Developing spiritual leaders like Jesus

The mentoring model of Jesus, as outlined in Mark 3:14, contains three characteristics that are examined in this article.

Tom Grove, DMin, is executive pastor, Arlington Seventh-day Adventist Church, Arlington, Texas, United States.

One of the greatest challenges we face in local pastoral ministry involves developing spiritual leaders, Spirit-empowered men and women who are able to lead in expanding the kingdom of God. Every church has people God has called to be spiritual leaders in their local church as well as their community. When one recognizes that call to spiritual leadership, the challenge becomes how they continue to develop and grow as a spiritual leader. There are many resources for teaching skills such as how to give Bible studies, preach sermons, and provide pastoral care. However, developing them as strong spiritual leaders cannot be done through just a weekend seminar or by reading a book. The development of spiritual leaders takes time, effort, and energy.

The greatest model of how to develop spiritual leaders is found in the ministry of Jesus. Over the course of three and a half years, Christ developed fishermen, a tax collector, a Zealot, and a half dozen other men to be spiritual leaders and serve as the foundation of the Christian church. While the disciples were recipients of Christ’s teaching and preaching, they were also mentored by Him. Mark 3:14 summarizes the mentoring process of Jesus, “He appointed twelve that they might be with him and that he might send them out to preach.”1 Could mentoring, as Jesus undertook with His disciples, be a very effective process for developing spiritual leaders in the local church?


Mentoring has become a buzz word in both secular and religious circles. But what is it? While there are many different definitions of mentoring,2 one of the most concise and applicable is, “a relational experience through which one person empowers another by sharing God-given resources. . . .Mentoring is a positive dynamic that enables people to develop potential.”3As one looks at the Scriptures, while the words mentor or mentoring are not mentioned4 clearly “mentoring was the primary means of instruction in Bibletimes.”5 A closer examination of the Scriptures shows that there are many examples of mentoring relationships contained in its pages.6

The mentoring model of Jesus and its application

The mentoring model of Jesus, as outlined in Mark 3:14, contains three characteristics of mentoring: selection, association, and delegation. We will examine these characteristics as well as apply them to a contemporary example of mentoring.

While much has been written on mentoring and its importance, there are just a handful of guides and curricula that actually help a mentor develop spiritual leaders.7 One such curriculum is Joshua’s Men, by Dr. Dan Reiland.8Joshua’s Men is a year-long spiritual leadership curriculum designed to foster and develop spiritual leaders in the local church. While Joshua’s Men is designed to develop men as spiritual leaders, the mentoring process outlined here can also be effective in developing women as spiritual leaders. So, while the curriculum is gender-specific, the mentoring principles can be applied to developing both men and women as spiritual leaders.

Selection. While it was the tradition of disciples to seek out mentors, Jesus “does not wait to be selected as a mentor. He chose a group of twelve men.”While this process of selection took place over a period of time,10 the culmination is recorded by Mark 3:13–15,“Jesus went up on a mountainside and called to him those he wanted, and they came to him. He appointed twelve that they might be with him and that he might send them out to preach and to have authority to drive out demons.”

While the criteria for the selection of the twelve was not given, the Gospels show the process. Jesus spent significant time in prayer before the disciples were selected (Luke 6:12). This important part of the selection process indicates that it was not His choice, but His Father’s choice as to the identities of the twelve men who were to be formally called disciples and apostles.

Once the twelve were selected, they became constant companions and fellow ministers with Jesus. What they experienced as the protégés of the Ultimate Mentor would determine the future of the Christian church.

As I began the selection processI formulated a list of potential par­ticipants for the program. I looked for men who met the following criteria: (1) is supportive and positive about the church, (2) is not a new Christian, (3) attends church regularly, and (4) has spiritual leadership potential. Over the course of six months, the list grew and then also constricted as I felt led to add or subtract names from the list. The final list consisted of ten men.

I contacted each man and shared with him the expectations of Joshua’s Men. Over the course of a year, each would be required to attend a four-hour meeting once a month, read an assigned book, complete a project that coincided with the topic to be pre­sented, and attend an overnight retreat. If the men were married, their spouses were included in the conversation so they were aware of the commitment that their husband was being asked to make. I also made clear to them that they were making a year-long commitment that I expected them to keep throughout the year. Only under extreme circumstances were they able to drop out once they began. In the end, six men accepted my invitation to be mentored as spiritual leaders.

