For anyone who followed Jesus’ ministry the miracles captured their imagination. Feeding over 5000 people with a few loaves and fish, healing countless others, calming storms, you get the picture. This was a man around whom things happened; he would have been very exciting to follow around!

Perhaps though the most impactful aspect of Jesus’ ministry was the effect he had on the disciples because through them the church was founded and went on to change the world. They took the Gospel to wider civilization and in turn the people they invested in took it even further. Whilst we do not hold to apostolic succession the way some of our sister denominations do, we recognise the imperative of one generation passing on the Gospel to the next.

As a newly minted 24-year-old minister I distinctly remember one of the Elders telling me, “You better get used to a whole lot less commitment around here than you’re used to.” Within 10-12 years (long after I had stopped being their minister) they were Session Clerk and regularly ran Alpha. What changed?

Over those years we drank a lot of coffee together chatting about faith. Whether it was at church, home visits, Elder district visits we did together, spring cleaning the halls, painting in the church, etc. They were all occasions when we were both in the same space at the same time, chatting. Our faith grew through sharing life’s journey. They came to see they had gifts God had given them and they could use, with increasing confidence from a very tentative start, and I had the zealousness of youth tempered.

It would be easy to talk about pastoring, coaching or mentoring or whatever the latest buzz word happens to be and yes this was that but fundamentally it was two people travelling together on a journey of faith where each person helped the other to grow.

When we invest in a programme it is not the programme itself that is important but the effect it has on the people. A good programme will bring about lasting growth in the participants well after it ends. In fact, the majority of growth should come post-programme. Similarly, a good coach or mentor will help the person they are working with experience long lasting change.

Thinking about how you exercise your ministry who are the people you are spending your time with? How in your conversations are you helping them grow? How often are you in the same space at the same time reflecting on faith?

Going back to the disciples for a moment it is worth considering them at the start, at the end and beyond their time with Jesus? Peter grew into the disciple we all know and love only after he experienced both success and failure but throughout was trusted by Jesus. Can you imagine what kind of modern performance review he would have had after the denial incident?

Jesus created a culture where the disciples knew they were loved and where they were trusted but he didn’t stop there. He actually gave them responsibility for his future church. The very fallible people who could not even stay awake as he agonised over the crucifixion were the very ones he was investing in for the future. Note that he gave them responsibility after they failed. Why?

Perhaps Jesus could see the people they might become if only someone was willing to invest time in them, where would we be today if he hadn’t done that? Who is around you that you could invest in? Who can you see with potential and how are you helping them realise it?

By Norman Smith

Lothian and Borders Presbytery Clerk