Yesterday I shared the concept of mentorship with my students at ACU. From the chagrined looks and the blank stares I could tell that this was a topic that not many had taken seriously, which really made my heart hurt. How much of the Christian life do we miss out on by not taking advantage of the godly influence of mentorship?
If you’re a fan of the NFL, you’ve seen this in play recently. Mike Vick did some heinous stuff, and part of his reinstatement after prison was having Tony Dungy as his mentor. While he hasn’t been perfect, he has cleaned up a lot, made amends to many, and just won the AP NFL Comeback Player of the Year Award. I think his relationship with a godly man like Dungy was a big part of that.
I say this knowing that it sounds like hyperbole, but it isn’t: A mentoring relationship is likely the most important relationship after marriage that any Christian builds. Without mentorship and guidance and help, it is highly unlikely that we can be everything God wants us to be.
In the previous posts in this series I mentioned the circle of family and the circle of friends, but they can only help us so much. They are so close to us that at times they can’t help us grow in Christ. Often they have to be careful not to say too much, or they have to stay out of a situation so that they don’t get backlash or hurt our feelings. Mentors are required to get in our business a little, step on our toes when we need it, and give us guidance about how to apply biblical truth to our lives.
Mentorship was critical to the Apostle Paul:
“Be imitators of me, just as I also am of Christ.” (1 Corinthians 11:1)
He wanted the people in his circle of influence to have a mentor. He wanted them to have someone who they could see following Christ, not just hear about it. He wanted them to have a pattern or mold to follow. And he expected his great protégé, Timothy, to follow that pattern and mentor others as well:
“The things which you have heard from me in the presence of many witnesses, entrust these to faithful men who will be able to teach others also.” (2 Timothy 2:2)
Mentoring is so INCREDIBLY critical to a successful walk with Christ. Lest you think that I am just whistling Dixie, I can tell you from experience the power that mentorship has on my own life. I know what it is to have someone pour Christ into me by example. Mentorship is CRITICAL. Mentors give us “handles” to hold onto in our Christian walk by showing us what authentic Christianity looks like. They help us see issues as God sees them and speak biblical truth into our lives.
So if you do not have a mentor, how do you get one?
- Pray and ask God for help in finding a good mentor (or two) to follow. Ask Him for wisdom and for discernment in finding someone you can follow.
- Look for someone who is “the real deal” as a follower of Christ. In 1 Cor 11:1 Paul says “Be imitators of me, just as I also am of Christ.” Find someone to imitate who is imitating Christ! (as a caveat, that means you have to know who Jesus is and what His priorities are)
- Get closer to them. Be proactive and take some steps to get to know them. There are hypocrites out there, so get closer while continuing to evaluate a potential mentor. See how they relate to their family, their job, their church, etc. Look to be sure they are not a fake, which means finding their weaknesses and flaws too. There is no such thing as perfect, but a mentor should be walking with Christ honestly.
- The more you see the good in them, ask them to speak into your life. See what is important to them and ask for advice. Get some input on how you can be more like Jesus. That might be over coffee or after church or on the phone. It can be formal or informal, but it must be intentional.
- Check their advice against Scripture and take what is good. Apply it and see what happens. That builds trust and confidence, and even if it doesn’t work perfectly that can be more of a chance to continue to build and grow your relationship.
- Lather, rinse, repeat #3-6.
Mentorship is a critical component of our walk with Christ. Without it, we will have a terrible time in walking with the Lord.
How about you? If you have a mentor, how did you build the relationship? What attracted you to your mentor? How does your mentoring relationship work? If not, what is holding you back?