Why are the pastors at Bethlehem Baptist Church joyfully committed to pastoral
mentoring? Our mission as a pastoral staff is to spread a passion for the supremacy
of God in all things for the joy of all peoples through Jesus Christ. Therefore,
we continually ask God to give us the vision, energy, and skill to accomplish
this mission with the apprentices he gives us.
THE SCRIPTURAL FOUNDATION
Jesus left us an example of investing in a select number of men. The Gospel
of Mark tells us, "And he appointed twelve, so that they would be with him
and that he could send them out to preach" (Mark 3:14). His aim was to be with
them for a season, and then to send them out preaching.
Paul carried on this example of discipleship with Timothy. He invited Timothy
to be with him for a season, and then he sent him out, instructing him to perpetuate
the process to subsequent generations: "The things which you have heard from
me in the presence of many witnesses, entrust these to faithful men who will
be able to teach others also" (2 Tim. 2:2).
Mentoring is a great privilege and a weighty responsibility that God has given
us. It's both relational and doctrinal. It's both spontaneous and intentional.
Mentoring isn't primarily a program, it's a relationship. It's teaching by
word and deed. Part of the weightiness of our responsibility is that we pastors
should always be saying to our apprentices what Paul said: "The things you
have learned and received and heard and seen in me, practice these things,
and the God of peace will be with you" (Phil. 4:9). Or elsewhere: "Be imitators
of me, just as I also am of Christ" (1 Cor. 11:1)
Jesus mentored through specialized doctrinal instruction (cf. Mark 4:10ff),
ministry modeling (cf. Mark 9:14-29), and ministry partnership (Luke 10:1-20).
He prayed for his disciples (John 17). He taught them to pray (Luke 11:1ff).
He sang with them (Matt. 26:30). He corrected them (Luke 24:25). And he encouraged
them (Luke 10:21-24).
Unlike Jesus, we are not perfect examples, so our teaching and modeling isn't
perfect. But these things are important nonetheless. Even our weaknesses and
failures can be instructive. So transparency and honesty is crucial in the
mentoring relationship (1 Tim. 1:12-17).
What an opportunity God has given to pastors! Investing in a select number
of gifted men has the potential of influencing thousands of people with the
vision of God in Scripture that we have so come to cherish. So we continually
pray that God will guide us and enable us to do it in a "manner worthy of him"
so that these men will "go out for the sake of the Name" (3 John 6-7).
How Bethlehem does Pastoral Mentoring
For the past 28 years Bethlehem has provided mentorship for men preparing
for elder-level ministry. Ten years ago we upgraded this mentoring into a program
called The Bethlehem Institute which has offered about 50 graduate level credit
hours in biblical exegesis from the original languages, missions, practical
theology, preaching, and mentored-ministry.
In the fall of 2009, the Bethlehem Institute plans to become Bethlehem College
and Seminary. Among other things, it hopes to offer a 100-credit-hour church-based
master of divinity program.
We believe there are a number of benefits to a church-based masters level
apprenticeship program. Specifically, apprentices gain
- daily reinforcement of the fact that serious biblical and theological studies
from the original languages matter in real life and ministry;
- the opportunity to develop a discipling relationship with an experienced
mentor whom one can observe and assist on a regular basis;
- a cohort-based approach where students develop deep relationships with each
other and learn as much or more from each other than they do from their instructors;
- the opportunity to see how a distinctive theology and philosophy of ministry
impact the day-to-day ministry of the local church;
- regular opportunities to teach and model what one is learning in the context
of the church;
- the opportunity to interact every week with the preaching pastor about the
sermon he gave on Sunday;
- the opportunity to learn and apply theology in the context of inner city
life, which allows for a cohesiveness in the apprentice's livelihood, studies,
worship, and ministry;
- a World Christian mindset, which sees the local church as a seedbed for missions,
permeating the entire program.
Each apprentice is expected to do a minimum of five ministry hours per week.
The pastors will help to guide the apprentice into his ministry role(s) after
A MENTOR'S RESPONSIBILITIES
Pastor mentors are also responsible for the following:
1) They will formally meet with the apprentice(s) once a month. If a pastor
has more than one apprentice, he will normally meet with all of them together.
The purposes of the monthly mentoring meeting are
- to be of mutual support for each other through sharing and prayer;
- to provide accountability for one another in devotional life, home life,
purity, and integrity;
- to discuss ministry, theology, and life issues that may be relevant to
the apprentice's individual situation;
- to impart to apprentices core values that shape our life and ministry;
- to receive, review, and file weekly accountability and ministry reports.
2) They will meet one additional time a month either in the pastor's home
or in the pastor's ministry situation.
3) At the end of the academic year (June 1), they will write a brief summary
of each apprentices strengths and weaknesses, the quality of his ministry investment,
and other intangibles such as attitude, promptness, etc.
4) At the end of the apprentice's master of divinity program, the mentor is
asked to write a letter of recommendation for the apprentice to use as ministry
or educational options emerge.
Tom Steller is the pastor for Leadership Development at Bethlehem Baptist
Church in Minneapolis, Minnesota, and the dean of Bethlehem College and
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