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Who Pastors the Pastor?

A legitimate question arises in the heart of a growing Christian when looking at the pastor and his tremendous responsibilities.  Who pastors the pastor?

The word pastor means shepherd, and according to John 10:1-5, Jesus is to be our Shepherd.  Along with Psalm 23, we see that we too are sheep in need of Jesus to guide us and lead us into paths of righteousness.  However, this can also be said of every Christian; Jesus is to be their chief Shepherd / Pastor.  Yet, according to Hebrews 13:17, there is indication that Christians are to have spiritual mentors in their lives they are to follow.  We find their qualifications and duties, among other places, outlined in I & II Timothy.  So, I return to my original question…  Who is available to pastor the pastor?

I have three answers that I will outline in three blog posts: #1 – The Holy Spirit, #2 – Your Wife, #3 – Your Mentors…In this post I will deal with the latter.

A Pastor’s Mentor must be:

I.  Older and More Experienced

I am blessed to have many friends.  After the Lord and Heather, my closest friend is my brother, Matt Teis.  I can talk with him about anything.  Then, I have my preacher friends who are numerous, but include Josh Irmler, Matt Lahmann, Cody Kuehl, Dave Young, Jose Miano, Dan Ruiz and Paul Gotthardt.  Though it’s wonderful to have these men in my life, they are not my mentors; they are my friends, and though highly influential in my life, fulfill a different function than that of mentor.  I have deacons and church members that have become extremely close and intimate whose counsel and encouragement have made my ministry enjoyable and fruitful.  However, these folks are not my mentors.

For me, a mentor is one who has at least 20 years more experience than I do.  They are very seasoned and steady.  They are more than theory and ideas.  These men have successful marriages, successful ministries and have proven themselves to be faithful through the years.  Any young preacher who relies only upon the counsel of other young preachers is stupid.  Like Rehoboam in I Kings 12, many young pastors only consult with those who are of the same age, with the same perspectives, and same ideas.  Hey fellas, let’s be secure enough to get some counsel and thought from someone who might not just tell us what we want to hear.

II.  Free to Say Anything

Timothy’s mentor was obviously the Apostle Paul.  When you read I and II Timothy, you get the sense that Paul was very open with Timothy, probably because Timothy was a willing recipient of Paul’s correction, admonition, and encouragement.  Honestly, sometimes I struggle with pride and only want people around me who will stroke my ego and parrot back my ideas.  Yet, the Bible says, “A wise man will hear and will increase learning; and a man of understanding shall attain unto wise counsels.” (Proverbs 1:5)

A mentor should never feel intimidated or fearful to share his thoughts because you might throw a tantrum and break off the relationship.  They should feel the freedom to question anything in your life and ministry, and you should have the boldness to either admit you are wrong or defend your position.  The apostle John was personally mentored by Jesus Christ, who clearly felt the freedom to say anything to the beloved disciple.  I believe it was John’s willingness to be mentored that allowed him to become the greatest mentor in church history, going on to mentor heroes like Ignatius, Antipas, and Polycarp.

My father had Sumner Wemp, a man of God who passed away just last year.  For over 30 years, Sumner Wemp was mentor to my father, since their days as teacher and student at Liberty University.  There is not a year I remember, that Grandpa Wemp did not come to preach at Liberty Baptist in Las Vegas.  I’ll never forget one night of a mission’s conference (c. 1995), the service was about to begin, and Sumner Wemp, on the first row of the church, was still grooming my father saying, “Fix your tie, Dave. You look like a slob,” as he adjusted his off kilter tie.  “Don’t say so many ‘ummms & uhhhhs,’ it sounds unprofessional.”  As a 15 year-old teenager watching his 40-year-old father being prepped for service by his 70-year-old mentor, I did not think my father was somehow weak.  As I watched my father lean down with a smile and hug his spiritual father, I thought, “Now here is a truly humble man willing to give honor.”

III.  Honored and Respected

You don’t have to always agree with your mentor.  When you die one day and stand before a throne, it will not be your mentor that is sitting there.  We know that we are led by the Spirit and will answer to the Son.  There will be times that you disagree with your mentor’s advise, being convinced of the Spirit’s leading and go on to do what God is leading you to do.  However, you ought ALWAYS show honor and respect to those men.  Who do we think we are to sit and mock those who have invested into our lives and ministries.  These are the Lord’s Anointed (I Samuel 24).  And, though you may consider them to be out of touch with today’s culture, they may actually still be in touch with the eternal Lord.  Young preachers, let us be careful!

