the mission of Jesus Christ. It was Barnabas who came to the aid of Saul after his Damascus road experience and mentored him in the faith. Were it not for Barnabas, who knows what would have happened to Saul or the early church? Certainly, the leaders of the Jerusalem church wanted nothing to do with him. In their minds, he was Public enemy #1. But Barnabas took Saul and brought him to the Apostles, defending his conversion and gaining him access to the believers. But his influence didn’t end there. He travelled with Paul on his missionary journeys and eventually promoted Paul to take the lead. No longer was it Barnabas and Paul but now “Paul and the others.” Paul became the greatest evangelist, theologian and church planter in the history of the church. But we must never forget the influence or impact of the man behind Paul, Barnabas. For without him, there would be no Paul.
If I were to ask, “Who are the people who have made you what you are today?” all of us would have a list. We would be mention our parents. But our lives are littered with other people who have influenced us along our journey. That’s the way it has always been since the beginning of time. People have been influencing others in whom they become and transferring skills and knowledge from one generation to another. What we’re talking about is mentoring. The work force has used the mentoring model to train people on the job and or one on one under the guidance of experienced craftsmen in such skilled occupations as a machinist, bricklayer, dental laboratory technician, electrician, mechanics, and many more. When we look at Scripture, we also see that this is the way the faith is meant to be passed on and nurtured from generation to generation. God designed us to be influenced and shaped by other people. His strategy for us to learn what it means to follow him is that we would learn from each other. Throughout Scripture, we see successful mentoring relationships: Naomi and Ruth, Elijah and Elisha, Moses and Joshua, Deborah and Barak. In the New Testament, there’s Jesus and the disciples, Peter who mentored Barnabas (Gal. 2:11-13) who in turn mentored Mark and Paul. And Paul, mentored Timothy and then many other Spirit-filled, world-changing disciples and church planters. This is God’s way to pass on the faith to others.
And yet, there seems to be a dearth of mentoring in the faith today. Youth Pastor Chris Freeman tells of being on vacation in Michigan with his wife, and one day a couple of elderly women came to the door of their cabin. He answered and they began with some small talk and then they asked him what he did for a living. He told them he was a youth pastor, and then they revealed they were Jehovah’s Witnesses. As they talked for a little bit, and he was just trying to end the conversation, until one of them asked me a pretty big question: “In your opinion, what is the biggest problem with young people today?” He thought about it for a minute and said, “The biggest problem with young people today is that there aren’t enough people from the generations ahead of them pouring into them and investing in their lives.” He could tell his answer threw her off a little bit. She even admitted that wasn’t the answer she thought I’d give her. She said she expected him to say something about drugs or alcohol or sexual promiscuity. Chris said, “I don’t believe those things are the problem. Those are simply the symptoms of a much deeper problem.” We need people mentoring people and not just older people mentoring youth.
So what is mentoring? “Mentoring is a relational experience in which one person opens and shares their life with others, enabling another to maximize the grace of God in his/her life and service.” The apostle Paul put it this way, “We loved you so much that we were delighted to share with you not only the gospel but our lives as well, because you had become so dear to us.” God’s plan for teaching others what it means to follow Jesus isn’t just a book. It’s you. You are the curriculum of what it means to follow Jesus.