Some of the words we commonly use in Christian circles can’t be found in the Bible—for example, discipleship, revival, and evangelical. Then there are activities and celebrations we’re not specifically taught about, such as youth groups, Christmas, courtship, and even worship services.
Yet the Bible provides all the guiding principles and examples we need to discern, with the Holy Spirit’s help, how to live as Christians and function as churches.
Another principle not explicitly mentioned in the Bible is one that many Christians talk about: mentoring. You can find a plethora of books, articles, workshops, websites, and sermons on the topic. People are either seeking mentors or wanting to become mentors. Why? What is it about mentoring that appeals to us? Is there a biblical foundation for it?
One of the difficulties in discussing this topic is that so many people have a different idea of what mentoring is. To some, it is a form of teaching; to others, a special kind of friendship. Though definitions, approaches, and formats vary, the basic principle of mentoring is clear: one trusted and experienced person gives instruction, guidance, and encouragement to another, for either a specific area or life in general.
This type of relationship is not only recommended in Scripture, but it is also exemplified. Eli mentored Samuel. Jethro mentored Moses, and then Moses mentored Joshua. Barnabas mentored Paul and John Mark, and then Paul mentored Timothy, Priscilla, Aquila, and others. We also see mentoring relationships between Naomi and Ruth, and Mordecai and Esther.
READ Proverbs 9:9, Proverbs 22:6, Proverbs 27:17
The book of Proverbs is packed with practical wisdom, much of it encouraging the habit of seeking godly counsel. These verses are just a few examples. Friendship is described as something more than an arrangement between two people who have fun hanging out together. It is a relationship in which both parties bring out the best in each other through honesty, generosity, and the willingness to put oneself on the line.
READ Titus 2:3-8, 1 Peter 5:1-5, and 1 Thessalonians 2:13
Paul and Peter—who had themselves developed a mentoring relationship with many fledgling believers in the first-century church—in turn urged their brothers and sisters in Christ to mentor and encourage one another. Of course, part of the equation in a mentoring relationship is that the student or trainee must be willing to listen and humble enough to accept guidance.
It was not in arrogance but in humility that Paul told those believers to follow his example (1 Cor. 11:1); after all, he had committed himself wholly to following Christ, who gave the original “Follow Me” instruction to His disciples (Matt. 16:24). This gives us a good picture of how the ideal mentoring relationship works: The mentor, in being a mature disciple (or student) of Christ, can then lead and teach another disciple.
Jesus is truly the master mentor. Not only is He the most worthy to be followed and emulated, but He also showed us how to be excellent role models and teachers. As Benjamin Franklin said, “Tell me and I forget. Teach me and I remember. Involve me and I learn.”
In the Christian life, we can be spectators, students, or servants. Jesus had all three. Thousands thronged on hillsides to hear Him speak and then returned to their homes, more than likely unchanged. Dozens, maybe even hundreds, followed Him more closely and listened earnestly as He taught. But only a handful risked genuine involvement, working at Jesus’ side and learning at His feet. These are the ones who changed the world.
REFLECT + EXPLORE
You may have the desire to be a mentor, either to a younger person or to a newer believer. Before taking that step, however, ask God to reveal whether you are first able to be a mentee.
• We know that the Lord was a good teacher.
Read John 5:19-20. What did Jesus teach us about also being a good student?
• Isaiah had prophesied, “The virgin will conceive and give birth to a son, and will call him Immanuel,” a name that means “God with us” (Isa. 7:14 NIV).
How did Jesus’ life on earth—walking and eating and weeping with His disciples—play a part in His impact as a mentor? What can we learn from this?
• A lot of teaching and training these days can be done through books, ready-to-go programs, and websites.
Read 2 Timothy 2:2. How does Paul’s model of face-to-face mentoring, which required an investment of his time and energy, differ from what passes as mentoring today?
Answer the following questions, journaling your thoughts if possible.
• Who have been your mentors? How did they come to be in that position? What have you learned from them? How have you thanked them?
• It’s time to do some evaluation. Do you simply attend church and listen to sermons that you soon forget? Do you participate in Bible studies that allow God’s Word to sink deeper into your mind and heart? Or do you also get involved in service, missions, and outreach opportunities that solidify the truths of Scripture as you apply them in your daily life?
• If you are a mentor, how do you talk to, teach, or involve your mentee? If you aren’t currently functioning in that role, what steps could you take to become a godly mentor in someone else’s life? If you need a mentor, how might you initiate the process?