There is a duty laid upon Christian leaders by the Lord to train others in gospel ministry. No amount of leadership training itself creates preachers (the indispensable prerequisite for that is a commission from the Lord of the harvest: 1 Corinthians 9:16; Matthew 9:37-38; Isaiah 6:9), but faithful attention to training greatly enhances the effectiveness of preachers.
In the light of this, it is sobering to reflect on the shortage today of keen Christians intimately acquainted with the gospel of grace and able and willing to work hard and effectively for the Lord. At least part of the problem lies in a lack of proper training of Christian workers.
Thus it is specially instructive and profitable to observe the way the apostle Paul worked in a team and trained others. One particular example of this stands out — his training of Timothy of Lystra.
Timothy was an exemplary Christian and gospel worker. There appear to have been three stages in Timothy’s development.
Timothy was ‘talent spotted’ by Paul and brought in to share the work (Acts 16:1-5). He was probably converted under Paul’s preaching, but the apostle also built on earlier influences from Christian relatives and the Old Testament.
He noted that young Timothy had a good reputation among the neighbouring churches. From what we can gather about Timothy’s diffident personality, this reputation cannot have been self-sought. His life, conduct and character spoke for him. Paul was eager to add others to his team. He listened to the reports, saw the potential and brought Timothy in.
The training and development of workers takes time, but one of the advantages of travelling in New Testament times was that it took a long time also! Time spent travelling together could be used for this very purpose of instruction. A long delay can be a blessing when the time it creates is used wisely.
Paul wanted to bring out the gifts and potential in Timothy. There were, however, some things that at first glance appeared to be drawbacks. Paul dealt with these when bringing out Timothy’s talents (1&2 Timothy).
Timothy was young (1 Timothy 4:12; 2 Timothy 2:22) and must have felt his youth keenly when facing some of the tasks he was given.
Timothy had a reserved nature. He does not appear to have been an extrovert (2 Timothy 1:7). Furthermore, Timothy had health problems (1 Timothy 5:23; 2 Timothy 2:1).
In bringing Timothy in, and bringing him out, Paul showed both perception and confidence in the reality of Timothy’s God-given gifts. He expressed this confidence and trusted Timothy, being willing to share tasks and responsibilities with him.
Paul wanted Timothy to continue to grow in usefulness. His training was very successful, for Timothy developed into a fine leader and himself a trainer of others.
He is mentioned in over half of Paul’s letters and features in the book of Acts. On occasions he was sent out as Paul’s personal representative.
If you want a glowing character reference, read Philippians 2:19-22. Timothy had learned how to submit to and serve under another, more able leader. Being a humble learner was not a problem to Timothy!
Paul brought Timothy on in various ways, and his own example was crucial to Timothy’s education in spiritual service. A leader has been defined as ‘one, who knows the way, goes the way and shows the way’.
If that is true, then Paul epitomises the godly leader. Timothy would have had first-hand knowledge of Paul’s example in the following areas:
- Paul maintained warm enthusiasm for the gospel (1 Timothy 1:12-15).
- He showed Timothy how to keep Jesus and the gospel central to all strategy and activity (1 Timothy 3:16).
- He gave Timothy responsibility, together with spiritual and practical guidance.
- Paul was not afraid or reluctant to set high standards for Timothy.
- He taught him the principles of respect for people, the need for good relationships and ‘people’ skills (1 Timothy 5).
- He stressed the importance of integrity in personal character and total dependence on the cross. In this Paul emphasised the priority, example and marks of godly character. Godly character is always Christ-shaped, Christ-centred, Christ-dependent, and lives in anticipation of Christ’s return.
If we would train others — and there is a great need to do so — we must be willing to bring them in, bring them out and bring them on! In doing this Christ will be formed both in them and in us (Galatians 4:19).