Early in my Christian walk, when I was much younger, as an adult who made up his mind to follow Christ, I didn’t so much as seek out mentorship in the Church, or I didn’t think of it like that. I came for the sermons and friendships. I did intentionally chose this particular church because of the pastor. And, I was also interested in the dating prospects. Nothing wrong with that, I wanted a Christian mate, a marriage partner (still do, if it’s God’s will), and my behavior in this regard was appropriate.
I began attending a small congregation. And man, it seemed like everyone was either 10+ years older or 10+ years younger. No peers my age. And so I treated those older than me, like the Word says, like my elders. And the younger, like brothers and sisters. This was the beginning of mentoring and being mentored, I see.
Making friends in the Church didn’t seem much easier than making them in the secular world. I do find it a kind of truism that, friends first choose us. And God always had a friend or two for me, sometimes not the ones I would have chosen, but perhaps the ones we both needed at the time. As time and life goes on, friends sometimes change. Sad perhaps, but true.
After maybe a couple of years with that first church, I had at least two mentors there. First of all, my pastor was a genuine man of God, and he had the attitude and spirit to help others, not because he had to, but because he was willing, and he was good at it. He truly has a heart for God’s people.
He’d be intentional about his mentoring me, and would say, Let’s get together for a meal or coffee and talk about what Jesus is doing in your life. I’d meet at his home sometimes, but usually at the church or a diner. Really, he’d ask that all the time, What’s Jesus doing in your life? It left a lasting impression on me. It really stuck with me. That’s what we should be concerned about in each other’s lives. And of note, I haven’t heard it asked of me many times in the Church since then, some 15+ yeara ago. I talked with that pastor on the phone recently , and told him this and he concurred to the effect that, yeah, sadly it’s uncommon either to find a mentor or be properly discipled. I don’t recall ever asking him to mentor me, he just did it. And I have to say, looking back at that, that’s a real pastor for you, a mentor, a good friend and Christian example, an elder and a brother, quite capable of teaching the Word and showing us how to live in the Spirit.
Well, I am flying by the seat of my pants to write this, as is common, you may know, and thought maybe I’d give a recap of mentors that come to mind. But I’m not going to do that after all.
Rather, I will say, when I wasn’t looking for a mentor, God provided one or two. Some, thwy were not what I was looking for of expected. The old lady I worked for was one of my greatest mentors, and I think she will remain so, towards the top of all mentors I’ll ever encounter – you know what I mean? She had a heart of gold, and I miss her presence.
Later on in my Christian walk, I began looking intently for someone to mentor me. I guess I was about 28 or so, and it seemed like it was a bust. Sadly, the pastor I asked then explained why he couldn’t. And very unfortunately for the congregation, shortly thereafter, he fell and ran off with a mistress. You know, you don’t think that can happen at a church you’re at, until it does.
I don’t know, but I think maybe people don’t think about mentoring when they’ve not had a lack of Christian friends or elders or whathaveyou speaking into their lives. Some people just seem to get that from day one. I found that hardly any of the 20-somethings I knew in my church, when I was 20-something myself, really talked about Christian things, the Word, living in the Spirit etc, outside of church services and meetings. Socializing was big on the agenda. I like fun like anyone else, but there were big opportunities missed for discipleship, relationships, maturing.
I would say that discipleship and mentoring go hand in hand, and they’re not two distinct things, they greatly overlap. Nowhere in the Bible are the words ‘mentor’ or ‘mentoring,’ but it seems very clear that Jesus spent, not just time with his students as a group, the 12, but knew each one personally, and worked with them personally. They each had different personalities, many had different backgrounds, and different levels of understanding. And He brought them all to the same understanding, and grew each owns capabilities, to preach and teach and mentor the next generation of believers.
We’re all like that, we’re all a bit different, being individuals of different backgrounds, experiences, personalities. Of course, Jesus is God and knows all things, He knows us intimately, but even so, He worked with each one. He does that now, He works with each one of us. We come from different places, different experiences, and we’re all at different places in our walk with the Lord. Our hope should be that we all come to fullness of knowledge, know and utilize our particular gifts, and walk in the Spirit always, loving one another. Certainly, coming together in the Body, we can be huge helps to one another, sharing experiences and things we’ve learned along the way, encouraging one another, correcting gracefully and kindly. How do we teach unless first we’re taught? The Word says, we should be teaching one another. This is not to be confused with certain teaching or pastoral offices. But how else do we raise up pastors and teachers and elders, unless we as the Body pour into each other? Some will know the Word better than others, some will stand outand God will direct these to lead. But all have a place, all can serve. I get frustratwd, I really do, when there seems little interest in helping the ‘laity’ understand God’s gifts in them by His Spirit and grow, mature and serve. It does seem to me that many in churches, the leadership seem quite content that members simply fill pews and tithe, yes also do God’s will, pray and read their bibles, but they seem uninterested in leading and teaching members – to fullness. Where is the scriptural confidence, boldness, joy, brotherly love, and so forth in most churches I’ve been part of? It always seems like there’s just a handful of these people, and the rest seem quiet, comfortable, complacent.
