Who Wants Mentoring?
Counting the cost of following Jesus Christ
After teaching Bible study for more than 10 years, I noticed that the Christian women who attended often did not live any differently than the women who never cracked open a Bible. I struggled while trying to figure out the disconnection between what the women claimed to know in contrast with their daily life choices. After careful study of Scripture, observations within the church, and reflecting on my personal life, it dawned on me that generally within the timeframe of my ministry, discipleship and mentoring had not been a priority in many American churches.
Three years ago, I partnered with a few women to launch a small group ministry to meet this need. Within one year of launching that ministry, we had more women commit to small groups than we had leaders to serve them. Now, after moving to a new location, I have worked with a ministry partner to lead a team of ladies who intentionally mentor approximately 60 women and have been doing that successfully for one year. Women are hungry for discipleship and understand the blessings that can come from committing to it.
What Is Mentoring?
Some refer to mentoring as the “Titus 2 mandate.” Though it sounds kind of rigid, I like that description because it is quite appropriate. In Titus 2, we see specific examples of the practical lessons old men and women should pass down or teach younger men and women. The entire Bible reveals that teaching and training in this manner is not just a “good idea”; it is a biblical responsibility with dire consequences when not fully obeyed.
The whole purpose of the book of Proverbs is to teach young men how to live holy lives and make wise decisions. The message given to the Israelites in Deuteronomy 6: 5-7 reads, “And you must love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, and all your strength. And you must commit yourselves wholeheartedly to these commands that I am giving you today. Repeat them again and again to your children. Talk about them when you are at home and when you are on the road, when you are going to bed and when you are getting up.” The chapter continues reinforcing this message and includes a warning in Verse 12: “be careful not to forget the Lord.” Mentoring is important so that those of us who are prone to wonder (that means all of us) do not forget the Lord.
Deuteronomy 6 reveals that mentoring is not simply teaching and training. In his book Mentor Like Jesus, Regi Campbell writes, “Mentoring is not about coming to know something; that would be education. Mentoring isn’t about learning to do something; that would be training. Mentoring is about showing someone how to be something. It’s about becoming a learner and follower of Jesus Christ.” This is what Jesus did as he walked the earth; he showed his disciples how to be more like he is.
We see from the Old Testament that mentoring is nothing new. It is quite biblical, as we witness in the mentoring relationships between Moses and Joshua, Naomi and Ruth, Eli and Samuel, and Elijah and Elisha—just to name a few. One key element we noticed in all those relationships: mentoring goes both ways. While Ruth learned from Naomi, Naomi also learned from Ruth, and so it goes on this Christian journey where none of us is perfect and all of us need each other as we walk along the way.
There are different purposes and definitions for mentoring from a secular prospective, but approaching mentoring from the prospective of the church, the term can most certainly be used interchangeably with discipleship, a requirement that is presented so clearly for all Christians. Jesus’ lasts words spoken on earth were “Go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you (Matthew 28:19-20a, NIV).”
If a formal definition must be presented for mentoring, we have decided on the following: A trusted partnership through which one person or several persons impart knowledge and share wisdom to foster the spiritual growth of mentee(s) with the focus of individual growth in an intimate relationship with Christ, resulting in a continuous abundant living.
Mentoring: A Holistic Approach to Discipleship
To consider what mentoring is not, we need to briefly address some distortions of what “making disciples” means and how it is carried out. Jesus’ experiences with his disciples reveals that making disciples is not something that is limited to a classroom and a workbook, or Bible study (though it includes that), or prayer (though it includes that also).
Praying is a significant aspect of mentoring. Jesus taught his disciples how to pray (Luke 11:1-13) and also prayed or interceded for them (John 17). Mentoring includes intercessory prayer, and building relationships founded in prayer has been a blessing to our mentors and mentees alike. One mentee in our program shared, “It was evident that the Lord had specifically chosen each member of our group, especially during prayer time. As each woman prayed, the compassion they had already begun to feel for each other was evident.”
Making disciples is not just Bible study, though the study of God’s Word is crucial to any ministry. Solid Bible study requires teaching, and that is only a part of making disciples. Carefully observing Jesus’ ministry reveals that having disciples passively receive information is not enough. The gospel of Mark tells of Jesus chastising the disciples for their lack of faith and understanding. In addition to teaching, Jesus lived the gospel among them. He challenged their sense of culture, spiritual understanding, and worldview. Jesus revealed that mentoring and making disciples occurs through building relationships in the day-to-day living, praying and interceding, listening, eating and fellowshipping, and trusting our Father with the concerns of daily lives.
All or Nothing, Baby
Building relationships and mentoring in this way requires a two-way commitment. When Jesus called his disciples, they dropped everything to follow him (Matthew 4:18-22). He even taught that the man or woman who is unwilling to do so, is not worthy of his kingdom (Luke 14:26-27).
We mentor on purpose and with a purpose. One mentee told me, “Participating in a mentoring group has been a very positive experience, with such an opportunity for spiritual growth through prayer, Bible study, scripture memorization, recommended reading materials and discussions from the heart. We have seen many answered prayers as a group. Digging deep into God’s Word has been a rewarding challenge, for which I am thankful.”
There is a cost to being a disciple of Jesus. Being a disciple is time-consuming and sometimes hard work. Making disciples is the process of sanctification that occurs over a lifetime. “For God knew his people in advance, and he chose them to become like his Son” (Romans 8:29a).” In a very real sense, we have been transformed by the lamb as a result of his sacrifice on the cross and we are being transformed into his likeness daily if we surrender ourselves to him.
Therefore, all Christians should throughout their lives be discipled or mentored by someone, while they are at the same time discipling or mentoring others.
How do you view mentoring and discipleship? In what ways has mentoring had an impact on your life? How do you mentor others?
Natasha Sistrunk Robinson serves as co-director (along with Nikki Kober) of the Women’s Mentoring Ministry at Cornerstone Baptist Church in Greensboro, North Carolina. She is the founder, writer, and speaker for His Glory on Earth Ministries, a member of the Redbud Writers Guild, and a full-time student at Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary. Connect with Natasha through her blog, Twitter, or Facebook.