I met for lunch recently with a pastor who is a hero of mine. He has pastored for decades – yet he continues to preach every Sunday to a congregation that he planted a few years ago (at a time when most pastors would be enjoying retirement).

As we enjoyed lunch together, he made the comment that he was either “a mentor or a tormentor.” I laughed out loud at the table.

Leaders have the opportunity to mentor future generations of leaders. This is such an important priority for pastors and spiritual leaders. Yet many abdicate this responsibility.

Instead, they torment young, emerging leaders. Leaders can easily criticize or point out their blind spots – yet not with a helpful and hopeful approach to see them grow and improve. Rather, they put them down to assert their position and authority.

This is tormenting. 

Peter writes about this in his first letter – he identifies this as a behavior of secular leaders who “lord it over them” (1 Peter 5:2).

This is not the way spiritual leaders act. We are to shepherd young leaders. We invest in their development. We point the way. We lead them to places of discovery and rest and ongoing growth. 

As I have worked with pastors and leaders, I’m often amazed at how many are busy doing the work of the ministry – yet failing to equip others to do the work of the ministry. It’s as if they think that helping others to grow and succeed will make them useless to the body. One example of this is when pastors don’t develop other preachers so that the church remains dependent on their preaching.

I think this is messed up. Actually, no church family should be dependent on the pastor to feed them. They should depend on the Good Shepherd to feed them. This means that pastors need to develop self-feeders – sheep who know how to feed themselves.

Warning: Avoid Infantalism

Also, develop leaders who can shepherd, feed, guide and lead the flock as a plurality of godly leaders in the church.

(Perhaps this is part of the reason that many churches in America are under 100 people – because pastors don’t actually develop other leaders who can shepherd and lead with them.)

A mentor strengthens and encourages other leaders. 

  • To strengthen includes challenging others to stretch and grow
  • To encourage includes supporting others to press on when it’s tough and to refuse to give up 

This is what Paul and Barnabas did as they returned to the churches that they planted. They were “strengthening the souls of the disciples, encouraging them to continue in the faith” (Acts 14:22). 

Take a moment to evaluate your efforts to strengthen and encourage leaders in your church. 

Are you a mentor or a tormentor? 

  • How would young leaders in your ministry describe you? 
  • How are you pouring into their lives so they rise above your influence?
  • How are you putting them down so they will never rise about you? 

Mentor or Tormentor – the choice is yours.

Today’s Missional Challenge

Intentionally invest in the development of younger leaders.
Don’t torment them – mentor them.