I heard a preacher once say (about 48 years ago) that someone had made the statement (disclaimer: this is not an exact quote) “there are two ways to preach: old things in a new way, and new things in an old way.” I think I get that, since Ecclesiastes 3 reminds us that “there is nothing new under the sun.”
However, God says several times that He will do “a new thing,” and we’re promised a new Heaven and a new earth in Revelation 21. “Behold, I make all things new.”
So perhaps we can say that the old is the revealed truths from God and about God in His Holy Word that stand forever. It’s foundational and fixed. (Psalm 119:89) But there are constantly and continually new forms, new methods, and creative ways of sharing this unchanging message. The message never changes, but the methods and means of expressing it must change from generation to generation and from culture to culture.
So, with that introduction, in thinking about the old and the new in terms of ministry and influence, I want to go back to something else I heard for the first time about 47 or so years ago (and in an entirely different place than the first statement I referenced). Some, perhaps many, who read this will have heard it before. For others, it will be new. For all, I believe this will give us a handle on effective discipleship, both as the one doing the discipline, as well as the one being discipled.
A Paul, A Barnabas, and a Timothy
Charles Swindoll and Howard Hendrix, the beloved “Prof” from Dallas Theological Seminary were teaching about leadership in a series of cassette tapes I had purchased. Yes, it was that long ago; I wasn’t yet 30! It was Dr. Hendrix (1924-2013) I first heard say that every Christian leader; pastor, missionary, educator, administrator, needs three people in his life: a Paul, a Barnabas, and a Timothy. After more than 40 years in ministry, I think that this should be true of every Christian.1
Daniel Stegeman writes in Pastoral Theology.com “One way of explaining this would be to say, everyone needs a mentor, an associate, and an apprentice.”2 Preston VanderVen puts it this way in an article entitled “Do Not Be a Lone Ranger:” “Be a Barnabas, Train a Timothy, Pursue a Paul.”3
Let’s break it down.
1. A Paul: a mentor, a leader, an influencer. Often this may be a pastor, a parent, or an older, more experienced Christian. Dale Tedder states that “Paul represents that person in your life who mentors, leads and directs you…This is someone who has traveled further down the road of faith and life than you.”4
2. A Barnabas: an equal, a colleague, a co-worker. Often, it’s a close friend who’s always there for us for encouragement and mutual accountability. Think of Paul and Barnabas in the book of Acts.
3. A Timothy: a disciple; someone to mentor, usually younger than us in age, and spiritually as well. Tedder says that “this is generally someone who has not traveled as far as you have in your walk with Christ.”
We see this discipleship principle fleshed out in the Scriptures repeatedly. The Titus 2 woman, where the young woman teaches her children, and the older women teach the younger women. In Scripture we find Naomi and Ruth. Elizabeth and Mary. Jonathan and David. Elijah and Elisha. Paul and Barnabas. Paul and others in the New Testament. “Iron sharpens iron,” says Proverbs 27:17, and we do well to heed the admonition.
Discipleship and influence.
This is discipleship (Matthew 28:18). “Go and make discipleship among all nations.” (II Timothy 2:2) “And the things you have heard about me among many witnesses, the same commit to faithful men who shall be able to teach others also.”
It is also influence.
1. Intentional influence: seeking someone in whom we can invest. We must not be content to live solitary, isolated lives, but rather choose to influence others in the path of solid, committed discipleship. Even if we’re introverts by nature, we must influence.
2. Indirect influence: the life we live, the relationships we develop, whether casual or intentional are frequently casting influence over others. It can happen, I’m convinced, even without our knowledge, though most of the time it will be deliberate. I think of people who have influenced me in positive ways, and they never knew it, including some I read after.
3. Involved influence: we must be willing to give of ourselves; time, attention, effort. Jesus spent 3 years as His disciples’ rabbi. It will cost us; involvement won’t come cheap, but it is so worth it.
We should find our Paul. In many cases they have already found us. Pastor Milton Hollifield, Bro. Eugene Waddell were two of my Pauls; mentors who did much good in shaping who I am. My habit of keeping daily records of ministry and personal activities for 45 years now I learned from Brother Hollifield, and he, Brother Waddell, and Pastor Dennis Wiggs taught and modeled things such as hospital visitation that guide me to this day.
We must not live life without our Barnabas. As VanderVen puts it: “Do not be a Lone Ranger.”
We much deliberately seek out our Timothy. It doesn’t always have to be someone much younger, though that is frequently how it plays out. But definitely someone newer and less experienced in following Christ.
A few final reminders.
A couple of quotes I’ve seen or heard that are good reminders:
I’ve learned that the easiest way for me to grow as a person is to surround myself with people who are smarter than I am.” – Andy Rooney
“Each of us is a composite of the influences of others.” – Unknown
Finally, in referencing Howard Hendricks, the man whom numerous evangelical leaders consider the greatest mentor of all time, except for Jesus:
Dr. Hendricks taught at Dallas Theological Seminary for 50 years, and mentored such evangelical leaders as Chuck Swindoll, Tony Evans, Robert Jeffers, and David Jeremiah. We learn that relationships resulting in discipleship, positive influence within these relationships, and intentionality in making it happen, will advance the cause of Christ as few things will. “Be a Barnabas, train a Timothy, pursue a Paul.”5