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Everybody Needs Them … Do You Have Them?
We all need mentors. Paul, Barnabas and Timothy give us a biblical example of how the divine strategy of mentoring helps us finish victoriously.

My Dad could have been raised, died and gone to hell and nobody would have cared except that a group of believers got together in his neighbourhood and started a church. That small group of individuals developed a passion for their city.

There are countless testimonials across Canada of different variations of that same story. Whether in business, commerce, education, government, or the military, our nation's history is full of people who now have a relationship with Christ because of the impact of others on their lives. In fact, not only has it happened in individual lives, we need it to happen in our life to help us finish our life with strength and honour.

In his first century letter to the church in the city of Colossae, Paul said the Christian life was a race ... a marathon, not a dash.*1) Its success is determined at the end. It is a unique race, because all can win.

Not all will, but all can. However, Paul had a fear. He wanted to be sure that after he had preached to others, he himself would not be disqualified.*2)

God has designed a system so that we will each finish our own race in victory. God says, "Two people can accomplish more than twice as much as one; they get a better return for their labour. If one person falls, the other can reach out and help. But people who are alone when they fall are in real trouble ... A person standing alone can be attacked and defeated, but two can stand back-to-back and conquer. Three are even better, for a triple-braided cord is not easily broken."*3)

There is a cord of three strands that God has designed to help us. There are people around us who can help us finish our race. They are characterized in the Bible as Paul, Barnabas, and Timothy. One who contributes to the building of our life, a brother or sister to keep us accountable and a younger person into whose life we can contribute.

Each one of us needs a "Paul". Each one of us needs a "Barnabas". Each one of us needs a "Timothy."

A mentor cares when no one else cares

Until Paul became a Christian, little had been done about carrying the good news to people who did not know about God. But Paul changed all that. He began a lifelong process of talking to people that no one else was reaching. He travelled throughout the Roman Empire on three separate mission trips looking for people that no one else was talking to about Jesus. He was constantly looking for new areas to share the Good News about God.''*4)

We still need this type of person in Canada today. Business people frequently feel like they are isolated and far from help or far from anyone who really cares about them. Individually, we need someone who cares about our family, business, finances, and soul.

A mentor gives direction

The Paul of the Bible just didn't tell people how to do something; he showed them by example. He was a mentor and left a legacy which lasted long after he was gone.

People could follow him because he followed Christ.*5)

This is illustrated by the way sheep dogs are trained, so I am told. Up until training day, the young pup only knows eating and sleeping and playing during her entire life. She wakes up that morning like she has every other morning — with mom, not having a care in the world.

But training morning is much different than every other morning.

The farmer comes that day and takes the pup, attaches a collar and leash which is tied to an older, more-experienced dog. She runs with the older dog to where the sheep are. And the young dog is excited to have a whole flock of new playmates, but she is due for a startling discovery.

The world is not all play.


The rest of that day is a whirlwind of confusing activity as that young dog is yanked and pulled and dragged and run off her feet by the older dog as they help the farmer care for the sheep.

Day after day this continues until the young trainee realises that the older dog is following commands. Certain whistles from the farmer mean certain actions by the older dog as they are herding sheep. Slowly, as those commands become familiar, the young dog is not dragged as much and starts anticipating actions and starts running in unison with the more experienced dog.

The young dog follows the older dog which is following the master. At some point, the young dog starts hearing and understanding the master herself. Then, the young dog is untied and set free. That young dog is now doing what it was bred to do, and now it is truly happy and productive.

The Paul of the Bible operated this way, even with other leaders. There was a large conference at Antioch in the early days of the church where all the "big" speakers were going to speak. Paul, Peter, Barnabas, James were all going to be there. It was the place to be in 47 AD.*6)

A mentor corrects when necessary

Everything was going fine up to halfway through the conference. There were great training sessions and great meals and everyone was happy. But everything changed when James arrived from the main church in Jerusalem. Suddenly, Peter and Barnabas can't go to the cafeteria... they go to their own tent where they are washing all pots and pans in kosher way. Now Peter can't eat with the non-Hebrew even though he had been until the Hebrews arrived.

