Life within God’s family after Jesus’ Resurrection and Ascension is not identical to the life of discipleship when Jesus was physically present, nor can it be precisely how today’s church prepares leaders. When Jesus was physically present, his call was to come and physically follow and be with him (Matthew 4:18-22; Mark 1:16-20; Luke 5:2-11). When Jesus ascended into heaven, the apostles’ call was to trust and believe in the Risen Christ and, by the power of the Holy Spirit, continue to follow Jesus as leaders of a small, unpopular, and sometimes persecuted fellowship of Christ-followers. He would be invisibly present by the power of the Holy Spirit. After the resurrection, the call was (and is) to follow Jesus, who is present in his people by the power of the Spirit. The call at the time of the apostles is identical to the call for training leaders within the church today.
First Deacons. After Pentecost, we are told that the early church met in intimate fellowship:
They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and fellowship, the breaking of bread, and prayer. Everyone was filled with awe at the many wonders and signs performed by the apostles. All the believers were together and had everything in common. They sold property and possessions to give to anyone who had need. Every day they continued to meet together in the temple courts. They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts, praising God and enjoying the people’s favor. And the Lord added to their number daily those being saved (Acts 2:42-47).
As the number of disciples increased, there was a need for more leadership. The intimacy of the community was being tested by the difficulties associated with growth. The apostles, therefore, had to appoint additional leaders. Here is how it happened:
In those days when the number of disciples was increasing, the Hellenistic Jews among them complained against the Hebraic Jews because their widows were being overlooked in the daily distribution of food. So the Twelve gathered all the disciples together and said, “It would not be right for us to neglect the ministry of the word of God in order to wait on tables. Brothers and sisters, choose seven men from among you who are known to be full of the Spirit and wisdom. We will turn this responsibility over to them and will give our attention to prayer and the ministry of the word.” This proposal pleased the whole group. They chose Stephen, a man full of faith and of the Holy Spirit; also Philip, Procorus, Nicanor, Timon, Parmenas, and Nicolas from Antioch, a convert to Judaism. They presented these men to the apostles, who prayed and laid their hands on them (Acts 6:1-6).
How had these men been prepared? By spending time with the apostles, hearing their teachings, participating in the community, practicing hospitality, and sharing their lives and faith with others. They had no formal education. They had what might be called “relational education.”
Paul. Paul is another unique example. His conversion was unique, dramatic—and doubted by some leaders of the early church and with good reason (Acts 9:26). Barnabas, a great leader of the early church, had confidence that Paul’s conversion and talents were important and real. Therefore, we are told:
But Barnabas took him and brought him to the apostles. He told them how Saul, on his journey, had seen the Lord and that the Lord had spoken to him, and how in Damascus he had preached fearlessly in the name of Jesus. So Saul stayed with them and moved about freely in Jerusalem, speaking boldly in the name of the Lord (Acts 9:27-28).
If we read between the lines, we can see that Paul was spending time in the fellowship of the Apostles, receiving the same intimate discipleship training and preparation, experiencing the communal life of the church, and using his gifts as he matured as a disciple and prepared for further leadership in the church.
As the church grew beyond the limits of the Holy Land, there was an additional need for leadership. The church eventually sent Barnabas to Antioch to see how things were going there and ensure that the rapidly growing congregation was healthy. At that point, Barnabas brought Paul into the leadership team of the church:
News of this reached the church in Jerusalem, and they sent Barnabas to Antioch. When he arrived and saw what the grace of God had done, he was glad and encouraged them all to remain true to the Lord with all their hearts. He was a good man, full of the Holy Spirit and faith, and many people were brought to the Lord. Then Barnabas went to Tarsus to look for Saul, and when he found him, he brought him to Antioch. So for a whole year Barnabas and Saul met with the church and taught great numbers of people (Acts 11: 22-25).
Paul’s preparation for leadership was not complete. He spent another year under the leadership and guidance of Barnabas, who kindly prepared him for ministry. Then, the Holy Spirit spoke to the church at Antioch, and Barnabas and Paul set out on their first missionary journey.
Now in the church at Antioch, there were prophets and teachers: Barnabas, Simeon called Niger, Lucius of Cyrene, Manaen (who had been brought up with Herod the tetrarch), and Saul. While they were worshiping the Lord and fasting, the Holy Spirit said, “Set apart for me Barnabas and Saul for the work to which I have called them.” So after they had fasted and prayed, they placed their hands on them and sent them off (Acts 13:1-3).
The order of names is important. Paul is still apprenticing with Barnabas. A close reading of the events of the First Missionary Journey shows that Paul was nearly ready to lead and was beginning his career as the greatest missionary of the early church. 
John Mark. After returning from the First Missionary Journey, there was a period of rest and reporting. When the two missionaries prepared to leave on their second trip, intending to communicate the decisions of the Council at Jerusalem to the churches, Barnabas and Paul had a disagreement that sheds more light upon the training of leaders in the early church.:
Barnabas wanted to take John, also called Mark, with them, but Paul did not think it wise to take him because he had deserted them in Pamphylia and had not continued with them in the work. They had such a sharp disagreement that they parted company. Barnabas took Mark and sailed for Cyprus, but Paul chose Silas and left, commended by the believers to the grace of the Lord. He went through Syria and Cilicia, strengthening the churches (Acts 15:37-41).
