“If you just tried this, I believe you’d be a much better communicator.”

These were hard words to swallow for someone who was still unsure if this was what I supposed to be doing.  Yet, the intent behind the criticism was not discouraging me.

how-to-survive-a-critique_640xRather, it was an attempt to remove an annoying habit in my public speaking practices.  After all, it was the Bible I was speaking about.  And in those matters, it’s life and death for the audience.

This process is what Timothy, the protégé of the Apostle Paul, would have understood as well. We read in 1 Timothy 4:13-14:

13 Until I come, devote yourself to the public reading of Scripture, to preaching and to teaching. 14 Do not neglect your gift, which was given you through prophecy when the body of elders laid their hands on you.

1 Timothy 4:13-14
New International Version

While Paul was away, he expected Timothy to take care of things in Ephesus.  And he emphasizes three elements of the public worship service needed in the congregations in the Roman city: Scripture reading, preaching, and teaching.

Reading of Scripture was especially important in the early church’s worship services because they lacked a printed Bible in their homes.  If they didn’t hear Scripture in the public worship services, there were scarcely any others places to hear it.

Preaching would be the instructions given to those in the faith that speaks to the behaviors and lifestyles of those claiming Christ as Lord.  “Teaching” would have been the intellectual components of Timothy’s role.

Recall from earlier in our study that the Ephesian churches were dealing with heresies and false teachers.  Young Timothy was being commanded to stand firm in the faith by teaching and preaching the truth.

How could Paul be so confident the timid, young leader could do this?  Timothy’s own setting apart by the elders when they “laid their hands on” Timothy (verse 14).  This would be along the lines of what we would call “ordination”.

The seasoned Apostle wasn’t blowing smoke at Timothy.  Instead, Paul was reminding him to do what Timothy was called and created to do.

There’s an important point to see here in 1 Timothy: a mentor has the power to fan the flame of God’s calling in someone’s life.  Few experiences exceed the thrill of mentoring someone and watching their calling and giftedness coalesce into the fulfillment of their design in Jesus.

When we are in the role of “Paul”, how can we do this for others?

  1. We can know them to the point when we have certainty about their calling.
  2. We can teach them to cultivate that calling through our experience and guidance.
  3. We can encourage, encourage, encourage them to live out of their gifting.

When we are in the role of “Timothy”, there are things we must do as well.

  1. We must recognize that as disciples of Jesus, the Lord has given us spiritual gifts.
  2. We will need seasoned mentors to help us learn to exercise and properly use and mature in these gifts.
  3. We will need to submit to our mentors and remain teachable.

lead-encourageI am so grateful for the ongoing coaching of my mentors in ministry.  While their critique can sting—especially when they point out something I was (erroneously) thinking was effective—their “win” is not in the pain, but in my success.

Mentors take great pride and care of those they serve through mentoring.  To see them succeed in their Holy Spirit empowered calling is a thrill like few others.

As we journey in our lives with other Christians through the mission field of the world, may we continue to link to those who are “Paul” as we concurrently seek to minister and lead our “Timothy”.



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Interested in more like this?  Consider Joel’s book: 31 Days of Spiritual Wisdom: A Month in the Proverbs.  Moving through a selection of verses from a chapter of Proverbs for every day of the month, Joel walks readers through a journey of spiritual formation applicable to everyday life.  The goal?  Knowing how to apply the wisdom of Scripture so we grow in our faith, become wiser, and show the world the life-changing power of Jesus.


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