Don’t Be an Island (In Ministry)

Don’t Be an Island (In Ministry)

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Islands are fascinating places. There is sense of mystery and intrigue that surrounds islands, a sense of isolation, disconnectedness, and vulnerability. We vacation on islands and are intrigued by island stories from television shows like “Lost” and “Gilligan’s Island” to movies such as “Jurassic Park” and “Cast Away.”

In fact, just four months ago I moved to an island with 1.8 million of my closest friends to plant a church. While the island of Manhattan is not physically disconnected to the outside world with its network of bridges and tunnels, I have found that the residents of Manhattan often feel the same isolation, disconnectedness, and vulnerability of castaways on any island.

In thinking about islands, worship ministry, and church planting, I have been contemplating an important leadership verse in 2 Timothy. In fact, this verse has significantly influenced our first several months of ministry here in NYC. In this verse, Paul teaches Timothy a very important leadership lesson that many of us in leadership positions either don’t understand, or just don’t come by naturally. In 2 Timothy 2:2, Paul says, “And the things you have heard me say in the presence of many witnesses entrust to reliable people who will also be qualified to teach others.”

There is so much happening in these twenty-six words. It provides a behavioral framework for all leaders. Let’s unpack this little verse and discover its potential.

Be A Follower

“And the things you have heard me say in the presence of many witnesses…” (emphasis mine). In order to become a great leader, you must first be well led. Of course, we must all be led by the Holy Spirit, but we must also all be led by someone who will pour into us at all stages of our lives. We must place ourselves in positions where, like Timothy learning from Paul, we can be listening to those who have gone before us, who will bring wisdom and insight into our lives.

For me, my mentors have been my parents, high school teachers, college professors, my lead pastors when serving on a church staff, and many others. Currently, a pastor named Paul is mentoring me as a church planter in NYC. Several other church planters in NYC are mentoring me on a more informal basis.

Who is mentoring you? Who are you listening to?

Be a Friend

This may only be implied in Paul’s instructions to Timothy, but it is important that you learn how to support, encourage, and influence your peers. This can happen in many ways, but it requires intentionality. If you work on a church staff, be intentional about building lasting relationships with those in a similar life stage. Those relationships can last a lifetime, and will provide the basis for many future relationships, both personally and professionally.

If you are not working on a church staff, find someone in your community or denominational network and have coffee or a meal together regularly. Better yet, form a group of 3-4 peer leaders for the purpose of mutual encouragement, support, and accountability.

Since living in NYC, I have been able to connect with other worship leaders, church planters, and pastors for mutual encouragement and friendship. Many of these new connections will become lifelong friendships.

Who are your friends? Are you intentionally building a vital peer network?

Be a Mentor

Paul continues, “…entrust to reliable people…” Who are the younger leaders in your life you are mentoring? Depending on your life stage, these could be younger co-workers, employees, your own kids, teenagers in your church, or someone who has approached you specifically for mentoring. The point is the importance of sowing what you know into someone else. Andy Stanley says that you do not have to know everything to be an effective mentor; you merely have to be willing to pour what is in your cup into cups of others.

While mentoring can be informal, I would encourage you to formalize these relationships when possible. I am currently mentoring two ministerial students that I have met since moving to NYC. We meet weekly for coffee or a meal, and my goal is to teach them leadership out of my own experience. For me, the routine of meeting together regularly is very helpful.

Who are you mentoring?

The Multiplication Effect

In the final part of the verse, Paul says to invest in people, “who will also be qualified to teach others.” At the end of this verse, he qualifies both the type of person we should mentor and the outcome of the mentoring process. First, we should be looking for a mentee who will ultimately be qualified to teach others. If your prospective mentee is self-absorbed or does not have the ability to invest in others, then spend your time and energy elsewhere. Invest in people who are willing to invest in people.

Finally, the ultimate goal of mentorship is the potential generational, exponential kingdom impact. Do you see the generational lineage in 2 Timothy 2:2? Paul first taught Timothy (and others, I’m sure), then he instructs Timothy to entrust what he as learned to “others.” Then, these “others” each entrust what they have learned to yet more “others.” Assuming each person in the equation mentored three people, by generation four we have forty developed leaders! Add one more generation, and the potential exponential impact of this one verse is amazing. This is the goal of leadership development.

Don’t Be An Island

Life is made for relationships, not isolation. As leaders we can tend toward isolation, but we have an amazing opportunity to grow and to help others grow likewise. How are you doing in these areas? Is there one that is weaker than the others, or just missing? Be intentional in each of these areas. Healthy leadership happens when all of these relationships are in place. Be a follower, be a friend, be a mentor, and lead for generational impact.

Image attribution: knowlesie / Thinkstock


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