by Timothy L. Cooley, Sr.
Elijah was a loner! He was a great man of God, but he liked to be alone. He needed people, but he preferred to be alone! When he was discouraged, he ran off ALONE, slid under a juniper bush, and prayed to die! ALONE! Not even God could talk sense to him. “Lord, they’ve killed all the good people. I’m the only one left, and they’re trying to kill me!” The Elijah Complex is discouraging and dangerous!
After God waited him out at the cave, He sent Elijah back to the same disheartening place to keep on ministering—anointing kings, rebuking sin, and preaching the One True God—in the northern kingdom of Israel where the kings were wicked and most of the people had forsaken the Lord! But God also gave him a wonderful gift: Elisha, a man who knew how to work with people, a man who could organize others into teams, and a devoted disciple who could NOT be shaken off.
Elijah was rarely separated from Elisha until the day Elijah left the planet, and even then, Elisha shouted out to let Elijah know he was with him until the final moment! Elijah became a mentor, even if against his will. And he grew! His ministry multiplied, his followers increased, schools of the prophets sprang up, and his history was documented for 100 generations to come. Elijah was “subject to like passions as we are” (James 5:17). He needed someone!
Jesus must have experienced far greater awareness of the differences between Himself and His followers and of how little they understood, than Elijah ever could have felt, but Jesus was rarely alone.
Of course, He could do ministry better than any of His helpers, but He knew He had to build His message into people—close followers who would be transformed by the Holy Ghost to carry out His Great Commission.
Were they weaklings? Yes. Did they understand His assignments fully?
No! But He kept people with Him constantly!
In fact, He had so many people around Him that His earthly family thought He had lost His mind! (Mark 3:20-21) He organized at least three circles of followers: groups of 3, 12 and 70, plus many more followers in varying degrees of closeness. Henderson observed that Jesus “preached to the masses, but explained to a few,” and “He called some ‘to be with Him’” (1983, p. 862). He invested heavily in discipling the 12 and in working with the 70. Jesus’ Model of ministry was whole life-to-life transformation. He had people with him, even when He was praying! (Luke 11:1).
In Gethsemane, He yearned for their company in prayer (Matthew 26:36-44), was sorely disappointed in their failure, but did not give up on them. He did withdraw “from them about a stone’s cast” (Luke 22:41), but they were still close enough to hear what He said. Even after they dreadfully forsook Him, He went back (after His Resurrection!) to rally them, help them deal with their failure, and get them back on track.
The Multiplication Principle is that Mentoring Multiplies your Ministry. You cannot do everything that needs to be done, but you can be the catalyst that brings other active laborers into the harvest. You need to take seriously Jesus’ Prayer Request (Matthew 9:38)! Then having prayed and presented yourself as a worker, you need to bring helpers alongside as “workers together” with God (II Corinthians 6:1). “Lift up your eyes, and look on the fields” (John 4:35). If you don’t see more work than you can possibly do, you have not seen what Jesus intended!
Get your eyes above the little tasks that you can accomplish and get a vision big enough to terrify you—to drive you to your knees begging for heavenly aid and for human helpers! Then empower them to harvest and pray they will be far more successful than you could ever be!
A son once told his father, “Dad, if I can be half the man you are, I’ll consider myself highly successful!” Soberly, the father replied, “Son, if you are not twice the man I am, I will consider myself a failure!” You cannot see now what God will do with even those you think are weaklings, but you must invest in them.
An undocumented, but frequently repeated story (Bell, 2017) illustrates the principle. “Drifting snow and bitter cold threatened the lives of Indian evangelist Sadhu Sundar Singh and his Tibetan companion as they crossed a Himalayan mountain pass. Fighting the ‘sleep of death,’ they stumbled over a mound in the trail. It was a man, half dead. The Tibetan refused to stop but continued on alone. The compassionate Sadhu, however, shouldered the burden the best he could. Through his struggling, he began to warm up, as did the unconscious man. But before reaching the village they found the Tibetan—frozen to death.”
I need to help others! Not only for their good, but for my own survival! Henderson (1997, p. 132) wrote, “Human nature is perfected by participation in groups, not by acting as isolated individuals.”
The Witness Principle is that “except when needing to be alone for a specific reason, every opportunity should be taken to do things with at least one other person” (Kornfield, 1982, pp. 70). You need helpers, and they need someone to help them.
The Impact Principle is that generally the impact we make on others “will be directly proportional to the quantity of time” you spend with them “times the quality of time”! (Kornfield, 1982, pp. 69). You may be disappointed how many times other people miss your point, but you don’t know which lessons will stick. Some mundane incident may be galvanizing to your helpers.
As Wesley struggled to keep the newly converted faithful, he recognized the necessity of assembling them “to watch over each other” and to have special meetings “apart from the great congregation, that they might instruct, rebuke, exhort, and pray with them and for them, according to their several necessities” (1748, p. 251). It was a system of mentoring in groups that bound the Methodists together in a force that transformed nations, much greater than the “rope of sand” that Whitefield later realized his unconnected converts had become (Etheridge, 1859, p. 189).
Hendricks and Hendricks (1995, p. 78) urged, “You need a Paul. You need a Barnabas. And you need a Timothy”: 1) “an older man who can build into [your] life”; 2) “a soul brother to whom [you] can be accountable”; and 3) “a younger man into whose life [you are] building.”
Mentoring is not finding a water boy who will do your menial tasks. We’re in the Lord’s harvest, where there is always a shortage of laborers. We need to develop leaders, who will develop other leaders in ever expanding circles.
Bell, Brian, (2017). Commentary on Luke 9:4. Brian Bell Commentary. Retrieved from https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/cbb/luke-9.html
Etheridge, J. W. (1859). The Life of Rev. Adam Clarke. New York: Carlton and Porter. Retrieved from Google Books.
Henderson, D. Michael. (1997). Model for making disciples: John Wesley’s class meeting. Nappanee, IN: Francis Asbury Press.
Henderson, D. Michael. (1983). “Christian Education.” In Carter, Charles, ed., A Contemporary Wesleyan Theology. Grand Rapids, MI: Francis Asbury Press. Pp. 833-873.
Kornfield, D. (1982). A Working Proposal for an Alternative Model of Higher Education (Part II), Journal of Christian Education (US), 2(2), pp. 65 – 77.
Wesley, John. (1748). “A Plain Account of the People Called Methodists,” A Letter to Rev. Mr. Vincent Perronet. In The Works of John Wesley. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, reprinted from the edition printed in London, 1872. Volume VIII.