What you have heard from me in the presence of many witnesses entrust to faithful men who will be able to teach others also.” This was one of Paul’s parting commands to Timothy. Paul had nearly come to the end of his life and wrote Timothy to tell him that he had to think beyond himself and his own generation. Timothy was to think about the future and plan for it with care and diligence.
The pastor is to select some—and only some—of the men in his care to receive special attention and training because these are the men to whom he will entrust the gospel and the future of the Christian faith. But how will a pastor know what kind of man to choose? There’s an acronym I have found helpful. You may well have run into it before; I came across it most recently in a sermon from Steven Cole. The pastor must focus his attention on those men who are FAT:
Faithful. These are men whose great ambition is the glory of God, who long to care for souls, and who long to see God’s kingdom advance. Calvin says such men are to be chosen not on account of the existence of their faith, since all Christians have faith, but on the pre-eminence of their faith. Some men have an extra measure of desire and ability to labor in preserving and spreading Christian faith and practice. Faithful men will not lose, neglect or falsify the gospel but will, conversely, handle it with great care. These are the ones who are to be the special object of the pastor’s attention.
Available. The pastor must entrust the gospel to men who are available: who desire this ministry for pure motives and who are willing to take it upon themselves. There will inevitably be some who will want to be chosen on the basis of personal ambition, jealousy, pride or even outright deception; these men must be avoided. There are some who will be unwilling because of apathy or by fear of consequences; these men must be given time to mature. There are some who are simply not able to because of other responsibilities or their current stage of life; these men must be allowed to carry on without shame or guilt. The pastor is to seek out men who have made themselves available in terms of time, effort and character.