On Pauls & Timothys

coffeewithfrankI have drunk more cups of coffee with Frank Tallerico than I can ever count. I recall sitting in his office and dumping out my frustrations, asking him for counsel, laughing at each other’s eccentricities; the coffee wasn’t always great but those memories are. My relationship with Frank, however, is not just about coffee and laughs. Frank was my mentor for many years, training me for and helping me to develop as a pastor. Even that seems a meager description of our relationship. Frank is my best friend, my coach, my mentor, my pastor. He’s like a father, friend, and brother all in one. The relationship we have often makes me think of what Timothy must have felt like being discipled by Paul. I think about their late afternoon coffees and what that must have meant to young Timothy. This relationship is so important to me that I can’t help but think that it needs to be duplicated everywhere in the church. The church needs Pauls and Timothys.

Paul’s discipling relationship with Timothy is a good model for the church today. Paul saw in this young man immense potential. In Acts 16 we read of Paul’s first encounter with Timothy in Lystra. Timothy was thought of highly by those around him (v. 2), and Paul saw something in the young man that compelled him right then and there to decide to take Timothy with him on his next missionary journey (v. 3a). Paul spent time training, equipping, and challenging young Timothy. He taught him about how to relate to those far from the gospel (16:3), and he gave him big responsibilities (Acts 17:14). Paul modeled too what godliness, good pastoral care, and what enduring faithful missionary duty looked like for the young man (2 Tim. 3:1-13). He taught him sound doctrine too (2 Timothy 1:13). Paul sought to train young Timothy in every area of godliness: life, theology, and ministry. But there was more to their relationship than just that of teacher and student. Paul loved Timothy. He called him a “son,” some one dearly loved (1 Tim. 1:2). He referred to him as one “unique” among all of Paul’s fellow workers. To the Philippians Paul wrote about Timothy, saying:

I hope in the Lord Jesus to send Timothy to you soon, that I also may be cheered when I receive news about you. I have no one else like him, who will show genuine concern for your welfare. 21 For everyone looks out for their own interests, not those of Jesus Christ. But you know that Timothy has proved himself, because as a son with his father he has served with me in the work of the gospel. I hope, therefore, to send him as soon as I see how things go with me. (Phil. 2:19-23)

Paul loved Timothy dearly. This was more than just a business arrangement, a ministry training opportunity, it was far more than that. It’s exactly this kind of relationship that the church needs.

It’s not just about pastors either. I needed that for sure. I had lots of head knowledge, read tons of books, and had preached a fair share of sermons, but in terms of actual ministry experience I was a clueless schmuck. I was even less experienced in counseling. Frank was able to come along side me and expose my impatience and my ignorance and help me grow. But beyond this pastoral care, what I needed was a deep spiritual friendship. I needed a brother who was willing to enter my world, invite me into his, model godliness for me, and challenge me. I needed someone whose life experience surpassed mine and who could help me navigate the difficulties of a young marriage, a young family, a young ministry, career frustrations, and sinful struggles. That’s why Pauls & Timothys are needed all over the church, not just in pastoral mentoring. Spiritual friendship are too valuable to be limited simply to those training for full-time ministry (though even they often don’t get it).

Men and women all over our congregation need to start building these relationships with those younger than them. Discipling them, loving them, entering their world and inviting them into theirs. We need this because we are all far too isolated, far too often. We don’t know how to think Biblically sometimes and we need someone with more growth and more experience at walking the path of Christian obedience. We need a model, a friend, an accountability partner, a mentor, coach, and spiritual father. It’s not about meeting once a week for coffee or studying a theology book. Pauls & Timothys don’t develop that way, they develop deep relationships by doing real life together. They eat family meals together, pray together, cry together. They work through difficult subjects together, consulting Scripture and talking about implications. They celebrate joys together, they lean on each other through sorrows. Pauls & Timothys are invaluable to individuals and invaluable to the church at large.

When these relationships began to develop all over a congregation you will see a congregation that is growing. It takes a burden off of the staff of the church, it forces more specific application of Scripture to life, it engages in the ministry of the church beyond the Sunday morning corporate worship service. When churches have Pauls & Timothys the whole church benefits. It’s something pastors can begin modelling and encouraging the rest of their congregation to partake in. It’s costly and time-consuming, no doubt, but the rewards are myriad.

This morning as I type this and sip my coffee I think about Frank. I love him greatly, and I cannot express thanks to God enough for this dear brother. The coffee tastes good, but it would be a million times better if he were sitting here drinking it with me.


  1. Frank Tallerico says:

    Well, I am truly humbled by this … I have been blessed to add in some small way to the work that God intended in David’s life. He is my friend and has sharpened my own understanding of Scripture and the ministry. Such a relationship goes both ways! I am thankful to those who invested in me through the years … Harold, Scott, Benny, Rick, Sam, Brad, Paul, Dave, Al, Butch, and so many others. We all need someone to come alongside us in the journey. Thanks again, David, for your friendship, love, and loving coffee as much as I do.

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