I have been blessed with 3 mentors in my life and ministry: Jim Schettler, Paul Chappell, and most importantly Dave Teis.  During my college years, Jim Schettler was my pastor and ministry trainer.  He preached our opening services at Southern Hills, and I just was able to reconnect with him at our annual Coastal Couples Retreat in February.  Paul Chappell has impacted my life tremendously, not only through his Striving Together Publications, but also with his willingness to sit and “talk shop.”  Neither unwilling to discuss modern trends in church and ministry, nor timid about sharing his opinion and advice; Paul Chappell has been a balanced and approachable mentor to me.  Yet, the top of the top, the cream of the crop, has got to be my father, David Teis.  I know he walks with God, because as a child, I used to interrupt his prayer time quite regularly.  I know he loves his wife, and I am told that as a child, I used to interrupt that quite frequently as well. We have spent long hours discussing doctrine, church polity, modern methodology, Christian music, canceling Sunday School, personal preferences, standards of separation, etc.  Often, we debate, and occasionally, we disagree, but I will never dishonor and disrespect that man.

None of these men are perfect.  All of these men will disagree with me on certain issues and methods, but they deserve my respect and honor …… and they have it.

What are your thoughts?  Am I wrong?  Am I in a snare (Prov. 29:25)?   Have you experienced any of this?  Can a mentor go too far?

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  • Reply
    Taylor Hershberger
    March 4, 2013 at 10:54 pm

    I agree that mentors in ministry are vitally important and I think that the 20 year suggestion is a good rule of thumb.
    What do you think the relationship should be between very young and inexperienced pastors, and those who are not peers, and yet not mentors either. For example: I have not even been in ministry for two years yet and I know there are men of unquestioned integrity and experience that I should look to for mentoring. You mentioned several in your post. But what should my relationship be to a pastor who has been in ministry for 10-12 years? I can not classify them as a mentor as they would not have the experience. But it would also be very presumptuous for me to classify them as a peer. Any thoughts?

    • Reply
      Joshua Teis
      March 5, 2013 at 10:49 am

      That’s a great question Taylor. I have now been in ministry for a little over 10 years. 2 as an assistant pastor and 8 as a lead pastor. So I am probably in the category you are talking about. In my opinion there are a few things to consider:

      #1 – The Older we get the less “a few years” seems to matter.
      For example, When a freshman in college began dating a senior it was the talk of the campus. However, 10 years later no one cares or notices such a difference. The same is true with those who have been in ministry for several more years than you. Some of my dearest friends are those who, in my college years, were 8-12 years my senior. I have learned from them, been influenced by them and over the years developed friendships with them.

      #2 – Experience is Experience
      If someone is 10 years down the road farther than you it would be wise to learn from them all that you can. I have a guy I am just becoming friends with down in So.Cal. who is 8 years ahead of me in his church plant. Every time I get the chance to be with “my friend” I am trying to learn as much as possible.

      #3 – Friends should be Free to Say Anything
      Just as Mentors should be given the right to “Say Anything” without your wrath coming down upon them, so should your friends. In the list of ministry friends I gave there are men that are more traditional than I am and men that are more progressive than I am. I allow them the freedom to speak openly with me without cutting off the relationship if I hear something I disagree with. It’s important to allow your friends the freedom to call you out on your inconsistencies. – Prov. 27:17

  • Reply
    Benjamin Leiby
    March 4, 2013 at 11:01 pm

    Nicely said. Throughout the reading I was constantly thinking about how this applies to the art of martial arts. There is always a teacher than is respected, and is a place of refuge to always regain your focus. As there are many off-shoots that have developed over time (preferences), the core never really changes (doctrine). This mentorship of doctrine is what brings about the respect and honor. The springs of ideas or sometime debate develop from this healthy relationship of respect and honor…and flourishes the benefit of having the mentor. To have more than one…you are truly blessed. “Without counsel purposes are disappointed: but in the multitude of counsellors they are established.” Prov 15:20

    • Reply
      Joshua Teis
      March 5, 2013 at 10:30 am

      Great metaphor! So in this way I can see my mentors as Yoda, Obi-Wan and Mace Windu. 🙂

  • Reply
    March 5, 2013 at 9:14 am

    Hi Josh. I’ve been enjoying reading your blog.
    At first, I didn’t think I’d have a comment to this post since I myself am not a pastor. However, I feel this post applies to all Christians because even though our Christian duties vary, our obedience to our individual callings are equally important. My job is just as important as a Christian, Mother, Daughter, etc. as any other Christians…including my pastor’s. When I was younger, I would think to myself that my pastors and their families somehow had it easier than the rest of us in the church. Not so. This is not always easy since we ALL live in the flesh.
    I am thankful for God’s faithfulness and for mentors he has given to me as well. My mother and your parents. God Bless.


    • Reply
      Joshua Teis
      March 5, 2013 at 10:27 am


      I think your comment is very true. This is not just something that those of us in “full-time” ministry need to remember. I am glad that you posted!

  • Reply
    Annette Meisner
    March 6, 2013 at 10:46 am

    Such a wonderful message, Josh. I especially loved the part about the respect you have for the ‘cream of the crop’ … your Father, David Teis; brought tears. Thank you.

    • Reply
      Joshua Teis
      March 6, 2013 at 12:36 pm

      Thank you Annette! Wouldn’t be here without that man and my godly mother. I appreciate these thoughts especially coming from a person who knows my parents as you do

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