God blessed me with a very fortunate life. I had (and still do) parents who were very involved and active in our local church in Alexis, NC. They saw to it that I was raised in a Christian family, because Jesus was important to them and I was important to them. I also had plenty of other people who were involved in my life to give me guidance, nuggets of wisdom and their presence.
People like Lottie Gladden (who is now with Jesus), a sweet little old lady, who let a rambunctious 8 year old sit with her every Sunday morning in church and fed him every type of candy known to man. But, she also loved me and loved spending time with me. People like Kerry Clippard, my Sunday School teacher for many years, who was ALWAYS there… and also let me fish in his pond at least a million times – no exaggeration. My youth choir pastor, Jerry Anderson, who spent countless hours helping me read and understand the Bible and challenged me very often with the truths in God’s Word. My youth pastor, Scott Jenkins, who taught me so many things and walked with me through a lot of tough decisions… and still does to this day. Wes Harmon, who played lots of paintball with me and the guys, and who drove me to and the paintball store on MANY occasions while having some pretty serious talks. These are just a few of the people God has placed in my life over the years. Some are still living and some are more alive now than they ever were.
I am forever indebted to each of these people for the roles they played in my life. Each one of them have had a hand in shaping me into the man I am today. Each one of them pointed me towards Jesus and encouraged me to surrender to Him. And for that, I am most grateful.
There are many of these types of relationships that we can see in scripture: Moses and Joshua (Exodus 24:13, Exodus – Deuteronomy), Elijah and Elisha (2 Kings), David and Solomon (1 Kings 2, Proverbs), Naomi and Ruth (Ruth), Lois, Eunice and Timothy (2 Timothy 1:3-5), Paul and Timothy (1st and 2nd Timothy), Barnabas and Paul (Acts 9, 11), and Jesus and His Disciples (the Gospels)…to name a few.
These types of relationships were incredibly important and beneficial in the Bible. The same is true today! These relationships, if God-powered, can truly change the heart and mind of a person.
1. Mentoring Relationships are Biblical
In Deuteronomy 6:4-9, Moses instructs the Israelites to be diligent in teaching God’s truths to the younger generations. He instructs them to “talk of them [Word of God] when you sit in your house, when you walk by the way, when you lie down, and when you rise up. You shall bind them as a sign on your hand, and they shall be as frontlets between your eyes. You shall write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates.” Basically, in every situation, at all times. No doubt, Moses is speaking to parents about the discipleship and instruction of their own children. But Moses is also addressing the entire assembly. That would imply that he is also speaking to grandparents, aunts, uncles, men, women, married, singles, priests, farmers, soldiers, housewives, etc.
Titus 2 also gives us instruction on the importance and method of mentoring. Men are to mentor younger men and women are to mentor younger women. There is no reference to familial relationships here. This is a call for God’s people to mentor. Mentoring is vital to passing on our faith and growing up mature Believers.
But also notice in both passages what the relationship is to be built on–God’s Word, sound doctrine, Christian behavior, loving people, marriage, speech, self-control and obedience. God’s Word is what lasts forever and the Gospel is what changes lives. This means that all of my advice and encouragement, if not rooted in God’s Word, is not fruitful and has no place in a Biblical Mentoring relationship.
Based on the principles in Deuteronomy and Titus, Believers are to be actively, intentionally involved in and pursuing Biblical, Gospel-centered mentoring relationships with other Believers.
2. Mentoring Relationships are Necessary for Discipleship
Hearing the Word of God is necessary for salvation (Romans 10:17). Hearing the Word of God is also necessary for growing in faith as a believer (Hebrews 5:11-14). In a Biblical mentoring relationship, we have the opportunity to speak the truth of God’s Word into the lives of those we are mentoring. One thing I have observed over the 15+ years I have been involved in student ministry is that I can tell students one thing over and over and over again, but when someone else tells them the same thing ONCE, they suddenly get it.
There is a powerful principle at work here. If someone has multiple people pouring in to them, they may here the same truth over and over again in multiple ways… heightening the possibility for the truth will to sink in. For example, if a student in our student ministry has mom and dad, a Sunday school teacher, a small group leader and another person or two in the church speaking truth in their lives, their chances are much greater of growing into spiritual maturity than the kid who has none of this.
As important as hearing the Word of God is, it is no less important that God’s Word is seen. Look at what the apostle Paul says in 1 Corinthians 11:1, “Be imitators of me, as I am of Christ.” Paul is saying, “Watch my life as I live out the Gospel, and then do that.” We, as mentors, have an opportunity to live out the Gospel in front of those we are mentoring. As we live out our ‘normal’ life, they are watching. They are watching as we deal with things like suffering, disappointment, failure, success, friendships, conflict, family, marriage, children, money, tithing, reading the Bible, prayer. We can teach things such as asking and offering forgiveness, how to deal with sin in our lives and the lives of others, how to disciple others…all in how we live life before them. What an amazing opportunity we have to live the Gospel before a captive audience.
Case in point, Biblical mentoring is discipleship!
3. Mentoring Relationships Reveal the Heart of the Mentor
In Matthew 22:36-40, Jesus says “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the great and first commandment. And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. On these two commandments depend all the Law and the Prophets.” Basically, we should love God above all else and we should love people as ourselves.
First, mentoring is about being obedient to God! Just take another look at the list in the first part of this article. Mentoring happens over and over and over in the Bible. Remember, Deuteronomy 6:4-9 is speaking directly to this idea.
Secondly, mentoring is about loving people. Let me make a quick distinction here… Obedience to God has to be the number one compelling factor in mentoring or it is not Biblical! Biblical mentoring is more about obedience to God than it is about the people being mentored.
John 14:21 says, “Whoever has my commandments and keeps them, it is he who loves me…” Jesus says that a life of obedience to God is evidence of a life that is committed to God. Biblical mentorship is evidence of a life committed to God because Biblical mentorship is obedience. As a believer, committed to God, I have been given a call to speak truth to other believers and to live life with them…because I love God and God loves people!
If we are obedient to the Father, even when the relationship is difficult and seemingly fruitless, we continue. We continue because God has given us a tremendous capacity to love people. We want to see them experience God in ways we never have. We desire to see them live for God and pass on the truth of His goodness to those who come behind them. We continue because God’s love for us is not conditional, and so our love for them will not be conditional.
I believe that mentoring should be an active, intentional and ongoing part of every Believer’s life. A word of caution, though…mentoring is unpredictable, messy, uncomfortable, inconvenient, and can be, at times, heart-breaking. But the pay-off is worth it. Lives can be changed for the long haul. God can be glorified for generations if we are willing to invest the time, prayers, tears, and commitment.