Association. Mark 3:14 makes it clear that one of the reasons the dis­ciples were chosen and set apart was to “be with Him” (see also Luke 8:1; 9:18; John 3:22). One may assume that unless the narrative specifically mentions instances when Jesus and the disciples were not together (e.g., Matt. 14:23), the disciples were with Jesus 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. The Gospels record that the disciples were with Jesus in the streets (Luke 8:40–45), on the Sea of Galilee (Matt. 8:23), in the temple (John 2:12–17), in the synagogue (Mark 1:21), in homes (Matt. 26:6–10; Mark 1:29; Luke 10:38), and in the countryside (Matt. 5:1, Luke 6:1). “The Twelve walked with Jesus as He taught, ate, dialogued with religious leaders . . . blessed children, prayed, wept, and He was betrayed. As they shared life, Jesus spoke truth to them, revealed sin in them, and modeled His Father’s ways for them.”11 They were His constant companions.

However, the disciples were not just selected for fellowship and com­panionship; they were selected for something more. Hendriksen points out that the phrase “in order that they might be with him” has an educational aspect to it.12 They were not only to “be with Jesus,” they were also to be recipients of His teachings. Not only were they were present for the lessons He gave the crowd (Matt. 13:1–35; Matt. 19:1–34; Mark 4:1–33; Luke 11:29–36; John 8), but they were also recipients of private, individualized teachings (Matt. 21:18–22; 24:3; Mark 4:10–12, 34; Luke 9:18; 18:31–34; John 14–17).

The association of the disciples with Jesus was not just for the reception of information or for companionship. Instead, it was ultimately for the purpose of fulfilling the mission He was to give them (Matt. 28:18–20) and to continue His ministry to the ends of the world.

While there were many opportuni­ties throughout the year for the men whom I selected to associate with me for mentoring, the main focus of my mentoring relationship with them took place at the monthly meeting. Each meeting lasted four hours and included four components: a meal, the lesson of the month, a book discussion, and prayer time.

During the course of the year, a dif­ferent topic was studied and discussed at each monthly meeting. The topics included leadership, spiritual practices, connecting with others, living out your purpose, finances, family, and sharing your faith among others. These topics would not only be the focus of the book and project that were completed prior to the meeting but also the lesson that was taught during the meeting.

I also, over the course of the year, took each of the men out for lunch. This gave me the chance not only to see their place of employment and what they did but also to have some individual time to mentor them one-on-one.

Another valuable opportunity for association came when we attended a two-day leadership conference. At the conclusion of the daily meetings, we discussed what we had learned and how the men were going to apply it to their lives. Each man was encouraged to develop an action plan that would guide him in implementing the insights he had gained from the conference and the follow-up discussions.

There were also opportunities for fellowship and deepening relationships between the men and their various families. Over the course of the year, we had two family social events where their spouses and children were invited to our home and we enjoyed food and fellowship. Invariably, the relationships not only between the men but also their families grew deeper as a result of these times of informal fellowship.

Delegation. The Gospels make it very clear that Jesus did not allow the disciples to be mere observers of His ministry but instead had them participate with Him in His ministry. While there were times when they watched Him minister and do miracles (Luke 7:11–17; John 11:1–44), they were also given opportunities to participate. During the feeding of the 5,000 (Matt. 14:15–21), Jesus not only told the disciples that they were to feed the crowd, they were also given the task of distributing the loaves and fishes to the crowd as well as collecting the leftovers. They were given the same tasks when Jesus fed the 4,000 (Mark 8:1–9).

However, the greatest opportunity for the disciples to minister as Jesus ministered came when He sent them out two by two (Matt. 10:5–8; Mark 3:14, 15; 6:7–13; Luke 9:1–6). As one examines the narratives, it is clear that Jesus sent the disciples to minister as He ministered. They were given the authority to heal the sick, raise the dead, heal leprosy, drive out demons, and preach repentance. Up to this point, they had been mostly observers to the activities of Jesus, but now He delegated them to go and minister in His name. Boedeker points out that this was the Ultimate Mentor at work: “The mentoring methodology of Jesus embodied an on-the-job training. Jesus would ‘do ministry’ as his disciples observed Him. He would then encour­age them to minister as He observed and taught them. He would finally send them out to do ministry together without Him.”13

Following His resurrection, Jesus told the disciples of their ultimate delegation. They were to minister on His behalf to the entire world. All four of the Gospels end with Jesus commis­sioning the disciples to minister and take His gospel to the ends of the world (Matt. 28:18–20; Mark 16:15–18; Luke 24:47–49; John 20:21). The mentoring results of Jesus were seen as the disciples ministered and preached in all corners of the then-known world.