Paul realises this is not good for anyone. It is not good for Peter. It is not good for the Hebrews. It is not good for the non-Hebrews. In front of everyone, he rebukes them. Not in the basement, but in front of everyone.*7) He cares enough about everyone involved, that he dealt with the hypocrisy. He wanted to help people be authentic, not fake.

A mentor cares too much to be ignored

We need that kind of person who can't be ignored, bribed, blackmailed, bullied, conned or forgotten — someone to care for us when perhaps no one else does. They are not someone to shoot us between the eyes when we struggle or fail, but they pray for us, care for us and be on our side so much that they only desire to help us do what we were designed to do.

We need someone like this "Paul" in our spiritual journey, but that is not the only person we need.

Everyone can be helped by an encourager

The Barnabas of Scripture was actually named Joseph by his parents at birth. But he was known as such an encourager, that the disciples named him "Barnabas" which means "Son of Encouragement."*8) Almost every time the Bible refers to Barnabas, he was encouraging someone. He was a giver, liquidating his resources to supply money for those in need.*9) He refused to be offended when another believer, Mark, deserted him and his team.*10)

An encourager pushes others forward

Barnabas allowed others to step into the spotlight, not requiring it for himself. *11) He sponsored Paul as a new believer when others didn't want to forgive him.*12) He went searching for Paul to encourage him when other believers had forgotten about him.*13) He started out as the leader of the team on the first expansion trip of the Christians.

But at the first destination, Paul is given the lead and Barnabas becomes part of Paul's team.*14) As a result, Paul is set into his path and ends up writing half of the New Testament. Barnabas had an inestimable role in God giving us the Bible. But few people know about his role as an encourager.

An encourager is not impressed or intimidated by you

My wife and family are a great encouragement to me as a person, but I have never impressed them. When my children were younger, they weren't impressed that I had studied Greek and Hebrew for four years. It didn't impress them that I was the senior associate pastor of a church with 3500 members. It didn't impress them that I was the dean of a Bible school with 500 students in four campuses in three countries on two continents.

Each one of us needs someone who is not deceived by our charm or personality.

Later on, it didn't impress them that I was a business and property owner; neither did it impress them that I travelled and gave seminars. What impressed them was I had a TV in my office connected to the television cameras in the auditorium.

The things I thought would impress them, they really didn't care about. That humbling thought helped me think more properly about myself. My failures and weaknesses didn't intimidate them either. Many, many times, they helped me see how I needed to grow and reshape my thinking. To them I was husband and Dad. That is all they cared about. They weren't concerned about what I had done; they were concerned with who I was.

Each one of us needs someone who is not deceived by our charm or personality. God brings people across our path to help keep us honest. The important thing is not what we say or do ... but what we are. This reality will help us finish our race.

Everyone can be a mentor to someone

Earlier we wrote about this marathon race we are in.*15) It is like a three-part relay race. First, our "Paul's" run their lap around the track carrying the baton, which is their life of following Jesus Christ. At the appropriate time, they hand the baton to us and we begin our journey around the track. Then the time will come when we must get the baton safely in the hands of our "Timothy."

But as any track coach will testify, relay races are won or lost in the transfer of the baton. There is a critical moment when all can be lost by a fumble or miscalculation. The baton is rarely dropped on the backside of the track when the runner has it firmly in her grasp. If failure is to occur, it will likely happen in the exchange.

A mentor helps individuals exchange their will for God's

It is not just telling someone to do this, but showing it by example.*16) If we walk with wise individuals, we will be wise.*17) This only comes as the Word of God is implanted in our heart and in the hearts of those we are mentoring — our "Timothy."

Mentors help "Timothys" be obedient to God

We are not there to be a competitor, we are there to support. We are not to be critics, we are to be cheerleaders. Discipling others is the process of taking our talents, gifts and abilities and sharing with, imparting or depositing them into others.

