Train New Leaders in the Way that Jesus and His Apostles Did
Copyright 2004 by George Patterson. May be freely copied.
A. A wise teacher lays a foundation of loving obedience to Jesus’ commands, just as he told us to do (Matthew 28:18-20). The first church in Jerusalem, empowered by the Holy Spirit, set an example by obeying, from the start, the commands of Christ in their most basic form (Acts 2:37-47). Their motive for obedience was not the Old Testament Law but love for Jesus (John ). The foundation of all life and ministry, according to Jesus' Sermon on the Mount, is obedience to His words (Matthew -29).
B. A wise trainer of leaders has an assortment of studies that apply to different needs. In Matthew 13:52, Jesus said to apply a variety of resources to current situations, “like the head of a household who brings out of his treasure things new and old.” This differs from the prevailing, traditional practice of simply teaching a systematic analysis of biblical truth. Jesus brought forth things old and new when He taught "You have heard that it was said, 'An eye for an eye, and a tooth for a tooth.' But I say to you, do not resist an evil person; but whoever slaps you on your right cheek, turn the other to him also” (Matthew -40).
Jesus and His apostles did not present an outline prepared ahead of time to the new leaders whom they trained. Rather, they taught in response to questions, needs, criticisms and events. New churches in pioneer fields benefit most from such a ‘menu’ approach to teaching. Like newborn babies, they have different, urgent needs that require immediate attention. The teacher or mentor, like Jesus and Paul, must listen to a new leader and learn the need of his flock, then use a ‘menu’ to select studies that fit the need.
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C. A wise teacher communicates Biblical truth with simple stories. “Jesus spoke to the crowds in parables” (Matthew ). He used stories about common things that left sharp images in people's mind about God and His Kingdom. Jesus’ parables are easy to remember and pass on to others. The Holy Spirit uses Bible stories to convict and illuminate both children and adults of all levels of society and educational backgrounds. Most of the Paul-Timothy studies that we prepare base their teaching on a biblical story about a person. For example, teaching about faith focuses on Abraham’s story. Some professional clergy, monopolizing sacred truth, purposefully use a style of teaching that their flock cannot imitate, thereby stifling the normal flow of God’s Word.
D. A wise teacher trains only those who obey the Word of God. Jesus required that His disciples ‘shake the dust’ from their feet and leave people who fail to respond to God’s Word (Luke 9:5). He also told us not to throw our pearls before pigs (Matthew 7:6). Paul and Barnabas turned from people who rejected the good news to those who received it (Acts -46). We violate this guideline when we continue to proclaim God’s truth to people who merely attend meetings without growing or serving the Lord. However, it is sometimes the teacher who should abandon not the hearers but his method of teaching. Often one sees no growth, because of failing to mobilize believers to serve one another, which Jesus requires of a teacher.
E. A wise trainer of leaders enables them immediately to equip believers in their flocks to instruct and serve one another. Ephesians 4:11-16 reveals the aim and means of teaching believers. The aim is “equipping of the believers for the work of service, to the building up of the body of Christ.” The means is to enable them to instruct and serve one another in loving harmony, according to the abilities of each one. “Speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in all aspects into Him who is the head, even Christ, from whom the whole body, being fitted and held together by what every joint supplies, according to the proper working of each individual part, causes the growth of the body for the building up of itself in love”.
Such interaction is not allowed in most traditional churches. George Patterson recalls how he learned that to ‘build up’ means to strengthen something or add to it. An uneducated Honduran with whom he worked closely told him that he was “dancing with the devil”. He explained, “The devil causes a problem in a town, and we rush to deal with it. Then Satan makes trouble in another church and we dash over there. Then he causes a quarrel in another church and we hurry again to correct it, dancing with the devil.” He suggested, “Let us agree to do two things. First, let us deal with any problem briefly and leave it in God’s hands, never letting it take up more than half of our time. Second, let us not leave a place until we have added something positive. We will win people to Christ, organize a church, enroll pastoral students, or help them begin a ministry that is lacking.”
A wise teacher, like
Ezra, includes children in important instruction and church life.
“Men, women and children, gathered to him from
Traditional teachers are too hasty in separating children out. It is not enough simply to tell children Bible stories during the worship time. Rather let children briefly act out Bible stories for the adults Thus, the children will know that they are an important part of the church body. The Paul-Timothy studies that we prepare on a topic come in pairs: one study is for the new church leader, and another is for children with a Bible story to act out during the worship time.
