Church planting, leadership development, spiritual formation, and all kinds of discipleship environments ought to take cues from the way the Apostle Paul mentored Timothy. In part one of this series, we saw the overall lesson plan Timothy would have learned from Paul. In part two, we saw the first four elements of Paul’s curriculum for Timothy, his church-planting resident. We finish off this series by looking at the last four lessons in Paul’s training of Timothy.
“You, however, have followed my teaching, my conduct, my aim in life, my faith, my patience, my love, my steadfastness, my persecutions and sufferings that happened to me at Antioch, at Iconium, and at Lystra—which persecutions I endured; yet from them all the Lord rescued me.” (2 Tim. 3:10–11)
5. My Patience
Timothy watched as his spiritual father endured pain, betrayal, and heartache from the Corinthian church. Rather than turning his back on the Corinthians, Paul continued to love, serve, and pray for them. I marvel that Paul didn’t tell the Corinthian church, “You know what? Shut it down. You guys are crazy. I tried.”
Paul tells them, as they are turning to all kinds of sin, “I give thanks to my God always for you” (1 Cor. 1:4). Even as they’re slowly turning on him, he responds, “I have great pride in you; I am filled with comfort. In all our affliction, I am overflowing with joy” (2 Cor. 7:4). Paul patiently endured conflict, turmoil, and the sanctification process of those he served.Planters need to be reminded that the church doesn’t exist for the pastor; the pastor is there for the church. Click To Tweet
Long fuses go a long way in pastoral ministry. If a pastor reacts to everything like it’s an emergency, it won’t be long till the ambulance’s wheels come off or people get sick of the siren. Residents should see how pastors are patient in present difficulties, how they’ve endured past confusions, and how they were “patient in tribulation” (Rom. 12:12).
6. My Love
It isn’t wrong to love preaching; it’s wrong to love preaching only. We should love preaching because we love people and we want them to hear, believe, feel, and respond to God’s love. Loving ministry for the sake of ministry is idolatry—with us on the platform, behind a pulpit, or on a website.
Timothy caught that Paul’s love was for God, for God’s people, and for others to know God. Timothy heard Paul say from jail in his letter to the Philippian Christians, “For God is my witness, how I yearn for you all with the affection of Christ Jesus” (Phil. 1:8). Timothy would have heard Paul’s final words to the Ephesian elders and how they all embraced and wept at the end.
Paul loved his fellow brothers and sisters. Planters need to be reminded that the church doesn’t exist for the pastor; the pastor is there for the church. Loving strategies, systems, and services are fine as long as they’re seen as a way to glorify God and love and serve his people. A shepherd has lost his mind when he cares more about the fence than he does the sheep.
7. My Steadfastness
Residencies should prepare planters for the bumpy road ahead. In general, years one to three will bring a plant-threatening crisis: “Will this plant make it?” Years three to seven will bring a personal crisis: “Will I make it as a pastor?” Years eight to ten will bring a cocktail of crises: “Will this rip the church apart? Do I want to keep doing this?” Don’t be surprised when you hit the turbulence.
Timothy caught how Paul remained steadfast in difficult times. In Acts 19, Paul went into the synagogue for three months trying to persuade people to believe in Jesus. He kept showing up. And when that endeavor ran its course, Paul went to the hall of Tyrannus, reasoning daily with people for two years (v. 8–10). Notice how Luke summed up two years of ministry in three verses. Steadfastness won’t always be flashy, but it will be faithful. Stay the course.
8. My Persecutions and Sufferings
Paul reminds Timothy of what happened to him at Antioch, Iconium, and Lystra (Acts 13–15). Paul and Barnabas began in Antioch, preaching Christ and seeing many converts. But a giant conflict bubbled up, causing them to head to Iconium (Acts 13:50). They preached the gospel, saw converts, and performed miracles, “But the unbelieving Jews stirred up the Gentiles and poisoned their minds” (Acts 14:2). Paul and Barnabas kept at it until they heard of a plan to kill them, leading them to go to Lystra (Acts 14:4–7).
They arrived in Lystra and began preaching and performing mighty miracles. But their haters arrived in Lystra, too. The people persecuting them in Antioch and Iconium traveled to Lystra—100 miles—and convinced everyone to stone Paul. Luke writes that “they stoned Paul and dragged him out of the city, supposing that he was dead” (Acts 14:19).
Can you imagine the scene? Picture what Paul endured from a caravan set on killing him. The screaming, the chaos, the blood. The mob dragged him out of the city and left him there, thinking he was dead—because he looked like a corpse. They were satisfied. But Paul gets back up, goes back into the city, and then also goes back to all the cities he just left—Lystra, Iconium, and Antioch—to strengthen the disciples and serve the churches (Acts 14:20–23). Incredible.You will have friends bail on you and people betray you, but Jesus will always be there for you. Click To Tweet
Paul recounted his persecutions and sufferings so Timothy could learn two things. First, suffering and persecution will happen to him, too. The very next thing Paul tells Timothy after this list of eight things is, “All who desire to live a godly life will be persecuted” (2 Tim. 3:12). Church-planting residents need to know about the pain that will come from planting and serving on the frontlines of spiritual warfare. This kind of honest sharing happens, not to gloat in pain but to glory in God’s sustaining power.
The second truth Paul tells Timothy about his own suffering is that “yet from them all the Lord rescued me” (2 Tim. 3:11). Jesus was there for Paul. Jesus was there for Timothy. And Jesus is there for you and me. You will have friends bail on you and people betray you, but Jesus will always be there for you (2 Tim. 4:14–18).
May God use our church-planting residencies to raise up vessels for honorable use, brothers that know the apostolic teaching and the apostolic way. May the Spirit of God give us mercy and strength as we plant churches and proclaim the ever-relevant word of the cross and empty tomb.