Jesus gradually gave his disciples opportunity to do ministry with him. He first invited them to observe as he modeled ministry, and often would take a good deal of time explaining things afterwards. He went on to release them into ministry. A look at Luke 10 will be helpful to see the process of how he equipped and sent out 70 disciples into ministry.
Luke 10:1-16 – An Assignment and Instructions
Jesus gives them a very clear assignment (what to do) with clear instructions (how to do it) before he sends them out. Many times in my own mentoring, I have failed to give a clear assignment or how to do it, and sometimes failed to do both well! There is an old proverb: “a mist in the pulpit is a fog in the pew.” This is certainly true in a mentoring relationship. If we don’t know where they are going, then they probably won’t get there!
For many of these disciples, this was the first time they had ever done ministry on their own. As they gained more experience, Jesus would give them increased responsibility to figure out first the “how” and later on the “what” of ministry. He went on to give them full responsibility when they received the Holy Spirit in the book of Acts.
Also, note the way Jesus tells them how to deal with apparent failure, which especially protected them from excessive discouragement (v. 10-16). It is important to prepare apprentices in how to deal with apparent failure. If they develop further as a result of failure, then it is not an ultimate failure but merely a stepping stone to know God more.
Luke 10:17-20 – An Encouraging Evaluation
After releasing them into ministry, Jesus evaluates how they did upon their return (v. 17-20). Notice he is very positive and upbeat about the assessment. Jesus was a master at encouragement. I have found that a mentor cannot encourage too much! In fact, Jesus gave 6 words of encouragement to his disciples for every rebuke he gave. However, notice in verse 20 that he makes an observation to deepen the perspective of his disciples. Jesus’ example demonstrates the importance of encouragement, with a single correction that was more of an adjustment of perspective. So we see that Jesus evaluated them by encouraging them and offering a new perspective.
One major failure I have often made is giving assignments and instructions but never doing a follow-up evaluation. Often, I would shrink back from evaluation because I did not want to confront the fact that there had been failure. Or, if the person did things well, I figured that was reward in itself. But neither of these follows Jesus’ way of mentoring.
Luke 10:21-23 – Celebrating Success
Jesus celebrated the disciples’ success! It seems from verse 23 that this was a very public celebration—celebrating before God and men! Apparently, Jesus was not worried about his disciples getting big heads! He knew he could deal with them privately on such issues. But he wanted to rejoice in success with His disciples in front of God and all the people!
I do want to point out that these were apprentices, not people with a lot of experience in ministry. We who mentor cannot wait until a person is “ready,” much less perfect. We need to entrust and release them to ministry as early as possible, realizing that most of this type of learning comes by doing, not by teaching. And it is reassuring to know that they will learn more from their failures than their successes.