MENTORING: Kingdom-Building Relationships
“Having so fond an affection for you, we were well-pleased to impart to you not only the gospel of God but also our own lives, because you had become very dear to us.” 1 Thessalonians 2:8 NASB
Who is the one person in your life who had the most impact on you?
For some of us, that person is our mother. Others may think of a grandparent or an older brother. Many of us can name a teacher or a pastor. Whoever it was, it was someone you esteemed to know more than you and to be willing to spend time with you. So, the question is, are you impacting anyone?
JESUS AS MENTOR
As we think about who is impacting us today, the first person who should come to mind is Jesus Christ. The Gospels teach us how Jesus lived, building a community of believers, a few ordinary people at a time. How did he do this? He chose people to invest in, sharing with them who he was, his teachings, and his priorities. He actually lived life with them, demonstrating for them how to love God, love their neighbors, understand Scripture, evangelize the lost, pray – training them to take his place as leaders in the New Testament church which would one day expand to the uttermost parts of the earth.
He modeled for them putting the Kingdom first, showing them how they must reorient their thinking and their worship. You may recall our Lord’s response to Peter in Matthew 16 when after hearing Jesus speak of going to Jerusalem to suffer and die, Peter rebuked him saying “this shall never happen to you!” Jesus said, “Get behind me Satan! You are a hindrance to me. For you are not setting your mind on the things of God, but on the things of men.” Jesus loved his disciples enough to speak the truth to them for their own spiritual well-being. In other words, Jesus was the “master mentor.”
How would we best define mentoring? With, a book by George Robinson and Alvin Reid is helpful in stating that “mentoring in essence means that a master, expert, or someone with significant experience is imparting knowledge and skill to a younger person or beginner in an atmosphere of commitment, discipline, and accountability.” Another way to describe mentoring is to say that it is investing in another person – one’s time, attention, knowledge, and care – for the purpose of spiritual maturity.
Our study of Acts has showcased another master mentor, the Apostle Paul. We are familiar with Paul’s mentorship of Timothy, but we do not hear as much about Paul’s mentor, Barnabas, according to Reid and Robinson. Barnabas vouched for Paul before the church leaders, endorsing him, and helping him overcome his reputation as a persecutor of Christians. Barnabas was an encourager, another characteristic of a good mentor. Barnabas intentionally went to Tarsus and invited Paul to labor with him in the church at Antioch. They spent a year ministering and evangelizing together and after their disagreement, Barnabas mentored John Mark, who later wrote the gospel of Mark. Both of the men Barnabas invested in went on to do amazing things for the cause of Christ.
Most of us read about Jesus’ and Paul’s mentoring and think we are not qualified to do what they did. We need to dismiss that notion! Neither you nor I will ever be perfectly qualified or feel ready to mentor someone. The idea is for the mentee to imitate the mentor as they imitate Christ Jesus (1 Cor. 11:1). The point is obedience to Christ, not to the mentor. We, who are in Christ, are equipped to mentor with the help of the Holy Spirit, always pointing the person to Him, the Lord of our lives. Personal relationships provide a fertile field for maturity and development that group Bible studies simply cannot.
Now that we understand that we are qualified, some practical questions about mentoring arise. Let's consider a few. One question might be, “Who should I invest in?” Anyone who is hungry and wants the knowledge, experience and wise counsel of a more experienced person in the faith is a candidate. Another question could be, "Does age matter? " The mentee often is younger in the faith, but not necessarily in age. Like Barnabas and Paul, mentors can be peers.
An effective mentoring relationship will work only if the person being mentored is faithful, available and teachable. Desire to go deeper in one’s walk with Christ cannot be imposed upon the mentee. Those who wish to mentor often ask, “What can I do to encourage my protégé to learn to love the Lord more deeply?" Generally, the desired outcomes of mentoring are growth in doctrine (Scripture, theology), character (how to live well for Christ and His kingdom) and ministry (serving the body of Christ). To those ends, activities such as reading Scripture, going through a book together, praying and discussing life are all part of mentoring.
You might be wondering if all this has to happen in formal meetings. Not at all! Informal mentoring is also an option. While formal mentoring involves regularly scheduled meetings, informal mentoring occurs when the mentor invites others into their normal rhythms of life. In the running of errands, yard work, cooking, conference-going, shopping, and childcare, conversations about the church, theology, and kingdom-living occur. Informal mentoring allows the person you mentor to observe you as you live life and provides opportunity for them to learn by doing. After all, this was Jesus’ approach with his disciples, setting the example of obedience to the Father and humility, as he purposefully ministered to people in need.
As a worshiping community who seeks to love Jesus first and each other well, let us at Christ Covenant look for people in whom to invest. Younger believers may recognize in a more mature person an ability to handle God’s Word profitably, or a commitment to intentional evangelism, or to hospitality - things they desire. Older Christ-followers may recognize in a young believer a passion for Christ, a desire to know Him more through his Word, or giftings of the Spirit – things to develop.
Would you pray about getting involved in a mentoring relationship? Think about who you could mentor. Pray about who could mentor you. In this way, we help our people to love others, to honor Christ, and to imitate his method of building the Kingdom.
Debbie Stephenson -Women's Ministry Director for Christ Covenant Church, Rocky Mount