“Why Are We Joyfully Committed?”

Article
02.25.2010

Why are the pastors at Bethlehem Baptist Church joyfully committed to pastoral mentoring? Our mission as a pastoral staff is to spread a passion for the supremacy of God in all things for the joy of all peoples through Jesus Christ. Therefore, we continually ask God to give us the vision, energy, and skill to accomplish this mission with the apprentices he gives us.

THE SCRIPTURAL FOUNDATION

Jesus left us an example of investing in a select number of men. The Gospel of Mark tells us, “And he appointed twelve, so that they would be with him and that he could send them out to preach” (Mark 3:14). His aim was to be with them for a season, and then to send them out preaching.

Paul carried on this example of discipleship with Timothy. He invited Timothy to be with him for a season, and then he sent him out, instructing him to perpetuate the process to subsequent generations: “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 Tim. 2:2).

Mentoring is a great privilege and a weighty responsibility that God has given us. It’s both relational and doctrinal. It’s both spontaneous and intentional. Mentoring isn’t primarily a program, it’s a relationship. It’s teaching by word and deed. Part of the weightiness of our responsibility is that we pastors should always be saying to our apprentices what Paul said: “The things you have learned and received and heard and seen in me, practice these things, and the God of peace will be with you” (Phil. 4:9). Or elsewhere: “Be imitators of me, just as I also am of Christ” (1 Cor. 11:1)

Jesus mentored through specialized doctrinal instruction (cf. Mark 4:10ff), ministry modeling (cf. Mark 9:14-29), and ministry partnership (Luke 10:1-20). He prayed for his disciples (John 17). He taught them to pray (Luke 11:1ff). He sang with them (Matt. 26:30). He corrected them (Luke 24:25). And he encouraged them (Luke 10:21-24).

Unlike Jesus, we are not perfect examples, so our teaching and modeling isn’t perfect. But these things are important nonetheless. Even our weaknesses and failures can be instructive. So transparency and honesty is crucial in the mentoring relationship (1 Tim. 1:12-17).

What an opportunity God has given to pastors! Investing in a select number of gifted men has the potential of influencing thousands of people with the vision of God in Scripture that we have so come to cherish. So we continually pray that God will guide us and enable us to do it in a “manner worthy of him” so that these men will “go out for the sake of the Name” (3 John 6-7).

How Bethlehem does Pastoral Mentoring

For the past 28 years Bethlehem has provided mentorship for men preparing for elder-level ministry. Ten years ago we upgraded this mentoring into a program called The Bethlehem Institute which has offered about 50 graduate level credit hours in biblical exegesis from the original languages, missions, practical theology, preaching, and mentored-ministry.

In the fall of 2009, the Bethlehem Institute plans to become Bethlehem College and Seminary. Among other things, it hopes to offer a 100-credit-hour church-based master of divinity program.

We believe there are a number of benefits to a church-based masters level apprenticeship program. Specifically, apprentices gain

  • daily reinforcement of the fact that serious biblical and theological studies from the original languages matter in real life and ministry;
  • the opportunity to develop a discipling relationship with an experienced mentor whom one can observe and assist on a regular basis;
  • a cohort-based approach where students develop deep relationships with each other and learn as much or more from each other than they do from their instructors;
  • the opportunity to see how a distinctive theology and philosophy of ministry impact the day-to-day ministry of the local church;
  • regular opportunities to teach and model what one is learning in the context of the church;
  • the opportunity to interact every week with the preaching pastor about the sermon he gave on Sunday;
  • the opportunity to learn and apply theology in the context of inner city life, which allows for a cohesiveness in the apprentice’s livelihood, studies, worship, and ministry;
  • a World Christian mindset, which sees the local church as a seedbed for missions, permeating the entire program.

Each apprentice is expected to do a minimum of five ministry hours per week. The pastors will help to guide the apprentice into his ministry role(s) after he arrives.

A MENTOR’S RESPONSIBILITIES

Pastor mentors are also responsible for the following:

1) They will formally meet with the apprentice(s) once a month. If a pastor has more than one apprentice, he will normally meet with all of them together. The purposes of the monthly mentoring meeting are

  • to be of mutual support for each other through sharing and prayer;
  • to provide accountability for one another in devotional life, home life, purity, and integrity;
  • to discuss ministry, theology, and life issues that may be relevant to the apprentice’s individual situation;
  • to impart to apprentices core values that shape our life and ministry;
  • to receive, review, and file weekly accountability and ministry reports.

2) They will meet one additional time a month either in the pastor’s home or in the pastor’s ministry situation.

3) At the end of the academic year (June 1), they will write a brief summary of each apprentices strengths and weaknesses, the quality of his ministry investment, and other intangibles such as attitude, promptness, etc.

4) At the end of the apprentice’s master of divinity program, the mentor is asked to write a letter of recommendation for the apprentice to use as ministry or educational options emerge.

By:
Tom Steller

Tom Steller is the Academic Dean of Bethlehem College and Seminary in Minneapolis, Minnesota.