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We love the idea. People investing in other people to share their knowledge and experiences. Mentees being inspired to come alongside others and become mentors themselves. Yet, this picture often remains little more than an idealistic dream as schedules fill up and time for “mentorship” dries up.
But what if mentorship wasn’t as hard as we made it? What if it, instead, was actually our best tool for preparing our companies, others, and ourselves for the future? What if it actually were a vital part of following Christ?
In his study Mentor: How Along-the-Way Discipleship Will Change Your Life–partially excerpted below–Chuck Lawless gives insight.
What’s Mentoring Anyway? A Simple Definition
Here’s my definition of mentoring. Mentoring is:
A God-given relationship in which one growing Christian encourages and equips
another believer to reach his or her potential as a disciple of Christ.
Mentoring is about relationships.
The Bible is filled with stories of people who invested in other people. Moses and Aaron. Moses and Joshua. Eli and Samuel. Naomi and Ruth. Elijah and Elisha. Jesus and the disciples. Paul and Timothy. Paul and Silas. Paul and Titus. Barnabas and John Mark. This list shouldn’t surprise us, because God is a God of relationships.
Now God has given us the church—that is, Christian people—to relate to us, teach us, and guide us. The church loves one another, serves one another, prays for one another, confronts one another, and forgives one another. This body of Christ, when obedient to its marching orders, produces disciples by preaching the gospel and teaching believers (see Matthew 28:18-20). When we develop discipling relationships, then, we’re doing what God told us to do.
Mentoring requires a growing Christian.
In a mentoring relationship one person leads, and another follows. Somebody must be in front, even if only slightly. Only when we’re growing can we guide others toward growth. Ideally, believers have both mentors who teach them and disciples they teach. We find an example in the New Testament in the relationship between Paul and Timothy. Paul was a leading apostle in the early New Testament church and the writer of multiple New Testament letters. He served as a mentor to Timothy, a younger early-church leader. We all need a Paul and a Timothy. Our Paul challenges us to grow, and we then urge our Timothy to grow also. In this way mentoring becomes a generational effort as the person we mentor gleans not only from our influence but also from the influence of our mentors (and our mentor’s mentor and so on).
Mentoring is a balance of encouraging and equipping.
Following Christ is difficult. A very real enemy fights against us (see Ephesians 6:11-12). Trials happen. Disappointments come. Friends sometimes reject our message or betray us. Trusting God is difficult when life seems unfair or the future is unclear. Without encouragement, giving up is a real temptation. Mentors can help in times like these. Good mentors encourage us when we’re stressed and equip us when we need training.
We need more than encouragement, though. In the midst of life’s struggles, we also need help doing what God calls us to do. We know we need to study the Bible, but we don’t always know how. Pastors tell us that prayer matters, but we don’t always understand how to pray. Telling others about Jesus is essential but not always modeled. We don’t need someone to tell us what to do as much as we need someone to show us how to do it. We need equipping.
In addition to encouraging, mentoring teaches Christian disciplines and life skills. Encouragement without equipping might lead to restored hope, but seldom does it produce life transformation—the goal of mentoring. Mentoring should change the way we live.