Sunday, June 6, 2010

What is Mentoring? (Part Three)

This post continues to look at the question 'What is Mentoring?' In part one we looked at the 'traditional' model of an older experienced person passing on wisdom and information to a younger person. In part two we considered a contrasting 'modern' model (or postmodern) of mentoring which was far more mutual and relational. Here we'll look at some approaches on mentoring that are seen in the Bible. In part four we'll wrap up with a summary of how I currently define mentoring, considering these approaches.

Regi Campbell in Mentor Like Jesus takes a different from either this traditional model or the more contemporary model of mentoring relationships. Campbell advocates an approach which mirrors what he saw Jesus doing (what he calls next generation mentoring) - a mentoring approach which is purposeful, self-less, done in the context of a handpicked group, for a defined period of time, incorporating Scripture and prayer, in which the leader models his faith in a transparent way, and teaching occurs along the way. There must be mutual commitment, and there is an expectation of multiplication, a willingness for participants to pay it forward.

What about the Apostle Paul - how does he view mentoring - in the context of making disciples and passing on the faith? There is a well known passage describing this process to Timothy: "The things you have heard me say in the presence of many witnesses entrust to reliable men who will also be qualified to teach others." (II Timothy 2:2, NIV)  A few things to note: the word 'reliable' here is sometimes translated faithful and involves a person both full of faith but also trustworthy. The word 'qualified', as opposed to meaning powerful and highly proficient has a connotation more like 'sufficient'. The person needs to be available, and at least minimally able to teach, but Paul isn't looking for superstars. Finally, there is a key need to be able passed it on by teaching others. This mirrors the Great Commission, making disciples who themselves become disciple-makers.

There are many examples of mentoring relationships in the Bible: Jesus and His disciples, Jethro and Moses, Paul and Timothy, Barnabas and Paul, and others. Older women are instructed to teach younger women (Titus 2), and younger men are to be submissive to older men (I Pet 5). Does this mandate a top-down hierarchical approach to mentoring that matches the 'traditional' view. Not necessarily. Note that when Paul encourages Timothy to step up and lead in I Tim 4:12 he encourages him "Don't let anyone look down on you because you are young, but set an example for believers in speech, in life, in love, in faith, in purity."

As men, we're often prone to want to seek out our 'right', to Lord authority over others. Instead, as Christ loves the church, we will be far more effective as leaders, and far closer to the Biblical ideal, if we earn respect by a life that demonstrates love for Christ and others, and putting other people first in humility, rather than acting like we know it all or must be listened to. Also, the injunctions to lead and teach younger men do not specify the methods. Indeed those gifted to pastor, equip and teach do have a responsibility to build up the body and to help along newer Christians. We would do well to choose an approach that is culturally relevant and that demonstrates love, respect, and humility, while keeping the content of our message Biblically sound. In the next post (part four, the last in this series) I'll try to tie together these traditional, modern, and Biblical views.

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