A young leader recently asked me how to mentor up-and-coming leaders and especially how do we utilize what Paul told Timothy? “Entrust these to faithful men who will be able to teach others also.” Most leaders with whom I work understand the urgency of raising up the next generation - the Timothys - but Paul is teaching us something that is a little more unique.
We are not simply called to raise up the next generation, but we are called to peer in faith over the generational horizon and plan for those who are yet to be saved. Moreover, we should even plan leadership for those who are yet to be born. That’s right, we have to plan now for a time when we will not be here and for a people we might not ever meet.
In the military there is a specialty called artillery observer. These people are located next to or even behind enemy lines, and their job is to direct the artillery fire which may be located miles away. The artillery men are not just miles away, but they often cannot even see the target because they are beyond the horizon. They have to trust the instructions of the observers so they can deliver accurate fire. We also need visionary leadership in the church – and I will add here in our nation also - that will help us direct our efforts towards a future that we cannot and might not ever see.
As I travel I meet leaders in different churches and denominations, and there are many diverse styles of leadership. Some churches are in dire need of CPR, but even for those that are healthy I often feel concern because they are a one-lifetime church. This usually means several things all of which add up to a short-sighted view of the kingdom of God.
First is that the main leader has built everything to be dependent upon himself. Even if he is a great leader the church will wane when he passes. Even good leaders unknowingly do this, but this causes the next generation to be stunted, and within several generations this church might close or need a serious reboot from God.
Second is a leader who does not recognize the obvious Timothys in his midst. I wrote about this in a previous post, but suffice it to say that young leaders are usually more ready to take the baton of responsibility than we would think. They don’t have to be as polished as we; they only need to be faithful and proficient.
Third is the mass of faithful men and women in every church who are waiting to be equipped for ministry. I distinguish here between going to Sunday school and equipping for ministry. Equipping encompasses learning, but the accumulation of knowledge does not always translate into doing. There is a task to be done, and people need to be equipped to do it. Equipping is basically purpose-oriented, directional learning.
Fourth is the mystery group. They are the others be they saved, not born again or maybe not even born. This is Paul’s goal as he writes to Timothy. As a seasoned man of God he is aiming at a target that is over the generational horizon, and he realizes that a church that has this generational approach to ministry is a church that will encompass and span many generations of leaders in its mission to make disciples of all the nations.
Aim far, shoot far.