The benefits of good mentoring throughout your ministry

Discover a biblical way to strengthen your pastoral ministry that you may rarely be using.

Ainsworth E. Joseph, DMin,is ministerial secretary, Northeastern Conference of Seventh-day Adventists, Jamaica, New York, United States.

If mentoring is “a relational experience through which one person empowers another by sharing God-given resources . . . a positive dynamic that enables people to develop potential,”1 I want us to consider a biblical perspective.

The insufficiency in basic ministry preparation

We can tout our religious ancestral pedigree, academic degrees, giftedness, and connections that can get a pastor through a fairly successful ministerial career. But, there is a greater success that could be achieved if the crucial missing ingredient transcends all the external ministry veneers. Acts 18:24–28 clearly indicates that Apollos embarked upon ministry with the basic prerequisites for a good and successful career. He possessed a glowing résumé: born an Alexandrian Jew, gifted in speech, mighty in knowledge of the Scriptures, well instructed and trained theologically, and showing much enthusiasm for ministry through overt displays of great excitement about the prospect of a call and assignment (vv. 24, 25). Some of us can recollect behaving like Apollos when embarking upon the call and assignment we received.

Apollos had everything working in his favor all along, at least from the human point of view. However, he initially functioned on less than his true ministry potential. He was lacking basic knowledge, “knowing only the baptism of John.” And yet, Apollos was experiencing some degree of success in his ministry.

The disservice in operating on partial knowledge

There seems to be a driving force in early ministry that conveys the notion that as fresh seminary graduates, we are in a position of knowing it all. However, it does not take many of us long to discover how much we really do not know about ministry.

In some respects, Apollos lacked that same requisite understanding of ministry. Though knowing the baptism of John, he was woefully ignorant of the baptism of Jesus (Acts 18:25b): “ ‘I indeed baptize you with water unto repentance, but He who is coming after me is mightier than I, whose sandals I am not worthy to carry. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire’ ” (Matt. 3:11, NKJV).

Until his knowledge and encounter with the Holy Spirit, Apollos was experiencing a good ministry that eclipsed a great one. Echoing the words of Jim Collins; “Good is the enemy of great. And this is one of the key reasons why we have so little that becomes great.”2 So, why settle for a good ministry when the prospect of a great one exists? Every pastor can experience a great ministry through a simple, but often neglected formula—the baptism of the Holy Spirit. Each pastor experienced John’s baptism prior to entering the gospel ministry. We all must experience repentance; a change of mind or purposeful turning away from sin, and daily turning towards Christ through a godly sorrow for sin.

The potential of expanded knowledge from genuine mentoring

Just prior to His ascension, Jesus reaffirmed John the Baptist’s statement regarding His baptism (Acts 1:8). Moreover, the promise was fulfilled in only a matter of days following His departure (Acts 2:1–4). The Holy Spirit’s fire became the catalyst for true ministry efficiency. Through His power, the disciples impacted the world with the gospel. However, subsequent to this unprecedented phenomenon, we still see spurts of individuals in ministry operating without it. Pastor/evangelist Apollos being one such person, following perhaps what was one of his most powerful and best sermons, was reined in by two members of his congrega­tion. They figured out that there was a crucial and missing ingredient to his ministry.

This must have been a difficult and humbling experience for Apollos. After all, he was the theological authority within the congregation—the official expert of ministry there. He was taught by the masters, and yet, a simple tent-making couple called him out on a flaw in his ministry and personal spiritual life. It is not easy for us as pastors to lis­ten to congregants pointing out things we should have known, done, and experienced in our craft as ministers of the gospel. We would view it as cutting right through the heart of our credibility in ministry. We may more readily take it from colleagues, and even then, it could be a difficult experience.

How do we accept such instruction from non-experts of our congregations? Apollos seemed to have been quite receptive to what Aquila and Priscilla had to say to him, and their instructions worked. Whereas he led the people before, “he greatly helped those who had believed through grace” (v. 27) after. Whereas he was able to refute distorted teachings of the Jews before, “he vigorously” did so “publicly,” after “showing from the Scriptures that Jesus is the Christ” (v. 28).

What remarkable transformation occurred in Apollos’s ministry? He not only knew the baptism of John, he experienced the baptism of Jesus through the power of the indwell­ing Holy Spirit. True ministry success resulted from his reliance on the Spirit, so much so that the brethren wrote letters of commendation as his ministry moved across to Achaia (v. 27).