G. A wise teacher integrates teaching with the other gift-based ministries of the body, harmonized in love by the Holy Spirit. “The body is one and yet has many members” (1 Corinthians ). Chapters 12 through 14 of 1 Corinthians show how different gift-based ministries must be practiced together in love, coordinated by the Holy Spirit, in the same way that the different organs of our human bodies work together to let our bodies function normally. This happens when leaders allow other believers to share in teaching others, letting them freely practice the many ‘one-another’ commands such as “teach one another,” “correct one another,” “confess our faults to one another,” “bear one another’s burdens,” “forgive one another”, etc. In small groups, good teachers avoid monologues and make it easy for everyone to take part.
H. A wise trainer of leaders teaches in a way that his trainees can imitate at once and can pass to newer leaders. “The things which you have heard from me in the presence of many witnesses, entrust these to faithful men who will be able to teach others also” (2 Timothy 2:2). Teaching given to new leaders must be reproducible. Wherever the apostles went making disciples and training new leaders the way Jesus said to do, churches multiplied. The same thing happens today in most pioneer fields where missionaries and trainers follow these guidelines and pass on “a light baton”. So doing avoids methods that are difficult to imitate, and excludes equipment that is unavailable to their trainees.
Paul-Timothy Leader Training Menu Topics
1. Assurance, counseling, visiting
2. Bible, general studies about the Bible, interpretation
5. Evangelism, salvation from sin, death and hell, baptism
6. Family life
7. Giving, stewardship, bivocational work
8. Growing in Christ, Christian character
9. Historical events of lasting importance
10. Love, fellowship, serving the needy
13. Organizing, overseeing
13. Prayer, faith, healing, spiritual warfare
14. Teaching in a biblical way
15. Training leaders
16. Worship, Lord’s Supper
J. A wise trainer of leaders investigates the outcomes of his teaching. James requires believers to be “doers of the Word and not hearers only.” Good teaching is applied immediately in a practical way. When mentor new leaders, ask them first to report what their flock has done in response to prior teaching. The Paul-Timothy studies that we prepare have three parts: (1) a Bible study, (2) corresponding activities that the congregation should do during the week, and (3) related activities to do during worship.
K. A wise trainer of leaders helps them to discover for themselves what the Bible says about a particular truth. The Bereans searched the Scriptures to see if what Paul said was true (Acts -11). We give new leaders the tools to mine the gems in the Word of God. Good students discover God’s priceless truths for themselves. Good Bible studies enable students to find biblical truths easily and accurately. The Paul-Timothy studies that we prepare do not tell students simply what the Bible says, but rather where to find it. For example, instead of simply telling people what the Holy Spirit does for a believer, we ask them to discover it for themselves by examining such passages as John chapters 14-16, Acts 2, Romans 8, 1 Corinthians chapters 12-14 and Galatians 5.
L. A wise trainer of leaders teaches and writes studies that focus on people, avoiding abstract analysis of doctrine. Paul kept in mind the persons to whom he wrote his letters, naming them and dealing with specific situations in their churches, in response to questions and reported needs. Peter had shepherding elders in mind when he wrote 1 Peter. John wrote, “I am writing to you, little children, because your sins have been forgiven… I am writing to you, fathers, because you know Him... I am writing to you, young men, because you have overcome the evil one...” (1 John 2:12-14). We, too, should prepare our lessons with people and their needs in mind. Write studies as though you were writing a letter to a specific person who is typical of those who need your instruction.
M. A wise trainer of shepherds models pastoral skills while teaching, maintaining a balance between classroom instruction and mentoring on the job. “Be imitators of me as I am of Christ” (1 Corinthians 11:1). Our best teaching is often done on the job outside of any classroom. Jesus and His apostles apprenticed new leaders, combining verbal instruction with field work. Jesus taught the crowds by monologue, but he prepared novice leaders, by walking and chatting with them (Matthew 5:1-2). When Paul taught the Ephesian congregation, as reported in Acts 20:7, he did so discussing questions with them, not with a sermon. (The verb in the original Greek is dialegomai, to discuss, discourse with, converse with, or discuss a question with another. The context of Acts 20:7 seems cordial and passionate, not a place and time for philosophical monologue, harangue or pulpit oratory.)
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