Should A Pastors Life Style Match That Of His Congregation Mentorship Lessons From the Ancients

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Mentorship Lessons From the Ancients

In this article Barnabas whose impact and influence is summoned to speak to this generation. I have constructed this case study from the story in the Book of Acts in the Bible. Since his influence was so phenomenal I have asked his permission for us to study his methods and principles. Here he goes in his own words. This is extracted from my book, Nurturing Champions.

I speak to you from the first century after Christ. My name is Barnabas. My friends nicknamed me the son of consolation or encouragement. You could say that my purpose statement, as you guys would call it is, “I exist to encourage and nurture champions to maturity”. I am unique in that I did not build my own kingdom. But I helped build and nurture others. I am not well known. Speaking to you is a major challenge for me because I am generally reserved and do not like drawing attention to myself. However there are a few things that I am qualified to speak into your lives and age even though I lived in simpler times. Principles transcend age and times. They are indeed timeless. In your age of permanent white-water changes you need some timeless and proven principles to anchor your lives on. I recount to you the story of my life while drawing out timeless principles which I have no doubt are relevant to your times.

I sold my real estate property and brought the proceeds to the leaders of my organization with the intention of helping fund this charitable non-governmental organization called the Church and further its agenda and cause. I have always been a generous person and my giving lifestyle established credibility within the organisation. A mentor should culture and create credibility. How I handled my finances established credibility. The way you handle finances, gives insight into who you are and your character. Because of this credibility later on when the church in Antioch wanted to send a gift to Jerusalem they knew they could trust me with the funds. They knew I could be trusted to deliver the finances. How you handle your finances and the wealth that God has entrusted to you is an indicator of what is in your heart.

Often, finances expose people’s characters. Poor handling of finances is indicative of character flaws. One of the easiest ways to tell the character of a person is to look at their cheque book. As business people, before you can handle the corporate finances, how do you handle your personal finances?

As Luke testifies I was a good man full of the Holy Ghost and faith. Credibility does not only depend on how you handle your finances. It depends on goodness of character and being a faithful man. Unfortunately in your age, faithfulness and integrity are despised virtues. In our days and indeed as it should be faithfulness is the true sign of manhood.

So I can safely say mentors develop credibility through character and the way they handle the resources entrusted to them. Mentors know that they are stewards and not owners of the gifts, talents and resources that have been entrusted to them.

An enterprising and yet cunning couple, Ananias and Sapphira, wanted to cash in on my credibility. So they sold their property and brought part of the proceeds, pretending to have brought the full amount. They attempted to tap into my credibility through imitation rather than by submitting themselves into a mentoring relationship, which builds character. In your contemporary language you could say they wanted the glory through impression and image management. If I remember well I think you call it keeping up appearances. It’s fashionable in your days to go for the glory and the gold without developing character.

You will discover that as a mentor there are people who admire you and try to build their images on your credibility and character. As a mentor you do not have to be gullible and assume that who ever approaches you for mentoring is genuine. It is critical in mentoring relationships to establish the motives and intentions of the mentoring partner. Ananias and Sapphira did not have good intentions but were trying to cash in on my credibility without paying the price. People without character may desire gain from your credibility and good name without embracing the process of character formation through mentoring.

As our NGO grew an ardent and ferocious opponent responsible for the death of many of our members, Saul, appeared claiming to be “gloriously converted and transformed through the rich mercies of our Lord”. He further claimed that God gave him a mandate to be “a light to the gentiles, to stand before kings” as a witness of the Gospel. Armed with this mandate from God and an incredible testimony of God’s miraculous workings, he tried to associate himself with the apostles but could not be accepted. They were sceptical. They thought he was trying some trick to get through to them. They viewed it as a cunning ploy to trap them. Well, he had a problem. Although he had the calling of God, the mandate from God, and the gift of God, he needed somebody who could walk him through into acceptance. I, Barnabas, the son of Consolation, appeared on the scene. I sat down with this new kid on the block and questioned him as to his testimony and incredible story. Where others saw a cunning enemy, I saw potential. I saw seeds of greatness in him and believed the calling and gifting of God that was upon him. I accepted him and offered to help along the way. After a few days I introduced him into the circle of the apostles. Although initially sceptical the apostles finally accepted Paul because they trusted my judgement and banked on my credibility. Sometimes you need a mentor who will loan you his credibility and introduce you to people who will hasten you on your journey.

I took Paul under my wings, tutored him in the ways of the gospel and gave him the credibility that only a powerful and credible mentor would have. A mentor recognizes potential and gives you his credibility. He will take you when nobody believes you and say “I believe in you, I vouch for you”. So a mentor creates a platform for you by building credibility. He risks his credibility for yours to be established. Indeed a mentoring relationship is a personal relationship or a relational experience where one person shares God given resources with another so as to develop them to maturity. Since I had maturity and right standing with the apostles, once I believed in Paul, he had a defender, nurturer and protector. Had I not stood up to defend Paul, his ministry would have been aborted. As you can see I influenced Paul and consequently his influence to plant so many churches is an extension of my legacy. Through him I touched and influenced generations and nations beyond my natural reach. Paul was an arrow in my quiver, which I shot out into regions beyond my direct influence.

