“And this is the record of John, when the Jews sent priests and Levites from Jerusalem to ask him, Who art thou? And he confessed, and denied not; but confessed, I am not the Christ. And they asked him, What then? Art thou Elias? And he saith, I am not. Art thou that prophet? And he answered, No. Then said they unto him, Who art thou? that we may give an answer to them that sent us. What sayest thou of thyself? He said, I am the voice of one crying in the wilderness, Make straight the way of the Lord, as said the prophet Esaias” (John 1:19-23).

John the Baptist had relatively little to say of himself. In fact, it would seem that he had a great deal of work to do in convincing those around him who he was not. “Are you Elijah? Are you that prophet? Who are you? What do you say about yourself?” His answer was unusual. “I am the voice of one crying in the wilderness…” He didn’t proclaim anything of himself other than to say he was serving as a mouthpiece, a voice, for another.

This world we live in is full of voices vying for our attention.

“A voice of noise from the city, a voice from the temple, a voice of the LORD that rendereth recompence to his enemies” (Isaiah 66:6).

A voice of noise

The voice of noise from the city is at peak volume. With primary elections on both sides of the aisle, there is no shortage of voices from the ideologues, socialists, conservatives, libertarians, and every political flavor in between. They crowd out the airwaves on television and radio, each more bombastic and loud than the last. Some are trying to preserve and protect the Constitution of the United States, and yet others are perverting its meaning, paving the way for same-sex marriage, and diminishing the freedom of the church to preach the Word of God.

School shootings and random acts of violence against the police are quickly becoming second page news due to their frequency. And this noise isn’t just limited to our country. Around the world we find example after example of unrest, extremist violence, political revolution, and broken agreements. Many voices claim to have the answers, but simply arise, in the words of Isaiah, as “a voice of noise from the city.”

A voice from the Temple

Sadly, those seeking an escape from the noise of this world are hard pressed to find it in many modern churches. The New Living Translation version of this portion of Scripture reads, “What is that terrible noise from the Temple?” Isaiah saw a time when the voice rising up from the Temple would be just as unclear and terrible as the noise rising up from the city. Could there be a more fitting picture of the state of modern “Christianity?”

Indeed, many denominations are not only espousing an anti-Biblical world view, they are the ones leading the charge. The Episcopal Church, Evangelical Lutheran Church, Presbyterian Church, Quakers, Unitarian Universalists, the United Church of Christ and a host of other smaller organizations now sanction same-sex marriage, and allow those living in sin to be ordained into the ministry. Leaders from the Episcopal and Methodist church recently rallied in support of Planned Parenthood, holding “Pro-faith, Pro-family, Pro-choice” signs as they said, “Thank God for abortion providers.”

“For if the trumpet give an uncertain sound, who shall prepare himself to the battle?” (1 Cor 14:8)

A Voice of the Lord

I am thankful today to be part of a church and an organization that gives a certain sound. That what is taught in our churches and preached across our pulpits maintains fidelity with the Word of God in every way. It is critically important—eternally important—that we maintain the Voice of the Lord in our pulpits and our churches.

“There are, it may be, so many kinds of voices in the world, and none of them [is] without signification” (1 Cor 14:10).

All of these voices have a meaning, a purpose behind them. Some voices exist only to gain power for themselves. Others exist to deceive and draw power away from God. And then there is the voice of the Lord.

In prayer for the direction of our organization in 2016, the Lord very clearly impressed upon me the vital importance of preserving His voice through mentoring. I cannot stress strongly enough the necessity of mentoring our young men and women. The crucial, critical transaction of preserving and passing the voice of God, His Word, and His Truth, from one generation to the next.

A forward moving promise

Eleazar was sent by Abraham on a mission to find a wife for Isaac back in Abraham’s native land. In searching for a bride, Abraham wanted his son’s wife to have the same background as he possessed. The same experiences, the same people, and the same believing faith that had made him who he was. Eleazar received Abraham’s instruction, but asked, “What if the woman isn’t willing to leave her home? Should I take Isaac back to where he came from?” Abraham responds in Genesis 24:8, “… if the woman will not be willing to follow thee, then thou shalt be clear from this my oath: only bring not my son thither again.”

Isaac represents the promise of God, and a promise never goes back! A promise always goes forward! We must realize that if we fail to mentor our future leaders, we are doomed to be prisoners in a cycle of no growth.

Paul & Timothy

The Apostle Paul was a mentor to the men and women around him, providing a Biblical framework for how we should preserve the Apostolic message.

“Hold fast the form of sound words, which thou hast heard of me, in faith and love which is in Christ Jesus” (2 Timothy 1:13).

“Thou therefore, my son, be strong in the grace that is in Christ Jesus. And the things that thou hast heard of me among many witnesses, the same commit thou to faithful men, who shall be able to teach others also”  (2 Timothy 2:1-2).

“But thou hast fully known my doctrine, manner of life, purpose, faith, longsuffering, charity, patience…But continue thou in the things which thou hast learned and hast been assured of, knowing of whom thou hast learned [them];” (2 Timothy 3:10,14).