Some will walk the talk better still. Some will be gifted in teaching, another gifted charity, or helps, or Children’s ministry, or finance, or in something else. But all have something to offer, the Word says so. So why don’t we take that to heart and believe it, helping each other individually so that all come to see and understand and utilize what God has put in their heart and added to them to share with the Body.
When you see in scripture that, it’s these meetings of two or more people, rubbing off on each other, sharpening each other, and building each other up… What stands out to me is, that is a soft mentoring, it happens naturally. So that alone, shows that we are all worthy to be mentored. No one should be told, ‘No, I can’t mentor you because…XYZ. A moment of time is mentoring, let’s make time. Let’s look to be mentored, and mentor. Someone else knows more than us, I want to know more. Someone else knows less than we do, I want to share what I know with them. We’re to be a family, thicker than blood relatives, so we need to act like it. Because it’s the natural thing we do as Christians. Or is it? If it’s so natural, why do we have to remind each other to love one another. Why does Jesus have to tell us that? Because we need to live and walk and act with eye open and intentionally. We need to examine ourselves, and be molded into the image of God. We can’t help but be a mentor in that casual way. But in the brotherly way, we need to grow into it. Why teach, if not so that someone can learn and know exactly what is taught? And once they know, haven’t they also had the example of how to teach presented to them? Indeed.
Is it right that we all basically mentor one another? Yes. Yet how is it that we so often don’t know, even after spending so much time together, each other more intimately, what we deal with, where we struggle, what we need prayer for, what are gifts are, where we are in our walk with Jesus, and where and how we can each serve in the body? Why does scripture have to tell us that, Like iron sharpens iron, so one man sharpens another? Sharpen away, get to it.
However, pursuing an intentional mentorship isn’t easy to find. In my experience, it’s been incredibly hard to find any mature Christian, particularly one serving as an elder or pastor, who is capable of teaching and exemplifying the Christian walk, to get to know us personally and help us figure out things that we personally have trouble with, for instance. Why? I don’t know. They’re not lead to accept mentoring as part of their position? If I was an elder, I would make it known to everyone, I’m here, come see me if you need anything, here’s my cell phone number, these are my available hours, etc. I would keep adding to my qualifications and knowledge and abilities, I would learn a vocation like Marriage or Addiction Counciling, or whatever might be useful to the body of believers. I would go out of my way.
So this link I’m going to provide below, it’s talking about prison ministry. And in prison ministry, all of what I’ve read and heard about it, it’s so much about mentoring individuals. To me, this is so much the richer context of discipleship, and it’s done in prisons as the norm. But in our congregations, we seem to lack that individual approach largely. I wish I could impress that more deeply and convincingly, that if relationships is at the heart of ministry, then why aren’t we more relational and mentoring individuals as the norm in every day life and in the Church, in our own congregations, or why aren’t we adding to what we know?
Maybe we think we are. There have been a few times, at least, where I finally had a deeper talk about this with, normally the associate pastors, who were typically younger men and about my age. And I remember at least twice, when talking about ‘discipleship in the Church,’ I’d strongly suggest it to be lacking almost everywhere, and to my surprise, they thoroughly agreed. But they also had a sobering counterpoint, that although discipleship wasn’t as rich and dimensional as it ought, it’s a tough thing to develop in an older congregation where things are thought to be ‘good enough.’ A lot of people, elders included, may not have had a discipleship-mentoring dynamic, and they got along fine. It’s also pretty common, from what I read, that many pastors lack other pastors and mentors as peers. They tend to carry a lot on their shoulders and don’t have anyone besides their wives to open up to. That shouldn’t be the case, you know? We all need to have accountability and peers and mentors, we really should, even our pastors.
All thay said, I think these last couple years, God has been showing me that discipleship and mentoring have been present in my life, and I just didn’t see it for what it was. While not every pastor, associate pastor and elder has done a great job in the mentoring department – and I’ve had some frustrations with typically the younger of them (and I don’t need to revisit those instances where there seemed pride, lording their position over members, apathy and disrespect in some), nevertheless, much of them do model mature, upright, consistent walks with Christ.
What’s discipleship for? What is the aim of mentoring? We all get a bit of discipleship when we meet with one another. For weekly assemblies, for bible studies, and activities, eating together even recreation and church work days where we help keep up the campus and such. As we worship alongside one another, we learn to worship. As we pray together, we learn to pray. As we live in relation to one another, we should grow stronger relationally. As we greet one another, we learn to make friendships. As we build friendships, we should be learning that we’re family. At first, when I was a young Christian, I didn’t want to sing out, I didn’t want to raise my hands. But when I did, it was so freeing, I lifted my hands high to the Lord, I sang out loud, and I quit being self conscious in those moments. It’s not about me, it’s about God and His people.