As a principle I can say mentors have an ability to identify potential in people. They may see just a small seed of greatness and will stake their credibility and resources saying, “I think I can develop this seed into a champion for God” and they nurture that. They will risk their own credibility to protect and advance the protege. Paul’s acceptance to the apostles depended on the sponsorship of a credible mentor. If I had not been credible, Paul’s ministry would have failed because the apostles would not have accepted him.

Sometimes even in organizations you need a mentor to sponsor you. For you to rise through the corporate ladder you need people within the organization who believe in you, who have seen the seed of greatness in you, who will walk you through the process. Many times we seek short cuts. We want to rise on our own. But there has to be people who can vouch on our character and on who we are. We can say your mentor’s credibility can be the resource that opens the door for you – the potential champion.

Subsequently a fiery deacon named Stephen preaches and many people are converted. Some of his converts transfer to Antioch where they preach and others are added to their number. This was an exciting recruitment drive. It is the first time there is a gathering of Gentiles into our organisation. Corporate headquarters in Jerusalem hears about this and said we are Jews, and our target market is the Jews. Why should we diversify to the Gentiles? They did not know how to relate to these developments and to these Gentiles? After extensive consultation among stakeholders they decided to send an emissary to investigate the strange happenings at Antioch. They chose me – the encourager, the nurturer, the people developer.

On searching things out at Antioch I perceived the working of God. A mentor’s eye is trained to spot potential. In my mind’s eye I saw great potential in that church. I visualized the strategic significance of the Antioch branch of our organization. It made sense to extend our influence beyond the Jewish constituency. In fact it would increase our footprint. I went back to Jerusalem, leveraged my credibility and sponsored the church until the Jerusalem church accepted it. The Gentile church would have been in trouble if there was no mentor who could speak for them and vouch for what was happening.

While helping establish the church I realized that for this church to go to another level I needed extra help. I remembered my budding champion, Paul. I was aware of the seed and calling in Paul. I knew he would work harder to achieve the purposes of God for the church in Antioch. I also knew that Antioch would be an ideal training ground for Paul without the intense jostling for positions at corporate head quarters. I located Paul in his hometown and brought him to Antioch as my partner. I saw the potential for his gifting and opened the door for him to exercise it. I co-ministered with him to establish credibility as well as his confidence. If Paul had been let loose on his own, we do not know what could have happened. Mentors sometimes match their budding champions with opportunities and work alongside them to establish credibility and bring them to maturity. Even in business you may spot someone with potential. Sometimes it is unwise to release him on his own. He can be a loose canon. You mentor him until he achieves what he wants. Mentors are critical links in your pursuit of God’s call and they can direct you in the path that is consistent with God’s plan for your life. In this case I strategically positioned Paul and linked him with an assignment that became significant in his growth process.

Emerging champions need a nurturer working with them to accomplish the purposes of God in their lives. You could say I was the launch pad for both the church at Antioch and for Paul’s ministry.

A few years later I identified a young and impressionable John Mark as a potential champion. Although he was a rough diamond I included him into my circle of mentoring partners. Yes you could say that I have an eye for champions in the making. I see things in people that others may not. When I do, I eagerly proceed to work, nurture and develop that seed. I seek to increase my impact through others. One of the true marks of leadership is the ability to influence through others. I increase my leadership influence through leverage. I am quite content to exercise indirect influence without getting all the credit. My main focus is to influence more people with less effort. Mentoring allows me to influence more and more people with less and less effort.

As I worked beside and with Paul, his ministry and gifting blossomed until his ministry outgrew mine. Initially all references to our power tag team mentioned me before Paul but now Paul’s name preceded mine. From then on every reference to our ministry endeavours mentions Paul first. Paul had outgrown me but this did not intimidate me. Actually it thrills my heart to see my champions blossom. Friends and colleagues put pressure on me saying that I was giving too much to Paul. But I reminded them of John the Baptist before me who proudly proclaimed, “He must increase and I must decrease”. I did not walk out of his life as advocated by my friends. As he matured I continued co-ministering with him, supporting and encouraging him. In other words a mentor starts as the point man but as the emerging champion develops he comfortably takes a back seat. A mentor has a strong sense of security, self worth and significance because he knows who he is.

As an outsider allow me to comment on your generation. One of the major problems of the ministers of the gospel and business leaders especially in Africa is that they are intimidated by the successes of their protégés and they have sabotaged the purposes of God. Once as Africans you get to a point where you can celebrate the lives of your children and release them to do greater things than what you have done, your influence in the world will increase exponentially. Your footprint would grow exponentially.