God did not waste any part of Paul — his background, his training, his citizenship, his mind. God doesn't waste our time either — He will use our past and present so we may serve Him with our future and the future of our Timothy's.

Obstacles don't need to stop mentors

Alexander Graham Bell patented the telephone in 1876; it did not ring off the hook with potential backers. One banker would not loan money for "that toy." I am told that US President Hayes said, "That's an amazing invention, but who would ever want to use one of them?"

Thomas Edison invented the light bulb; he had to do over 2000 experiments before he got it to work. A young reporter asked him how it felt to fail so many times. He said, "I never failed once. I invented the light bulb. It just happened to be a 2000 step process."

Beethoven wrote five symphonies in his later years, while deaf. In 1952, Edmund Hillary attempted to climb Mount Everest, the highest mountain at 29,028 feet. A few weeks after his failed attempt, he was asked to address a group in England. Hillary walked to the edge of the stage, made a fist and pointed at a picture of the mountain. He said in a loud voice, "Mount Everest, you beat me the first time, but I'll beat you the next time because you've grown all you are going to grow ... but I'm still growing!" On May 29, only one year later, Edmund Hillary succeeded in becoming the first man to climb Mount Everest.

Unfortunately, the epitaph of many today will be, "Died, age 26. Buried, age 72." If we stop learning and growing today, we will stop discipling tomorrow.

All of us know about the great artist Michelangelo. But few of us know about Bertoldo di Giovanni, his teacher. There is a debate in art circles about who was greater — Michelangelo, the pupil or Giovanni — the teacher who produced him.

We are designed to be an Elijah to an Elisha, a Jethro to a Moses, a Moses to a Joshua, a Barnabas to a Paul, a Paul to a Timothy, a parent to our child, a friend to a new believer, a mentor to a young business leader.

The solution

God has designed a process and strategy so that each one of us can finish our own race in victory. He designed the original model of lives interconnected to help each other succeed. There is a cord of three strands that God has designed to help us. There are people around us who can help us finish our race.

They are characterized in the Bible as Paul, Barnabas, and Timothy. One who contributes to the building of our life, a brother or sister to keep us accountable and a younger person into whose life we can contribute. This predates the Young Presidents' Organization, The Executive Committee, Roundtables for Executives or any other consulting strategy ... and it works!

We can pray for these people to be brought into our lives, for where prayer focuses, power falls.

We also need to put up our satellite dish. We can become involved in the process, even if it takes one or two or more failed experiences before we find those people. As we put ourselves in places to come across these people, we will find them much sooner. Scripture says, "A man who has friends must himself be friendly, But there is a friend who sticks closer than a brother.”*18)

Now, here is the key

If we want a "Paul" in our life, we need to be a "Timothy – putting ourselves in a place to be mentored by someone else.

If we want a "Barnabas" in our life, we need to be a "Barnabas" — hunting down others to encourage them.

If we want a "Timothy" in our life, we need to be a "Paul" — mentoring someone else as they are running their race.

We were designed by God to need other people in our path: someone to mentor us, someone to encourage us, and someone for us to mentor.

Corpath, a division of Christian Business Ministries Canada, is one place where these relationships are found and fostered. These people will help us finish our race in victory. For more information about how you can be involved, visit

Paul Richardson is the president of Christian Business Ministries Canada.


1) 1 Corinthians 9:24      2)1 Corinthians 9:27        3) Ecclesiastes 4:9-12 NLT

4) Romans 15:18-24       5) 1 Corinthians 11:1       6) Galatians 2:11-14

7) Galatians 2:11           8) Acts 4:36                  9) Acts 4:37

10) Acts 15:36-39         11) Acts 13:1-13            12) Acts 9:26-27

13) Acts 11:21-26         14) Acts 13:1-13            15) 1 Corinthians 9:24

16) 1 Corinthians 16:10  17) Proverbs 13:20          18) Proverbs 18:24

Originally published in Business.Life Magazine, Spring 2007.




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