1 THESSALONIANS 2:1-12
1You yourselves know, brothers and sisters, that our coming to you was not in vain, 2but though we had already suffered and been shamefully mistreated at Philippi, as you know, we had courage in our God to declare to you the gospel of God in spite of great opposition. 3For our appeal does not spring from deceit or impure motives or trickery, 4but just as we have been approved by God to be entrusted with the message of the gospel, even so we speak, not to please mortals, but to please God who tests our hearts. 5As you know and as God is our witness, we never came with words of flattery or with a pretext for greed; 6nor did we seek praise from mortals, whether from you or from others, 7though we might have made demands as apostles of Christ. But we were gentle among you, like a nurse tenderly caring for her own children. 8So deeply do we care for you that we are determined to share with you not only the gospel of God but also our own selves, because you have become very dear to us.
9You remember our labor and toil, brothers and sisters; we worked night and day, so that we might not burden any of you while we proclaimed to you the gospel of God. 10You are witnesses, and God also, how pure, upright, and blameless our conduct was toward you believers. 11As you know, we dealt with each one of you like a father with his children, 12urging and encouraging you and pleading that you lead a life worthy of God, who calls you into his own kingdom and glory.
The dominant picture we have of Paul is of a fierce "missionary-Apostle," tirelessly traveling everywhere, preaching the gospel, raising up leaders, and planting churches, at the risk of life and limb. This hard-charging, Spirit-filled, uncompromising leader evokes in us respect and awe. Seldom do we see a "softer" side, the side that nurtures, the side that is gentle and compassionate. But this pastoral side was indeed a part of the Apostle Paul as well, as evidenced by the passage above.
The images Paul used to describe his relationship with the Thessalonian Christians was that of a nurse, "tenderly caring for her own children," and that of a father with his children, "urging and encouraging [them]."
Real-life ministry often takes on forms suggested by these images of nursing and fathering mainly because we need care, love, nurture, encouragement, attention, and affection to grow well. To say we need these things is not to admit to some shameful and terrible flaws. That somehow "the weak" need such care and attention, while "the strong" can do without. We all thrive when we are loved. We all grow well in God when we are personally encouraged.
Often it is the case that those who become influential spiritual leaders were themselves influenced by the concern and care of others. Shawn Bolz was cared and loved by Bob Jones. Bill Johnson by his father, pastor Earl Johnson. Elisha by Elijah. Timothy by Paul. And so forth. Of course there are times when such care and mentoring is absent in the life of good spiritual leader, save only the care and mentoring by God. John the Baptist perhaps. Elijah. Perhaps Paul.
But -- all things considered -- it is better to be cared and mentored than not cared and mentored. And it is better to care and mentor rather than not to care and mentor.
(Pastor Young was making this point during our retreat when he emphasized the importance of being fathered.) What strikes me about this topic of mentoring/mentored is how little energy and prayer is poured into this area, compared with other areas of ministry and life. Perhaps I speak mainly for myself when I confess this. I assume most of the time that mentoring/mentored is more or less automatic. It occurs naturally when healthy relationships are established. Am I too naive to think this way?
But given the need for mentoring and the relative dearth of great mentoring, perhaps as individuals and as a church we can pray into this and see how we might be proactive about it, especially for the sake of the next generation.
Let's pray: Father God, given the fact that one of our greatest challenges and needs is the raising up of healthy, secure, generous, unafraid leaders for the next generation, help us to mentor and love well, like a caring nurse, like a wise father. Help us to be mentored well also, if that is possible. May you train us in this area. May we, at the Rock Church, become good fathers and mothers of the faith. May you grant us the privilege to shepherd the next generation and others in the love and truth and power of the gospel of Jesus Christ. In Jesus' name, amen.