“Hold fast. Be strong. Preach the same thing you heard from me to faithful men ‘who shall be able to teach others also.’ Continue in the things you’ve learned from me.” Over and over, Paul is reinforcing the message to Timothy. And not just the message, but his way of life. He openly shared his life with Timothy in order to teach, train, and equip him for future ministry.

“I write not these things to shame you, but as my beloved sons I warn you. For though ye have ten thousand instructors in Christ, yet have ye not many fathers: for in Christ Jesus I have begotten you through the gospel. Wherefore I beseech you, be ye followers of me. For this cause have I sent unto you Timotheus, who is my beloved son, and faithful in the Lord, who shall bring you into remembrance of my ways which be in Christ, as I teach every where in every church” (1 Corinthians 4:14-17).

When Paul wanted the Corinthians to follow him, he had so completely transmitted his life into Timothy, he was able to send him in his stead. He told them that Timothy would bring them into remembrance of his ways, and his teaching style and ability. In short, Paul’s DNA was in Timothy.

The Gospel Call to Mentor

Paul, continuing his first letter to the Corinthians, says, “For though I preach the gospel, I have nothing to glory of: for necessity is laid upon me; yea, woe is unto me, if I preach not the gospel!”

When we find Paul preaching the gospel, however, we also find him teaching the importance of mentoring.

“For whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved. How then shall they call on him in whom they have not believed? and how shall they believe in him of whom they have not heard? and how shall they hear without a preacher? And how shall they preach, except they be sent? as it is written, How beautiful are the feet of them that preach the gospel of peace, and bring glad tidings of good things!” (Romans 10:13-15).

“For our gospel came not unto you in word only, but also in power, and in the Holy Ghost, and in much assurance; as ye know what manner of men we were among you for your sake” (I Thessalonians 1:5).

Building the Church

When Jesus was wrapping up His ministry in the flesh, He spent time transmitting Himself into and mentoring a group of men that could carry on His work, His Word, and His message.

“And I say also unto thee, That thou art Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church; and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it. And I will give unto thee the keys of the kingdom of heaven: and whatsoever thou shalt bind on earth shall be bound in heaven: and whatsoever thou shalt loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven” (Matthew 16:18-19).

Note that when Jesus spoke of building his church on Peter, he spoke in the future tense. Just because someone isn’t necessarily useful to your ministry or the church today, don’t overlook their potential and who they will become.

Ron Lee Davis, in his book “Mentoring, The Strategy of the Master,” said, “Mentoring is a process of opening our lives to others, of sharing our lives with others; a process of living for the next generation.”

Jesus lived out the principle that more time spent with fewer people equals a greater, lasting impact for God.

An old Chinese proverb says, “If you are planting for a year, plant grain. If you are planting for a decade, plant trees. If you are planting for a century, plant people.”

We find this to be true over and over again throughout the Word of God. Moses mentored Joshua; Naomi mentored her daughter-in-law, Ruth; Ezra mentored Nehemiah; Elijah mentored Elisha; Elizabeth mentored her cousin, Mary; Barnabas mentored Paul and John Mark; Paul mentored his spiritual son, Timothy; Paul also mentored Priscilla and Aquila, who in turn mentored Apollos.

Managing vs. Mentoring

Managing people, while certainly important, is really designed to maintain the status-quo. It is easy for leaders to get caught up in the day-to-day process of managing, when what is needed to move the promise forward is a multi-pronged approach to mentoring.

First, mentoring must be relational. Paul’s relationship with Timothy allowed him to learn to better love and follow Jesus in the context of focused friendship.

Mentoring must also be personal. The basics that Timothy learned from Paul were mediated through his unique personality, gifting, and style.

Key for us in the relationship between a mentor and protégé, however, is that it must be theologically-grounded. Paul is faithfully delivering what he received himself from many witnesses or marturon (“martyrs”). In the first century, a martyr denoted a public witness to the truth. The meaning of the word martyr as it has evolved today is evidence that truth-telling could be, ultimately, costly. They had entrusted Paul with truth, and now Paul was entrusting it to Timothy. In the Greek, the word entrust literally referred to the process of securely depositing a treasure into the bank.

Additionally, the relationship must be intentional. We are involved in hundreds of unintentional relationships, but in the case of Paul and Timothy we see a relationship established for a specific purpose. Pastor Paul D. Mooney once related to me that, although many people may ask to be mentored, he seeks out for himself who he will mentor, intentionally selecting those he feels will best receive his instruction and transmit it as he would.

Finally, mentoring that works is both transformational and reproducible. It should transform a person through study, reflection, action, and receptivity; and we should pour ourselves into those who will not only receive it for themselves, but those who will in turn teach others.

At our Fall Planning Conference last year, I challenged our Regional Supervisors, Departmental Leaders, and District Superintendents to become intentional in planning and providing resources for mentoring to our pastors and churches. Likewise, I encourage every pastor to take the time in 2016 to multiply yourself and your efforts by mentoring those under you. The same principle applies to church leaders at every level. Make the effort to teach someone and mentor someone this year, and watch God multiply your effectiveness and reach!