One of your contemporaries, Oral Roberts says, “God called me and told me to raise up spiritual sons (read proteges) and send them where God’s light is dim and His voice is not heard, that they may take God’s healing power to their generation, and their work will be greater than mine”. He has never regretted. Because of that there is not a nation in the world without an Oral Roberts University alumnus affecting society in his own sphere of influence. That has multiplied the influence and impact of Oral Roberts. Very few men will celebrate the greatness of their sons, but the sign of true mentorship is the ability and willingness to celebrate the successes of your product, even if they outgrow you.

In one of our campaigns at Listra people were mesmerized by the exploits of our tag team. They nicknamed Paul, Hermis, the spokesperson of Greek gods and me as Zeus the king of Greek gods. What they were alluding to was that although Paul was the spokesman, I was the force behind him. Allow me to caution mentoring partners – When you begin to shine and outgrow your mentor, do not forget your power source. Do not forget where you came from. Always give credit where it is due. Do not become arrogant and say I am the man of the hour. You may be the best entrepreneur but somebody believed in you and opened the door for you. Isaac Newton said, “If I have seen further (than anybody else) it’s only because I am standing on the shoulders of giants”. He recognized those who had contributed to his success. So what ever you become in life never forget you are what you are because you stood on somebody’s shoulders.

When some cunning Jews wanted to enslave the gentiles through legalistic regulations, Paul and I stood our ground and defended the gentile church. Mentors defend and protect their proteges from unscrupulous people until they can stand on their own. They will share ways on how to protect the assets of their mentoring partners. They teach them tactics and systems to protect themselves. Coming from a church background as I do, I observe a modern phenomenon among businesspeople. Some are using the church as a business field and exploit helpless church members. A pastor acts as mentor and protector of the congregation. Sometimes they have to protect the flock from unscrupulous and misdirected business people. As a businessperson you must always be open to pastoral rebuke and correction. Do not say because I am wealthy, have money and have achieved, I am bigger than my pastor. If you want to maintain your success, be open to correction.

A few years down our journey we concur to retrace our missionary steps in order to strengthen the operations that we had established. I plan to take John Mark with us because a mentor is always looking for opportunities to stretch and expand his mentoring partners. Unexpectedly Paul objects because John Mark had previously deserted us and proved unfaithful when the missionary work hit a tough patch. A huge argument ensued. We had always found ways to compromise and have a meeting of the minds but in this conflict there was no way out. I finally separated with Paul in favour of John Mark. Paul took off with Silas. In my view I had completed my work with Paul but John Mark needed a mentor to steady his hand and develop his leadership skills. Others thought I was crazy to trade Paul for John Mark. It was more glorious for me to side with Paul because he was the man of the hour and it was evident that the hand of God was upon him. However I believed enough in John Mark to separate with Paul. Slowly I started to nurture, encourage and build John Mark. I am a seer of opportunity- a seer of potential; – I nurture seed to maturity. So I take John Mark and disappear from the radar screen. That’s the last time you hear about John Mark in the book of Acts. Mentors strategise seeking growth opportunities for their mentoring partners.

The only insight into the work that I did in John Mark is at the end of Paul’s life in 2 Timothy 4. He writes and says to Timothy, “Bring John Mark with you because he is profitable for ministry”. I ask the question, how was it that the guy who was good for nothing is now profitable for ministry? What converted this cowardly good for nothing man into something profitable for the purposes of God. I postulate that it is the nurturing hand of a mentor. If mentoring could do that for John Mark it can do the same for anyone.

Though I am little known – my legacy continues through the epistles of Paul and through the synoptic gospels that were inspired by the work of John Mark. Whenever you read the New Testament, you can sense my touch and legacy. I can easily claim that though I may be dead yet I still speak to your generation after all these millennia. My legacy leaves on. You too can create an enduring legacy.

You may say I am blowing my own trumpet. Here is my own example of a master-mentor. Jesus Christ – the best mentor I can think of. The man ministered for only three years. Because he had little time he did not travel inter-continentally but restricted himself in the by-ways and highways of dusty little Israel. He invested his life into the lives of twelve semi-illiterate men. By mentoring those twelve men, he has sown seeds that have lasted these generations. The impact of his ministry because of the relationships he had with those men has lasted to this day. That’s the influence of mentoring. His impact reaches beyond his lifetime. To this day the history of the world has forever been changed by his influence. Though he is dead- yet he still speaks. Down the corridors of history, his voice still thunders. Indeed as the singer sang, “His glory fills history’s pages”.

Thank you for bearing with me and sharing part of the journey. I believe that the principles I shared with you from my life transcend culture, age, tribe and nationality. They work in my agricultural society as well as in your information (or I hear you now call it Process age) society. Enjoy the rest of the journey.

Ciao. See you later.

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