Functioning as a spiritual leader

At the conclusion of the year of meeting together, discussing various topics, and being mentored, the men were ready to serve as spiritual leaders. Their confidence grew because of the Joshua’s Men spiritual leadership development process. They were ready to step in and help lead the ministry of the local church. Two of the participants were elected local elders, one was elected to our school board, one was elected church clerk, while the others also serve in other ministries of the church. They also related that their leadership influence grew in their homes, workplaces, and community.

Most of the men in that first group were very excited to in turn mentor other men. The next year, four of the six men were leading Joshua’s Men groups to develop more spiritual leaders. By the end of 2015, 26 men will have been mentored to be spiritual leaders through this process.

Every man that experienced spiritual leadership development as a result of the Joshua’s Men process has stepped into various ministry leadership positions in the local church. But, more importantly, each man continues to develop into a spiritual leader who “will not be bought or sold, men who in their inmost souls are true and honest, men who do not fear to call sin by its right name, men whose conscience is as true to duty as the needle to the pole, men who will stand for the right though the heavens fall.”14

Mentoring and developing spiritual leaders as Jesus developed His dis­ciples will raise up committed spiritual leaders in the local church and expand the kingdom of God.

1 Unless otherwise noted, Scripture references are from the New International Version.

2 Other definitions of mentoring: “a relationship between a younger adult and an older, more experienced adult that helps the young individual learn to navigate in the adult world and the world of work.” Kathy E. Kram, Mentoring at Work: Developmental Relationships in Organization Life (Glenview, IL: Scott, Foreman & Company, 1988), 2. “Mentoring is a lifelong relationship, in which a mentor helps a protégé reach his or her God given potential.” Bobb Biehl, Mentoring: How to Find a Mentor and How to Become One (Lake Mary, FL: Aylen Pub., 2005), 19.

3 Paul D. Stanley and Robert J. Clinton, Connecting: The Mentoring Relationships You Need to Succeed (Colorado Springs, CO: NavPress, 1992), 12.

4 The first use of the word mentor is in Homer’s The Odyssey in the eighth century B.C.

5 Howard G. Hendricks and William Hendricks, As Iron Sharpens Iron: Building Character in a Mentoring Relationship (Chicago, IL: Moody Press, 1995), 179.

6 Parent and child (Deut. 6:6,7); Moses and Joshua (Deut. 31:1–8; 34:9); Jonathan and David (1 Sam. 18:1–4; 19:1–7; 20:1–42); Elijah and Elisha (1 Kings 19:16–21; 2 Kings 2:1–16; 3:12); Paul and Barnabas (Acts 4: 36, 37; 9:26–30; 11:22–30); and Paul and Timothy (Acts 16:1–3; Phil. 2:19–23; 1 and 2 Timothy).

7 The author is aware of two others not mentioned. One is Radical Mentoring developed by Regi Campbell, The other is the book Going Deep: Becoming a Person of Influence by Gordon MacDonald (Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson, 2011).

8 Dan Reiland, Joshua’s Men (Atlanta, GA: Injoy, 2000).

9 Ron Belsterling, “The Mentoring Approach of Jesus as Demonstrated in John 13,” Journal of Youth Ministry 5, no. 1 (October 2006): 78.

10 Francis D. Nichol, ed., Seventh-day Adventist Bible Commentary, vol. 5 (Washington DC: Review and Herald Pub. Assn., 1956), 910.

11 Alicia Britt Chole, “Purposeful Proximity: Jesus’ Model of Mentoring,” Enrichment Journal, accessed November 5, 2014, /200102/062_proximity.cfm.

12 William Hendricksen as cited in Bertram L. Melbourne, Slow to Understand: the Disciples in Synoptic Perspective (Lanham, MD: University Press of America, 1988), 45.

13 J. E. Boedeker, “A Model for Mentoring Persons Called to Ministry in the Church of God, Anderson, Indiana in Florida” (Doctor of Ministry dissertation, Fuller Theological Seminary, 2001), 24.

14 Ellen G. White, Education (Mountain View, CA: Pacific Press Pub. Assn., 1903), 57.

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Tom Grove, DMin, is executive pastor, Arlington Seventh-day Adventist Church, Arlington, Texas, United States.

December 2015

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