The Training of Jesus’s Disciples—Part I: The Twelve

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from The Mentoring Church: How Pastors and Congregations Cultivate Leaders
by Phil A. Newton


The disciples learned from observing Jesus as the fulfillment of the Isaiah 61 prophecy affirmed in Luke 4:16–21. They saw his miraculous works, heard his preaching of the kingdom of God, listened to him pray, and watched how he lived. When he sent them into the villages of Galilee to proclaim the gospel and heal the sick in his name, they went with a consciousness of what they had observed in him.[1] Jesus called the disciples to fish for people (Luke 5:1–11), modeled preaching of the kingdom and calling sinners to repentance (Luke 5:31–32), and taught the distinctions in the new covenant (Luke 5:33–39) be- fore he sent the Twelve into ministry. A. B. Bruce observed that the Twelve were only beginners, and yet they were still ahead of those to whom they were sent in their understanding of the call to repentance and kingdom citizenship.[2] Jesus called the Twelve to be “with him” (Mark 3:14), to learn from his teaching and company, so that they would be qualified thereby “for the mission of continuing his mission.”[3]

Luke offers a mission-framed understanding of Jesus’s appointment of the Twelve as apostles (Luke 6:13). Günther Krallmann calls this relationship “with-ness,” that is, the “dynamic process of life-transference” that would take place between Jesus and the Twelve. He developed them as the future leaders of his church while he discipled them as his followers in the basic elements of Christian ministry.[4]

Luke’s record of the sending of the Twelve (Luke 9:1–11) identifies at least eight elements in the mission. First, Jesus intentionally called the Twelve together for this task (Luke 9:1). A. B. Bruce explained that Jesus demonstrated a level of trust in the disciples by sending them out even while beginners. Surprisingly, Jesus entrusted them with proclamation at this point. We can be assured, Bruce wrote, that Jesus put “a sound form of words into their mouths” lest they swerve from his purposes. Mentors must be willing to trust their protégés with responsibilities in order to train them.[5]

I’ve felt the struggle of entrusting my pulpit to a new pastoral trainee in or- der to give him experience in preaching. Will he communicate the Word? Will he be faithful to the gospel? Will he show theological precision? Will he butcher grammar and mangle homiletical structure? Will he blow the opportunity? Those realistic questions accompany the mentor/trainee relationship, just as Jesus faced the same with his disciples.

Second, Jesus gave them power and authority over demons and for healing diseases (Luke 9:1). Third, he sent them to “proclaim the kingdom of God and to perform healing” (Luke 9:2). Fourth, in order to teach them dependence upon the Father, a lesson that would prepare them well for future ministry, he sent them without staff, bag, bread, money, or an extra tunic (Luke 9:3).[6] Fifth, they were to learn to accept hospitality from whomever it might be offered—a challenge that might shatter some preconceived notions and sensibilities (Luke 9:4). Sixth, they were to shake the dust from their feet as a testimony against those who refused to receive them (Luke 9:5; cf. Acts 13:50–51). Seventh, the apostles were accountable to Jesus upon their return—a perpetual reality for all sent out on mission by Jesus (Luke 9:10).[7] Finally, Jesus prescribed refreshment by withdrawing from the crowds, although that did not last long (Luke 9:10–11).

Both Matthew and Luke narrate the sending of the Twelve (Matt. 10:1–42), but only Luke narrates the sending of the Seventy. What place did the latter have in Jesus’s mission?


[1] A. B. Bruce, The Training of the Twelve (Grand Rapids: Kregel, 1971; from 1894 ed.), 99.

[2] Ibid., 102–103.

[3] Richard Bauckham, Jesus and the Eyewitnesses: The Gospels as Eyewitness Testimony (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2006), 95.

[4] Günther Krallmann, Mentoring for Mission: A Handbook on Leadership Principles Exemplified by Jesus Christ (Waynesboro, GA: Gabriel Publishing, 2002), 13–14.

[5] Bruce, Training of the Twelve, 102–103.

[6] Joel B. Green, The Gospel of Luke, NICNT (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1997), 359.

[7] Bock, Luke 1:1–9:50, 827, notes Luke’s use of diegesanto as significant in explaining the re- counting of the disciples’ experiences to Jesus, since it is the same word Luke used in Luke 1:1–4. It implies a thorough narration of the events in the mission.

This post is an adaption from from The Mentoring Church: How Pastors and Congregations Cultivate Leaders
by Phil A. Newton. If you are interested in adopting this book for a college or seminary course, please request a faculty examination copy. We will also consider requests for your blog or media outlets. Subscribe to our newsletter and receive a free digital copy by clicking here!

The critical missing element in Christian mentoring today: the congregation

Young, emerging leaders of the church, many of whom have gone through leadership training and traditional mentorship programs, still too often find themselves unprepared for the realities of ministry. Many leave the ministry altogether, overwhelmed.

Phil Newton reveals a critical gap: single-source mentorship is incomplete. Mentoring must involve the congregation, not just senior pastors, in order to bring forth mature, resilient leaders prepared for all that ministry entails.

The solid, practical solutions in The Mentoring Church offer churches of any size both the vision for mentoring future leaders and a workable template to follow. With insightful consideration of theological, historical, and contemporary training models for pastor/church partnerships, Newton is a reliable guide to developing a church culture that equips fully prepared leaders.

“Bringing up future leaders isn’t just the job of the pastor but of the whole congregation. This is an urgently needed book in churches today.” —R. Albert Mohler Jr., president of The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary


About Author

Phil A. Newton (PhD, Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary; DMin, Fuller Theological Seminary) is senior pastor at South Woods Baptist Church in Memphis, Tennessee. His previous books include The Way of Faith and Elders in Congregational Life.

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