Passing the Torch -
Mentoring and Releasing the Next Generation

| Eitan Shishkoff |

A giant of a man stood in front of the bathroom mirror, shaving. It was my dad. When I reach back as far in time as I can, that's my earliest memory. In the growing up years that followed he set an example for me of hard work, integrity, faithfulness to family and community-mindedness. My dad, Nicholas Shishkoff, imparted qualities to me that set my life in the direction it is still moving. The influence we have on our sons and daughters, both natural and spiritual, is gigantic. Do we realize the awesome opportunity and sacred responsibility that is ours to shape them? Our performance in this ONE area will determine the destiny of generations.

There have been five men, in addition to my natural father, who have been the primary molders of my life. Among them are Don Compton, Daniel Juster and Don Finto. A fourth lives today in the unknown North Carolina town of Beulaville. A man of considerable spiritual stature, Wade Pope is as unpretentious as the corn fields that surround his church building. His ministry has been as productive as those fields, too. There are pastors on four continents who are touching lives today because of this man's impact.

We met thirty years ago in Santa Fe, New Mexico. It was 1974, and we had just come down from the mountains. Looking back, I'm shocked to realize that we had only seven months together. Yet in that brief time Wade gave me a model of how a true shepherd feeds, leads and cares for his flock. He helped me see how a community of faith is built. In taking me under his wing, "Coach" Pope not only showed me how---he gave me big chances to try it for myself. As a result he reproduced himself in me.


Eliezer Urbach is another man I've been privileged to call "Abba." I've been reading his autobiography, Out of the Fury, to my eleven year old daughter. What a saga of courage and of the intervention of God. This Polish Jew was destined for slaughter by the Nazis, but passed through the fire. Later he became a follower of Yeshua and a pioneer in the modern Messianic movement. A father to countless searching young Jews like ourselves, Eliezer patiently nurtured us in our newfound identity as Jewish disciples of Israel's Messiah. He never put us down for our ignorance, but patiently strengthened our understanding and connectedness with our people and with our history. Without him we would not have entered Jewish ministry nor come home to Israel. His influence upon our lives is incalculable.


In like manner, God has given me spiritual sons. These are men into whom I am seeking to pour my life that they may blossom in their own gifts and callings. Leon Mazin and Gamliel Asher were the first two men given to me in Israel as spiritual sons. It is no accident that they led our first two home cell groups in '94-'95 and later became our first two congregation planters, Leon in Haifa and Gamliel in Akko. Before going to be with the Lord, Gamliel began mentoring Guy Cohen to work with him in Akko. I have inherited that role and am privileged to be a father/trainer in Guy's life. Another young man to whom I am deeply committed is my son through marriage, Avishalom Teklehaimanot, who is at my side as a pastoral intern at Ohalei Rachamim and bears a profound burden for the Israelis from Ethiopia.

You have been reading in the Revive Israel section of this newsletter about the disciple-training center being pioneered by Asher Intrater. My firstborn son, David, will now be working with Asher full-time in launching this key work outside of Jerusalem. What we invest in our natural and spiritual children is reproduced to become as olive plants around our table.

This dynamic of "like reproducing like" is embedded in the fabric of creation. In the first chapter of Genesis God announces His method. "Let the earth bring forth grass, the herb that yields seed, and the fruit tree that yields fruit according to its kind, whose seed is in itself, on the earth." The seed of reproduction is already inside every kind of life, in order to make more. Amazing! So it is with spiritual reproduction. You and I already have within us the seed of more sons and daughters of the Living God. It is our God-given destiny and privilege to bring forth the next generation of Messiah's servants. The multiplying harvest we long for in Israel and in the earth cannot happen apart from intentional, high commitment, deep investment relationships. "By this is My Father glorified, that you bear much fruit; so you will be My disciples." John 15:8


Yeshua's way of making a disciple is vital to understand. One of them was called "the disciple whom Yeshua loved." John 13:23; 21:7 This, the youngest of His original followers, was John (Yochanan). He was the one who leaned on Yeshua's chest during the Passover meal. He literally heard the Messiah's heartbeat. Their relationship apparently included affection, enjoyment, intimacy and lots of trust. John relied upon Yeshua for instruction and was eager to be with Him. He was absorbent. This is radically evident in reading John's Gospel. Chapter 14 through Chapter 17 is the longest unbroken district of truth pouring from the Master in the New Covenant writings. That one discourse contains grand revelations about the relationship of Yeshua and His Father, the role of the Ruach HaKodesh and the Lord's passion for true unity among His followers. This fisherman went on to pen 1st, 2nd and 3rd John together with Revelation. Yochanan was only able to receive and pass on this body of truth because of his close range relationship with Yeshua.


Moses stood gazing at the promised land, a goal that had consumed forty endless years. He begged God to grant him the satisfaction of going in. Instead, the Lord instructed Moses to appoint Joshua, his spiritual son, to take Israel into their covenant home.

I am now 56. I was already 45 when we arrived in Israel, so there are aspects of "taking the people in" that I can never achieve. My sons must do this. I have no regret. It is a thrill to see them receiving the mantle to plant new congregations, establish training centers and flourish in layers of Israeli society that will never be accessible to me.

This is God's pattern. Joshua spent 40 years (!) learning from Moses. When Moses was talking to God "face to face" Joshua refused to leave the tabernacle (Exodus 33:11). He watched his mentor. Joshua was eager to learn, eager to serve. This is a vital attitude for young men and women who want to be used of God. You must find spiritual moms and dads and be faithful to them. None of them will be perfect. Even Moses wasn't. But healthy spiritual reproduction requires this stage, just as I could not become a father or grandfather without first being a son.


The priests of Israel served from age 30 to age 50. We baby boomers are in our fifties. This is the season of life for giving ourselves to the next generation. We have a lot to give, and the young people approaching 30 are at peak capacity to receive. They are ready to embrace responsibility, to exercise creativity, to participate in leadership teams and to prepare for senior levels of leadership. We are seeing dramatic fruit from passing the torch. This is God's program of blessing and multiplication: m'dor l'dor - from generation to generation. I honor my fathers in the faith by entrusting what they gave me to my sons in the faith.


My dad could have kicked me out of the bathroom that morning when he was shaving. I'm glad he didn't. But I wonder how many times do we block young men and women from receiving, because we deny them intimate moments of learning at our side. How are we preparing for the visitation the Lord has promised Israel and the nations in the latter days? What will reproduce lasting fruit... the number of tasks I accomplish or the number of spiritual sons and daughters for whom I have laid down my life?

By Eitan Shishkoff


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12:00 13Sep04 webmaster -
Article posted

10:28 10Jul05 Frieda E. Wegner -
Wonderful article. One sentence will go with me always. "What will produce lasting fruit ... the number of tasks I accomplish or the number of spiritual sons and daughters for whom I have laid down my life?"

21:08 23Sep07 Ben Burton -
I was able and blessed to meet Eliezer Urbach this Yom Kippur.