I have heard it said, “If you see a turtle on a post, you know it didn’t get there by itself.” That’s certainly been true in my life. I have been mentored by so many caring and loving people. In large part, I am who I am today through God using these men and women to intentionally pour into my life.
Mentoring is defined by Webster as teaching or giving advice or guidance to someone, such as a less experienced person or child. Simply stated, mentoring is the act of helping someone learn. The word “Mentor” originates from Homer and the ancient Greek language. The name is derived from a character found in Homer’s Odyssey named Mentor. Mentor was the trusted friend of Odysseus. During the Trojan war, Mentor stayed behind in Ithaca to watch over the upbringing of Telemachus, the son of Odysseus. Mentor advised Telemachus with the objective of preparing him to take responsibility for family responsibilities during his father’s absence.
Here are some biblical examples of mentoring: Moses mentored Joshua, Naomi mentored her daughter-in-law Ruth, Elijah mentored Elisha, Jesus mentored His Disciples, Barnabas mentored Paul, Paul mentored Timothy, Priscilla, and Aquila mentored Apollos. This is just a handful of the many mentioned in the Bible. Notice, on the list, that Jesus mentored His disciples during His ministry here on earth. In fact, He said: “If anyone serves me, he must follow me” (John 12:26).
You might ask, “Is all mentoring the same?” the answer is no. Some mentoring takes place over a lifetime, and others for a season of life. Christian mentoring is different from other mentoring in that it encourages a commitment to grow in an ever-increasing degree of Christlikeness.
Paul urged the Corinthians, “Be imitators of me, as I am of Christ” (1 Corinthians 11:1). Paul is not declaring perfection here. He is inviting them to follow his example. He desires to mentor the believers in Corinth to ever-increasing Christlikeness. A mentor helps another take their next growth step by their example and teaching.
As believers, we understand that mentoring is described as the process of helping someone pursue God. The biblical word for mentoring is “disciple making” (Matthew 28:19-20). Jesus modeled mentoring. Paul modeled mentoring. The Bible shows mentoring to be a significant part of God’s plan for people to grow in their faith (Eph 4:11-16).
There are three simple principles we can use to help us mentor others. The first principle is that in mentoring, less is more. The starting point for mentoring is the home and extends to your other spheres of influence. Jesus changed the world by pouring into a handful of people. God’s strategy to reach every generation is mentoring a small number at a time, maybe one or two or three, in a reproducible way. The key is everyone having a mentor and being mentored. Titus 2 gives us this principle of older women pouring into younger women and older men pouring into younger men. It is the 2 Timothy 2:2 principle of generational mentoring.
The second principle is that in mentoring, a trusting environment of truth and love must be established. There is no transformation without a desire to share and receive truth. This truth has to be shared in a loving way that can be received constructively by people. Paul writes, “Rather, speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ” (Ephesians 4:15). We help others grow as we speak the truth motivated by love. We grow as we receive such truth. We earn the right to speak into the lives of others. We can’t force others to accept the truth. Our responsibility is to consistently help people discover biblical truth and apply it to their lives.
The third principle is that in mentoring, there needs to be an action orientation. The pursuit of knowing God and making Him known is a journey, not a destination. Paul, talking about this journey of knowing God and making Him known, writes: “Not that I have already obtained this or am already perfect, but I press on to make it my own because Christ Jesus has made me his own. Brothers, I do not consider that I have made it my own. But one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 3:12-14). Paul still had room to grow in His knowledge of Christ. He was determined to grow. Like a runner, he strived to run to complete the race of Knowing God and making Him known. His task is to concentrate on one thing – winning the prize. A mentor is not a better person than the one they are pouring into. They are simply further down the road. The more people discover life-changing truth, growing, and helping the next person do the same, the more God’s kingdom expands.
Paul writes these insightful words to his young protégé, Timothy: “What you have heard from me in the presence of many witnesses entrust to faithful men, who will be able to teach others also” (2 Timothy 2:2). This one verse speaks of four generations of believers doing life with one another. We have Paul. We have Timothy. We have others. We have the others who were taught by the others. What is expressed here is a generational chain of discipleship and mentoring. I do not believe it is an expression of age as much as a growing environment made up of one believer pouring into another.
The simple truth is that we have not been made to go through life alone. Kevin Harney writes in his book, Reckless Faith: “There is nothing more significant than loving relationships. In the entire universe, nothing trumps their value and importance.” As believers, we need people who are farther up the road of faith pouring into us. At the same time, we each need to help others in their faith journey. This is normative behavior for Christ followers!
I am so thankful for my parents. My parents were not believers until I was fifteen. I came to Christ when I was five. But, they were loving and moral examples for me and modeled a strong marriage. I am also so thankful for my spiritual parents and other mentors whom God has used to pour into my life over the years. I did not have a Christian pedigree, and their decision to pour into my life has been of incalculable value to me. I am committed to pouring into others. I still need people pouring into me. But, I also need to pour into others.
God has called all of us to be mentored and be mentors. There comes a time in people’s lives where they cease striving to be the hero and become hero makers. Won’t you seek to be mentored and mentor others?