In 1 Thessalonians 2, Paul speaks of his being gentle among the Thessalonians, like a nursing mother caring for her children. Have you ever watched a godly woman caring for her young children? Such gentleness! Such patience! Such careful instruction! Such protective love! Paul was gentle with the Thessalonians like a nursing mother. He goes on to speak of being a ectionately desirous of the church, ready to share not only the gospel, but his very life with them as well. And how did he live his life among them? In holy, righteous, and blameless conduct. For Paul, it was, “Do as I say, and do as I do. “He goes on to say that like a father with his children, he exhorted, encouraged, and charged them to walk in a manner worthy of God. Notice that Paul summarizes his ministry by referencing the loving care of both a father and a mother. What great love Paul had for the church—love like a father and a nursing mother. One of my own pastoral mentors once said that you can tell your congregants almost anything if they know you love them, but if your congregation doesn’t know you love them, you can’t tell them much of anything.
Such mentoring is not reserved for ordained elders. They have a special role in shepherding, to be sure. To them have been given the keys of the kingdom, and they clearly have shepherding responsibilities that are reserved only for them. But mentoring is something that goes on in families, extended families, and in the church. Informally, it goes on without any encouragement because everyone will find someone to talk to about the issues of life. But let me encourage you (all of you reading this article will all be older and more mature than someone else in the church) to pray boldly for more opportunities to mentor others. Titus 2 makes clear, for example, that older women are to train younger women to love their husbands and children, to be self-controlled, pure, working at home, kind, and submissive to their husbands.
Jesus, before He sent out his disciples, called them to be with Him (Mark 3:14). Don’t miss this “with Him” principle of discipleship. Jesus didn’t just call men, fill them with doctrine, and send them out. That might have been a disaster. But He chose them that they might be with Him—observing, listening, asking questions, receiving His rebukes, growing, becoming like Him. Unlike what some have jokingly suggested today, He didn’t lock His restless, zealous disciples in a cage for five years; instead, He called them to be “with Him” that He might at the right time send them out.
Let’s thank the Lord for the mentors we have had and pray that God would give us more opportunities to mentor others. We not only have the Holy Spirit living within us, and we not only have God’s Word to direct us—we also have undershepherds and others around us who have experienced life in ways that we have not. Let us build one another up in love and good deeds, from one generation to another.