John Mark had left the little missionary company during the first Missionary Journey, perhaps from homesickness or some other reason. Paul was unwilling to forgive and forget and continue to train John Mark for ministry, but Barnabas was. Therefore, they split up, and Barnabas, true to his character, continued to train John Mark while Paul undertook to disciple another missionary in the making, Silas.
History records that John Mark eventually became the traveling companion of Peter was with Peter near the end of his life, wrote the gospel we have as Mark, and was a leader of the post-Apostolic Church. He was not ready for leadership when Paul rejected him, and Barnabas continued his training, but he became a leader of the early church.
Church tradition holds that Mark was Peter’s interpreter in Rome. In addition, tradition has it that he wrote the gospel that bears his name. Finally, Mark is also said to have been an evangelist and responsible for establishing the church in Alexandria in Egypt. Paul, Barnabas, and Peter were all a part of his preparation for leadership.
Silas. Silas was a leader of the church in Jerusalem, sent by that church to Antioch, and a traveling companion of Paul until his death. Silas both traveled with Paul and ministered independently of Paul with others, including Timothy, on occasion (Acts 15:14Silas was with Paul at Thessalonica and is mentioned as a co-author of the letters of Paul to that congregation (1 Thess. 1:1; 2 Thess1:1). He seems to have ministered with Peter at some point in his ministry (I1 Peter 5:12)). Legend makes Silas the first bishop of Corinth. Paul and Peter seem both to have been responsible for his development as a leader.
Timothy. During the second Missionary Journey, Paul attracted yet another disciple he trained for leadership. Timothy was the child of a Greek father and a Jewish/Christian mother (Acts 16:1-2). He was a good potential cross-cultural missionary because, like Paul, he could move comfortably in both the Greek-speaking society of Asia Minor and the Jewish culture of the diaspora of the day. He was well-liked in Lystra (v. 2). Timothy would remain a companion of Paul until Paul’s death. He was with Paul, probably in Rome, when the letter to Philemon was written (Philemon 23). Tradition has it that he later served in leadership in the church, eventually becoming a bishop and martyr to Christ.
Luke. The second missionary journey produced yet another future church leader, Doctor Luke, the writer of Luke and Acts and one of the most important figures in transmitting the apostolic witness to future generations.  He was with Paul on the Second and Third Missionary Journeys. Luke was with Paul in Rome when Paul wrote his letter to Timothy (2 Timothy 4:11) and with Paul when Philemon was written (Philemon 23). Church tradition holds that he survived Paul’s death and completed his books about the life of Christ and the actions of the Apostles before his death.
Onesimus. I want to deal with one more early church leader who was subject to intense personal discipleship training by Paul, Onesimus, whom we know of because Paul interceded for him in the book of Philemon. Onesimus was a slave. He escaped from Philemon, his master, and eventually joined Paul and acted as a surrogate son and helper for the now-imprisoned Apostle (Philemon 10-11). Onesimus has become a dear brother and friend to the apostle, who sends him back to his master with a plea for mercy (17-18). Tradition has it that Onesimus later became the bishop of Ephesus, where he may have been instrumental in collecting the letters of Paul. He was put to death, and the church recognized him as a martyr for Christ.
Implications for Pastoral Training
It should come as no surprise to any reader that the Scriptures of the Early Church and the witness of the Gospels support and encourage changes in the way pastors and other church leaders are trained. It is not primarily the duty of Christian Colleges and Seminaries to train church leaders. It is primarily the responsibility of the church to train leaders from among those who have shown promise to existing church leaders.
The second conclusion is that church leadership training must be personal, intimate, and authentically mentoring. Jesus mentored the Apostles in a close, personal relationship. The Apostles and their immediate followers mentored the next generation of church leaders in just the same way Jesus mentored them. By the time the New Testament closes, we are at least in the third generation of mentoring leaders in life-transforming life and community. 
As the church of the 21st Century comes to grips with the need for a new generation of apostolic leadership, it should revisit the role of mentoring and personal relationships in the preparation for ministry. Traditional seminaries, online training, and other “cognitive-alone” based strategies will not solve the problem of training a new generation of church leaders.
A possible complaint to my conclusions might be that they underestimate the need for cognitive training and seminary-level curriculum for church leaders. This would be a misinterpretation. I am both happy and grateful for my seminary education and the education that has borne fruit in the lives of many leaders I have known. Such training is important and necessary for many leaders to develop their potential for service to the church. However, cognitive learning is not enough, as the decline in many churches served by traditional seminaries illustrates.
I am arguing for the idea that existing pastors and leaders must make mentoring the next generation of church leaders a priority. Denominations and other groups should act to make this an expected task of church leaders at all levels. The future of the church is at stake.
Copyright 2023, G. Christopher Scruggs, All Rights Reserved
 It is not the purpose of this essay to go into the details of Paul’s missionary techniques or success. I hope to cover this in a future essay on the leadership and training of missionaries.
 Both Timothy and Luke had daily intimate contact with the Apostle. Timothy was recorded as having been given special duties, for he was well-liked in the Jewish-Greek diaspora. I will give more time to Timothy later as we look at the two letters Paul wrote to him; however, the length of this blog means it will have to wait for another writing.
 Jesus mentored the Apostles, who mentored Paul and Barnabas, who mentored John Mark, Silas, Timothy, Luke, and Onesimus.