Our world is flooded with definitions of what it means to mentor or be mentored. Countless accounts exist of mentoring experiences, both good and bad. We romanticize mentoring in many of our favorite movies; Yoda and Luke Skywalker, Professor Dumbledore and Harry Potter, and Mr. Miyagi and The Karate Kid are among the ones we will never forget. Merriam-Webster defines mentoring as “a trusted counselor or guide,” and it is a concept that has stood the test of time. In fact, the word “mentor” is derived from a character found in Homer’s Odyssey. More importantly, this relationship is portrayed as a practice done by pillars of the faith, which can leave us feeling intimidated by the practice. However, mentoring is not merely for the screen or only “spiritual elite.” Instead, we can all benefit from this deeply personal practice.
Jesus, in His ministry, embodied the perfect mentor as He lived life with His disciples. We are also given instructions to mentor throughout scripture: Be shepherds of God’s flock (1 Peter 5:2-3), train and teach (Titus 5), iron sharpens iron (Proverbs 17:27), and commend your works to another (Psalm 145:4). In many ways, spiritual mentoring is an invitation to partake in the life and work of Jesus rather than remaining a far off concept or a Christian checklist item. It is a practice set up by God that allows people not just to experience the teachings of Jesus, but rather participate in them.
We can also look at Jesus’s own ministry as an example for us to follow. His ministry was a tapestry of relationship. He spent much of His life communing with His disciples- walking, eating, sharing life with one another, and imparting wisdom so that others might know the Father. This is the basis of spiritual mentoring- that we might partake in the life of Jesus through relationship with one another. Keith R. Anderson in His book, Spiritual Mentoring, writes, “the life of Jesus Christ and its call, ‘follow me,’ must certainly be experienced as a call to teach what he taught and to teach as he taught.” Mentoring is not imparting laws on someone else, rather it is bringing life to someone by inviting them to know Jesus. It is intimate and personal, not stiff and lifeless. It is not about fixing the problems of others but loving them through struggle. And ultimately, it is not about attaining perfection on behalf of another, but pointing them to the perfection of the Father. When we receive Jesus into our lives, we receive His nature. We become a shepherd, friend, teacher, and counselor. In order to follow the Great Commision to make disciples, we must be relentlessly unafraid to give ourselves over to the lives of others, walking intimately and intentionally with them.
In order to mentor and be mentored, one must bring three things to the relationship: dependence on God, intentionality, and vulnerability. First and foremost, both parties must rely not on their own strength and wisdom, but on the Spirit to guide them. Anderson writes, “Spiritual mentoring is a triadic relationship between mentor, mentoree, and the Holy Spirit, where the mentoree can discover, through the already present action of God, intimacy with God, ultimate identity as a child of God, and a unique voice for Kingdom responsibility.” One has the power to impart the teachings and wisdom of Jesus only when they are in relationship with Him. We are not qualified to mentor apart from Him.
Furthermore, authentic spiritual mentoring requires time and intentionality. Jesus, the Messiah, came to live among the people. John 1:14 states, “The Word became flesh, and made His dwelling among us”. This literally means that He “lived in His tent, among us.” In our hurried world, the idea of pitching our own tents and yoking ourselves to certain commitments can bring friction and uncomfortability. However, Jesus was in the business of giving His time, resources, and attention to others for the sake of the Kingdom. When we follow this example and willingly hand our lives over to making, or becoming, disciples, we not only plant seeds but also allow time for the fruit of His Spirit to be cultivated.
Finally, authentic mentoring relationships have the power to transform a community because they allow room for honesty and vulnerability. Isolation has become a great antithesis to a healthy community. Pride and fear are often the enemy of freedom within a relationship. Nevertheless, trust is at the heart of mentoring. The walls of secrecy lose their power when there is freedom to confess in a trusted environment. James commands us in chapter 5:16, “Therefore, confess your sins to one another and pray for one another, that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person has great power as it is working.” There is power and healing in the place where there is confession and honesty. Therefore, we can be unafraid to display weakness in the presence of a mentor or a mentee when the relationship is constructed to be safe, honest, and accepting.
Following Jesus requires the willingness to live in fellowship with one another. If we claim to love Jesus than we will, with eagerness and anticipation, feed His sheep. Mentoring is an incredible opportunity to partake in the life of Jesus Christ through communing with fellow brothers and sisters, cultivating an atmosphere of trust and vulnerability, celebrating and practicing all that He commands, and experiencing freedom through confession and honesty.
Interested in Christian mentoring? Find more information about mentoring or being mentored through ATLAS at www.atlasofsiouxcenter.org
“ATLAS provides the opportunity to partake in the life of Jesus through mentoring. We desire to help the hurting, equip the followers of Jesus, and unite the community. The mentoring program is one of the ways that we seek to fulfill this mission. We regularly witness people walk through our doors who are hungry for the healing, community, and hope. Mentoring through ATLAS opens up doors for true transformation and growth in the lives of both the mentee and the mentor. Not only does it impact the lives of the people involved, but our prayer is that it would have a ripple effect in our community and beyond. By serving through ATLAS, our mentors have the opportunity to join with God in the transformation of lives and the opportunity to walk alongside people as Jesus did.” –Gail Ashmore