The mentoring plan always works

Published 10:17 am Monday, March 15, 2004

By Staff
)In the Great Commission (as it is frequently labeled; Matt. 28:19), Jesus commanded His disciples to "Go, and make disciples." The objective was not that they attract their own disciples, but that they win new followers of Jesus. Acts 9:26-30 tells the story of how the spirit-filled apostles obeyed that command. But closely related to the making of disciples is the mentoring of leaders. Here in Acts 9 Saul's conversion starts one dynamic chain of mentoring that extends though the rest of the New Testament. Mentoring has become a buzz-word among business and professional people. But the concept is as old as Homer's Odyssey(c.900-810 B.C.), in which Odysseus entrusts to his friend, Mentor, the education of Telemachus, his son. A mentor, then, is a trusted counselor or guide, typically an older, more experienced person who imparts valuable wisdom to someone younger. Countless figures throughout history have recalled the powerful influence of mentors on their development.
The Old Testament is filled with mentoring relationships; Jethro, a wealthy livestock owner, helped his son-in-law, Moses, learn to delegate authority; Deborah, judge over Israel, summoned Barak to military leadership and helped him triumph over Jabin, a Canaanite king, bringing forty years of peace to the land; Eli, a priest of the Lord (but a failure as a father) raised young Samuel to succeed him; the prophet Elijah, who oversaw the evil end of Ahab and Jezebel, passed his office on to young Elisha, who received a double portion of his spirit. Barnabas, a wealthy landowner in the early church, became an advocate and guide for Saul, the former enemy and persecutor of the movement. Over time, with Barnabas's coaching and encouragement, Saul (later called Paul) became the central figure in the early spread of the gospel.
Close observation reveals four key functions of a kingdom-style mentor: (1) Mentors care about those who follow them. Their primary interest is not what they can gain from the relationship, but with what they can give to it. They also realize how much they have to learn from their prot/g/s. Ultimately, they fulfill Paul's admonition to look out not only for their own interests, but also for the interests of others. (2) Mentors convey wisdom and skill. Through modeling and coaching, and eventually by turning over responsibility to their followers, kingdom-style mentors seek to make their disciples more capable than the mentors have been. (3) Mentors correct their followers when they are wrong. An excellent example is Barnabas's challenge to Paul over not taking John Mark along on the second missionary journey. Later Paul changed his perspective and asked Timothy to bring John Mark to him. Kingdom-style mentors do not avoid confrontation. (4) Mentors connect their followers to significant others. Kingdom-style mentors introduce their prot/g/s to relationships and resources that will further their development and increase their opportunities.
Quite often, the difference between success and failure in a person's career is determined by whether that person has been guided and nurtured by a mentor. The same can be true in spiritual matters. The extent to which a person matures spiritually and stays that way is often determined by the presence or absence of a spiritual mentor. Powerful results stem experienced believers mentoring younger believers in the faith. Not only individuals, but entire communities benefit as the gospel transforms lives.
Rev. Mary Dees is the pastor of Sampey
AME Zion Church.