The Power of Mentoring

I have a nearly indescribable feeling that I would like to, well… describe to you.

I am refreshed, energized, challenged and at peace. If you don’t know much about we preacher types, that’s unusual for a Monday morning. In fact, I have preacher friends who have a ritual of writing their resignation letters every Monday, praying over them and then throwing them away.

I thank God I don’t get that kind of grief every weekend, or at least that I’m too thick in the head to notice it… please don’t point it out if I am. I’d like to stay blissfully unaware.

The reason for my Monday morning glee is that I just spent two plus hours with one of the two men I consider to be my mentors in life and ministry. In the course of that time we talked about what we have been reading, what we have been experiencing and what has us dumbfounded.

Funny, I talked the most during that last part…

Over the years I have established a relationship with these men that allows them to be honest with me, even when I am both ignorant and stupid. There is a difference between those two you know?

Ignorance is when you do something stupid, but didn’t know you were doing something stupid. Stupid, is doing something when you’re already pretty sure whatever you’re doing might be stupid.

These two men have said some difficult things to me over the years:

  • “So what you’re telling me is… you’re God. Am I getting that right?”
  • “You need to quit using that word. It makes you sound like a girl.”
  • “It’s time you man up on that issue. Quit wussin out and be a pastor.”

You’d think those words might be offensive, but… well, actually they really were. Painful.

However, their words didn’t sting nearly as bad as my personal revelation of their accuracy in describing the real me I was refusing to see. That’ll leave a mark.

I couldn’t take those criticisms from just anyone. They have to come from a trusted source, someone you legitimately respect, someone you have given internal and external permission to grow you up.

And, for the record, it’s always easier to take the hard stuff when it’s coming from the same mouth that has built you up, encouraged you, loved you and been your cheerleader.

These men in my life have encouraged me on countless occasions, helped me process the toughest situations and earned the right to call me out when they see what I cannot, or will not, see in my own life and ministry.

This is what it means to have a mentor, and the Bible urges each one of us to live under that authority, enjoy the friendship of and submit to the guidance of Godly mentors:

11 At the end of your life, you will lament

when your physical body has been consumed,

12 and you will say, “How I hated discipline,

and how my heart despised correction.

13 I didn’t obey my teachers

or listen closely to my mentors.

14 I was on the verge of complete ruin

before the entire community.”

The Holy Bible : Holman Christian Standard Version. (Nashville: Holman Bible Publishers, 2003), Pr 5:10–14.

5 a wise man will listen and increase his learning,

and a discerning man will obtain guidance—

The Holy Bible : Holman Christian Standard Version. (Nashville: Holman Bible Publishers, 2003), Pr 1:5.

Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus by the command of God our Savior and of Christ Jesus our hope,

2 To Timothy my true son in the faith

The Holy Bible : New International Version, electronic ed. (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1996), 1 Ti 1.

Paul is a fantastic example of mentoring. Even though he was super intelligent and high educated, he began his ministry under the instruction and guidance of Barnabas, he partnered and served alongside Silas and he raised up many like Timothy.

In other words Paul was mentored by Barnabas. Paul partnered with Silas. Paul mentored Timothy.

We all need a Barnabas to mentor us. We all need a Silas that marches beside us into battle. We all need a Timothy that we are mentoring up in the faith.

Who you got?

One thing we cannot neglect in our mentoring is the need for our relationships to be intergenerational. We are so conditioned to be age graded that 30 year olds reading this think their Barnabas needs to be the 31 year old from their small group who has been going to church about 6 months longer than they have. Their Silas needs to be their best friend from high school who would never risk challenging you because of your friendship. And, your Timothy is probably that 28 year old “kid” who works down the hall from you.

Well, maybe, but don’t forget that God challenges us to relate to, enjoy and spend time with those of all generations. Remember, it does NOT take a village to raise a child… it takes a church to make a man (or, a woman if you’re so genetically inclined).

Think about seeking a Barnabas at least a generation ahead of you, a Silas within a generation and a Timothy 1-2 generations behind you. This is a Biblical model for mentoring.

1You must teach what is in accord with sound doctrine. 2 Teach the older men to be temperate, worthy of respect, self-controlled, and sound in faith, in love and in endurance.

3 Likewise, teach the older women to be reverent in the way they live, not to be slanderers or addicted to much wine, but to teach what is good. 4 Then they can train the younger women to love their husbands and children, 5 to be self-controlled and pure, to be busy at home, to be kind, and to be subject to their husbands, so that no one will malign the word of God.

6 Similarly, encourage the young men to be self-controlled.

1 The Holy Bible : New International Version, electronic ed. (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1996), Tt 2:1–6.

Finally, if you’re going to take this thing seriously, you have to do more than believe it. You have to do something about it. You’re going to have to seek out those relationships, and since we are in a culture that has not valued these principles in our recent history, you may have to be persistent and flexible until you find someone is willing to come alongside you for the journey.

I suggest you you start by looking for your Barnabas. They may be able to help you with the rest of the process.

There are loads of materials out there, but I suggest when you begin your mentoring relationship you keep it very simple.

  • In the beginning meet together regularly (once or twice a month)
  • Stay in touch by phone/email more regularly, as you hold each other accountable for your spiritual progress (see list of questions below)
  • Maybe share your Barnabas with your Silas, meeting as a group of three instead of two
  • Make sure your mentors are of the same sex. Almost nothing good can come from deep, intimate connections with someone of the opposite sex… unless you’re dating or married and that’s a whole other blog
  • Practice complete honesty and openness. If not, what’s the point?
  • Be prepared to submit. Your mentors job is to raise you up, so, you have to remember you are not grown up yet
  • Make the Bible the centerpiece of your conversation
  • Don’t pray with each other, pray for each other

Above all remember that this is a journey. It will take time and you’re not looking to cross some finish line. It’s a lifelong walk, but soon you will discover that this walk is best taken with a friend!

Iron sharpens iron,

and one man sharpens another.

The Holy Bible : English Standard Version. (Wheaton: Standard Bible Society, 2001), Pr 27:17.

Finally, thank you Chuck and Glen for the years of encouragement, support and correction. You are my heros.

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RESOURCES:

Some potential questions to regularly ask one another in a mentoring relationship

  1. When did you last spend time in prayer and Bible study?
  2. Is there anything in your life keeping you from growing in Christ?
  3. What has your biggest victory been since we talked last?
  4. What has your worst failure been since we talked last?
  5. Where could you use some help?
  6. How can I pray for you?

A great resource for mentoring, when you are ready to take it to the next level, is a 12 week study called Opportunity Season. I have partnered with several men, through several rounds of this book and cannot say enough about it.

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