Saturday, August 04, 2007

Timothy’s Model of Discipleship

What does it mean to be a disciple? I'm thinking specifically about mentoring (a catch phrase these days for sure)—taking a young wo/man under your wing and deepening his/her level of maturity. For many it suggests 'hanging out' with a mentor, you know, 'doing life together'. There is immense value in that, obviously. For many, however, discipleship is a mechanism for self-promotion. One gets to be recognized as being in the 'inner circle' of some super-saint. At his point, the whole process becomes a pharisaical farce. Mentoring is incredibly dangerous if it is a subversive means for career advancement or social status. Rather, mentoring, like all relationships, should be for the greater glory of God and the building up of the body of Christ. I'm thinking specifically about young Timothy whom Paul labeled 'my son'. No one was closer to Paul, and yet, young Timothy spend most of his time running errands for the Apostle rather than sitting at his feet soaking in the sage wisdom of the converted Rabbi. As near as I can tell, Timothy spent more time away from Paul on the second missionary journey than he did with him. Get out a map and follow along. Timothy traveled with Paul from Lystra to Troas and from Troas to Philippi. Timothy, not mentioned in Acts 17:1, likely stayed behind in Philippi to help the fledgling church only later to catch up with Paul in Thessalonica. At Thessalonica, Timothy again stays behind while Paul flees. By the time Timothy catches up with him at Berea, Paul has to run again, and orders Timothy back to Thessalonica to check on the health of the fledgling church. Timothy does Paul's bidding and then searches him out to the far south in Athens. Once again, Paul sends him away, again to check on the status of the church in Thessalonica. After taking care of business in the north, Timothy hunts Paul down in Corinth. They could not have been there for very long before Paul jets off to Ephesus and Timothy is ordered to stay at Corinth to facilitate leadership development. By the time he can join Paul in Ephesus, his mentor orders him to go again to Thessalonica to check on their progress. Yet again, Timothy reunites with Paul in Ephesus and is immediately sent on a mission to Macedonia to raise funds for their trip to Syria. Are you dizzy following all this? So was Timothy! If he signed up for this trip to spend time with Paul he must have been sorely disappointed. What's the point of this geographic rambling? Simply this: If you desire to be a disciple of a respected teacher, don't expect his time, rather ask for an assignment. It is thoroughly appropriate to receive private training from a mentor, but the purpose must always be for public ministry.


Blogger Andy said...

"The purpose [of being mentored] must always be for public ministry."

Really? Always? This conclusion is coming simply from your example of Timothy and Paul. A bit of an overstatement? Perhaps.

August 10, 2007 at 8:29 PM  
Blogger Jorge said...

Is this the way to disciple?

August 29, 2007 at 5:58 PM  
Blogger Mark Moore said...

Andy and Jorge, no, I don't think this is an absolute model. You are right to call for a clarification on this. I present this not as a unilateral model, but as a helpful corrective for an entitlement society that is constantly looking out for self-interests. It seems to me that much of mentoring both for the mentor and the mentored can be an exercise in self-promotion rather than in ministry. A mentoring model that does not stress service, often or even predominantly before self-development, can easily be deficient and/or detrimental to the spiritual maturity of the church.

August 29, 2007 at 7:57 PM  
Blogger Andy said...

I certainly understand where you are coming from - especially your own context where that really does happen often. I just think back to my time at Ozark, and while it was never an official "mentorship," Doug M. was a mentor to me. He never really gave me an assignment or task or even stressed the importance of it. But he did allow me to see how he loved his wife, he taught me the value of study, but most importantly, he helped me cultivate a passion for constantly pursing intimacy with God. The time he spent with me was formative in how I hope to increase spiritual maturity within the church. Maybe in the end his failure to stress service or give me assignments will be deficient and/or detrimental to that process, but I doubt it.

Mark - I hope all went well on your sabbatical, and I am so glad you are back. I wish I was able to see you before I left, but Texas was calling me home. Maybe one of these days we will run into each other again - perhaps in Tokyo! You have an open invitation.

August 30, 2007 at 1:12 AM  
Blogger Matt Sh'boiga said...

The good ol' name drop--as old as the beginning of the church: "I am of Paul; I am of Apollos; I am of Cephas; I am of Christ!"

The question one need only ask is this, "What would my mentor say to me if s/he heard me boasting (subtly or otherwise) about our special mentor-student bond?" Kind of cheapens the whole deal.

For those looking for someone to mentor you: (1) You don't need a formal mentorship; just watch and learn (not that a formal one is bad). (2) Don't choose a big name, choose a big heart. Even though I haven't been the very best student, I can't tell you how many times his impression left on me has saved me from going off the deep end.

September 17, 2007 at 1:38 AM  

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