My first assignment
Wait, I’m going to teach what?
That was my mental reaction to my first teaching assignment from my mentor, Joe.
Our mentor-protégé relationship began when he was teaching a Sunday School class and had asked if anyone was interested in team-teaching with him. I was eager to teach, but I knew that I had to learn how to better handle the Scriptures if I was going to take on the responsibility of teaching God’s Word to others. Joe pointed me toward Howard Hendricks’s Living by the Book and, with his guidance, I began to learn how to Observe, Interpret, and then Apply the Bible.
I figured that my first teaching lesson would cover one of the passages I had just learned from…instead, Joe said that my first teaching experience would come from teaching the class how to study the Bible, like I had just learned. I was instantly nervous and gave Joe a weak “You sure about this?”. But he assured me that this was the best topic for me to start with.
I profusely prayed over every lesson. I did my best to communicate the three steps, as well as provide good examples and practice exercises – some lessons went well; others didn’t feel like they went anywhere. To anyone who was in those first classes of mine, I say thank you for your patience! That experience was a huge step for me and my growth – both in my relationship with God, as well as in learning how to organize and teach. It certainly helped to have my mentor’s example, his directions, and his confidence in me.
Reading through the gospels, we find that Jesus did something similar with his protégés:
Then Jesus went to all the towns and villages, teaching in their synagogues, preaching the good news of the kingdom, and healing every disease and every sickness. When He saw the crowds, He felt compassion for them, because they were weary and worn out, like sheep without a shepherd. The He said to His disciples,
“The harvest is abundant, but the workers are few. Therefore, pray to the Lord of the harvest to send out workers into His harvest.”
Summoning His 12 disciples, He gave them authority over unclean spirits, to drive them out and to heal every disease and sickness.
When Jesus told them to pray that the Father would send out workers to reach the people of Israel, I’m sure they agreed that would be a good thing to do…but then Jesus turns around and tells them that it is time for them to go out and participate in the harvest, by doing what they had only previously watched Jesus do! Imagine everything that must have been going through their minds – anticipation, nervousness, excitement, tension? Trust me, it was all those and then some.
Jesus sent out these 12 after giving them instructions: “Don’t take the road leading to other nations, and don’t enter any Samaritan town. Instead, go to the lost sheep of the house of Israel. As you go announce this: ‘The kingdom of heaven has come near.’ Heal the sick, raise the dead, cleanse those with skin diseases, drive out demons. You have received free of charge; give free of charge.”
Notice how Jesus gave them parameters and direction for their first assignment. They weren’t supposed to go outside of Israel. They had a very specific message to proclaim. They were also given authority to do what Jesus did – heal, raise the dead, cleanse, and drive out demons – and they were not to charge the people for these acts, just as Jesus hadn’t charged anyone.
The disciples would eventually be ready for the larger assignment of the Great Commission, where they were instructed to go make disciples of people from all nations. They were not ready for that yet, though. The disciples were still going to do what they had seen Jesus do, but their first assignment was on a much smaller scale.
As a mentor, we need to give our protégé assignments that will begin to stretch them now and incrementally prepare them for later. On the flip side, when our mentor gives us an assignment that seems like a very large leap, we need to trust them.
Looking back, it was that first assignment that propelled me closer to God and sharpened my teaching ability. Joe was making sure that I was not going to be just another teacher who can only feed people The Word, but he wanted me to be able to show others how to feed themselves. Following through on that first assignment, despite how rough it may have been on me and/or the class, has paid many dividends over the years since.