And all the times I had a good mentor, I see now what they mentored me to do: seek God. It was always about encouraging me to seek God, read His Word, receive His council, lean and hold fast to God. So it is with the young Christian, they will seek out mentors, and may not find them or not often, but what they’re after is a brother to point them towards God, with kindness, gentleness, maybe at times depending on what’s at issue, stern but loving correction.
So maybe now, though I still wish I had a mentor or several, who can have too many? – I am getting the main point, that I should be asking God himself, reading His Word, searching for His guidance, His correction, His encouragement, His empathy. Who is my Mentor? It is Jesus, and He is able and willing and happy to mentor me, personally. And you, personally!
Even so, I wish we were all more like the brothers and sisters in Christ like we’re meant to be, like the pages of scripture exhort us to be. Too often I say to the Lord, Why is it so hard, even with Christians? Why am I lonely, where are my friends? Some of that is, I think, I need to step forward also. I need to befriend more wouldbe friends. We are not largely trying to outdo one another in love, like Paul exhorts us to.
And my experiences are many. When I was sick or troubled, who called or visited? When I specifically asked to be called back by the pastor, and petitioned prayer from the congregation, and no one did call, and I never did hear that anyone prayed for me, but my girlfriend, why was that? It hurt a lot.
I am reminded on those old instances sometimes, the frustrations, but I recognize that as my immaturity really. I forgive, and I often forget. I think I’m somewhat gifted in that regard, as it seems easier for me than it is for many others I have known. Some brothers simply do not forgive nor forget the slightest wrong done to them. When I can model what ought to be done, that’s a sort of mentoring.
I need to get over some old urks and frustrations with individuals. I don’t want to be angry with a brother, and I understand as much that remaining angry with a brother in Christ is sin.
One of the main components of purposes if you will in mentoring or the teacher-student dynamic, or the iron sharpening iron principle, is that we learn and earn maturity as we do this. The teacher learns to better teach. The student learns to better learn. As well the teacher learns also to learn, and the student sees and learns how to teach by the example. We all learn to lean on Christ. But you see? If we withhold mentoring in this regard, we are not learning to learn and learning to teach, we’re not putting ourselves in good positions og mutual accountability, we’re not growing into interwoven family members, we’re not loving as deeply as we could be. My cry then is, More, more! And certainly that is what Scripture says, When you see all these things, speaking of the growing darkness in our nation and world, it ought to cause us to seek God all the more, pray more, study more, meet together more, love more, give more, grow more.
Some Christians I will say, have too rigid a barrier up about who should be mentored, I have found. We all should be mentored, not just the most obviously gifted, not just the ones who stand out as ‘leader material’. We humans tend to have such narrow and short view. If anything should inform us in this regard, look at who Jesus picked to be among his 12 disciples, the apostles. Perhaps not many in Church leadership today might think perhaps that a plain ol’ fisherman of no particular education could be God’s choice in pastor or elder for your congregation. We need to be careful or mindful not to show favoritism, not to be worldly in our thinking. Remember that God chose Jesus to be born in a manger, to working class people, in a humble little town of no repute.
The congregations I’ve been part of, very large and small alike, typically hire a pastor, associate pastor, teaching pastor or worship leader (so many different titles, aren’t there) from outside the local church. I don’t understand this at all, because why aren’t we raising up men to lead and fill these posts and needs? The Bible say that’s what we ought to do. We should do that! Why should we ever lack anything or anyone? It’s just so shortsighted, if I may say so.
What I’ve found is, if anyone comes to our local congregation and says, I’m a missionary, I’m an elder, or I’m a lecturer, a teacher, a mentor at the prison, we largely just accept this as credentials and they’re welcomed with open arms. But if I say, I want to do those things, I want to learn, teach me, mentor me, I’ll be accountable to you all – it sk far seems like I’m asking to much of them. The elders largely don’t teach either, even though that’s a biblical requirement for elders. So, as I’m finding what Scripture says about many such things, like these, yet don’t see it in action in the Church, I’m passionate about learning Why that is, asking questions, and challenging it, not with mere personal opinion but citing scripture. One associate pastor, he never once cited scripture in his answers to me, and I kept asking for them, citing scripture myself concerning the question. Finally he said he prayed about it and would mentor me. Did he though? Nope. I never heard from him again. That’s so disappointing, cause you think a pastor or elder is someone you can certainly rely on. Not always. And I’m just going to have to move past it and not let it bother me. If I were to press further, would I be making trouble or not showing grace? So in that instance I take it as that’s just not the place or person I’m going to visit again. Leave well enough alone.
I don’t know how I’ll get the money to go to seminary, and I reject so far the usual way of going into great debt to do it. I’m going to begin praying about it and not cease, trusting God will make a way. Perhaps I’ll have to take a class at a time, and in so many years I’ll eventually complete it.
Alright, you’ve reaches the end of this post.
Read on, this article about prison mentoring is awesome. Let me know what you think, would love to hear from you.
Biblical Basis For Mentoring – by PrisonFellowship.org