We need each other. As much as we think we don’t, we do. We are created for community, for relationships. As famed professor at Dallas Seminary, Howard Hendricks, often argued “every Christ-follower needs at least three kinds of spiritual relationships in our lives: a Barnabas, a Timothy and a Paul.”

Nurturing such intentional relationships—peers to walk beside, teachable folks with whom to share a truth we’ve learned, and mentors to encourage us —contributes to the health and vitality of our relationship with Christ.

A Barnabas: Peers on the Journey

In the Book of Acts, Barnabas reached out to Paul when no one else would. He eventually ministered along side of Paul on his first missionary journey. The early Christ-followers gave him the nickname: the Son of Encouragement. We all need mutually-encouraging relationships with “Barnabas-figures.”

They are folks who are at similar places in their walks with God—facing the same types of challenges we face. Having friends to walk alongside as we strive to know Christ, to make Him known, and live out our calling to the academy encourages us. Their lives are real and become mutual. We pray for them, they pray for us. These friends remind us that though the journey is difficult, we’re not the only one on the road.

To find a Barnabas, ask:
With whom do you identify? Is there anyone you have a sense of camaraderie with? Who encourages you in your walk with God?

A Timothy: Someone to Mentor

Timothy was a younger Christian, Paul’s son in the faith and his key disciple. Paul taught him everything he knew and trusted that Timothy would pass it on to others (2 Timothy 2:2). Timothy grew to play a major role in the early church because of Paul’s influence.

All of us need to make an investment in a Timothy—normally a younger Christ-following colleague with whom we commit to helping grow in the walk with Christ and their calling in life and the academy.

Mentoring includes modeling our walk with Christ, considering together questions about faith and life, and choosing to raise questions and conversations that help others take the next steps in their spiritual journey. We all need to give to and invest in others – it’s healthy, it makes us better learners, and it brings needed, though informal, accountability to our lives.

To find a Timothy, ask:
Is there anyone (faculty colleague or key student) who seeks you out for spiritual and life advice and usually follows it? Who is dealing with questions, situations or issues that God has brought you through?  Do you know someone who really seems to trust you?

A Paul: A Mentor for the Mentor

This last relationship goes missing from our lives more often than the others. Maybe it’s due to getting older or to our position (or perhaps, it’s just pride), but it’s often harder to find a mentor for the mentor—to find a Paul for us as Timothys.

Finding a mentor is not easy. What does a good mentor look like? Is he or she older than us? Does he need to be a man (or woman) simply because he (or she) is our gender? Has my mentor walked with Jesus longer than I have? Probably, but?

To find a Paul, begin here: 
From whom do you learn easily? Whom do you respect—both as a Christ-follower and as a professional? Whom do you trust? Whom would you want to be more like (spiritually speaking)? Who is like Paul, in that he or she “lifts up Christ and desires with all wisdom to warn and to teach everyone, in order to bring each one into God’s presence as a mature person in Christ (Colossians 1:28-29)”?

Maybe it’s the encouragement to be a learner, or perhaps the humility God teaches us through serving others, but these relationships increase the influence we have on others, and they help us grow in Christ.

As you review the relationships in your life, do you have a Barnabas, a Timothy and a Paul?

—FC Editorial Team