The next we hear of Apollos, he was pastoring in Corinth (1 Cor. 1:12; 3:4, 22). Later we see the apostle Paul holding Pastor Apollos up as a model for dealing with and settling misunderstandings of Paul’s ministry among the Corinthians. Because of the impact of his minis­try at Corinth, Apollos was urged to revisit that territory and church (1 Cor. 16:12). Finally, Paul referenced him going on an urgent missionary journey (Titus 3:13). What might not have been had he not encountered Aquila and Priscilla? What might not have been had he disregarded their invitation and rejected their mentoring regarding the importance of the baptism of the Holy Spirit? The baptism of the Holy Spirit will take a pastor’s ministry to unthink­able places and produce extraordinary results. “God uses a preparation model for developing leaders, not a planning model. Leaders who give their best efforts to their current assignments from God are prepared for their next level of influence.”3

Valuing the “Aquilas” and “Priscillas” within the congregation

I believe that God has people like Aquila and Priscilla in each congrega­tion. However, before they can be valued, they must first be identified. Pastors need to keep an eye out for such individuals, for they are the ones that genuinely have the pastor’s best interest at heart and want to see their ministry succeed to the fullest poten­tial. As I look back over my years of ministry, I can recall the “Aquilas” and “Priscillas” I encountered along the journey. These were people who humbly shared their perspectives on my ministry; genuinely prayed for my ministry and family; and showed gestures of appreciation for, and affirmation of, my ministry. Without fail, they were in every congregation I served. “God uses the commonplace  to build a character, to expand the leader’s heart by layering experience and learning that must be available to the leader for larger assignments.”4

Notice how Aquila and Priscilla mentored Apollos by facilitating his understanding of the Holy Spirit which resulted in greater ministry success: they are different from others who would seek to challenge and embarrass the pastor publicly or hold derogatory small group discussions around dinner tables about the pastor’s ministry. They would have a great track-record of pastoral support, as was evidenced in Paul’s ministry encounter with the couple. The text says, “When Aquila and Priscilla heard him, they took him aside and explained to him the way of God more accurately” (Acts 18:26, NKJV). It may be hard to accept, but there are times when a more accurate explanation of the Scriptures might come from a congregant; much to the strengthening of the pastor’s ministry. Moses received his successful leader­ship structure from his father-in-law, Jethro—a non-Hebrew priest of Midian (Exodus 18:1–27). God may choose to give His pastors/leaders counsel from unexpected persons and places. “Getting in touch with the mystery that leadership, for a large part, means to be led”5 is a crucial component to moving to a higher level of ministry.


Many pastors who hold advanced degrees serve the church. When it comes to preaching and pulpit eloquence, there seems to be no void. Baptism success can be measured throughout the world field as acces­sions to the faith are occurring on a daily basis. However, the key ingredi­ent for greater efficiency in executing ministry still seems to be missing and pastors know it to be a fact; this is what it requires to fulfill the gospel commission to the entire world (Acts 1:8).

What can we do to remedy this problem? I propose four simple and doable solutions:

First, conduct a self-assessment as to your personal level of ministry operation. This will require an honest appraisal of your personal knowledge and experience of God. It will require acceptance of human deficiency in knowledge and experience of the ministry craft. It will also require a commitment to grow in areas assessed to be deficient. 

Second, seek out and identify the “Aquilas” and “Priscillas” God has placed in your life and ministry. This will require spiritual discernment from seeking God through prayer and mak-ing yourself vulnerable. It will require a genuine willingness to glean from their knowledge and experience—building relationships based on mutual trust.

Third, seek these mentors’ counsel, use them as sounding boards, have them pray constantly for and with you while you pray for the daily baptism of the Holy Spirit.

Fourth, rely less on the external trappings of ministry and depend more upon the Holy Spirit. This would mean setting aside “Saul’s Armor” and going in the name of David’s God. This would mean putting up “Peter’s sword” and emulating Jesus, the Lamb of God. This would mean, like the apostle Paul, acknowledging our insufficiency and depending on the sufficiency of Christ (2 Cor. 3:4–6). “So he answered and said to me: ‘this is the word of the LoRD to Zerubbabel: “Not by might nor by power, but by my Spirit,” says the LoRD of hosts’ ” (Zech. 4:6).

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

2 Jim Collins, Good to Great (New York: HarperCollins Publishers, 2001), 1.

3 Reggie McNeal, A Work of Heart Understanding How God Shapes Spiritual Leaders (San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass, 2000), 45.

4 Ibid.

5 Henri J. M. Nouwen, In the Name of Jesus: Reflections on Christian Leadership (New York: The Crossroad Publishing Company, 1989), 57.

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Ainsworth E. Joseph, DMin,is ministerial secretary, Northeastern Conference of Seventh-day Adventists, Jamaica, New York, United States.

May 2016

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