by Camerin Courtney
Mentoring is a relationship that involves risk, vulnerability, and amazing transformation.
January is National Mentoring Month, and the Bible is full of mentoring relationships worthy of study: Moses and Joshua, Naomi and Ruth, Elizabeth and Mary, and Paul and Timothy. If these giants of the faith were “concerned about one another in order to promote love and good works” (Hebrews 10:24), then why wouldn’t we also avail ourselves of this help and blessing?
BROTHERS FOR THE JOURNEY
David Rainer’s mentoring relationship began one summer 12 years ago in a Subway shop. David had accepted salvation during a church service. But he didn’t know where to begin in making the changes necessary. So he reached out to his pastor, David King.
Over sandwiches, the two talked about how the gospel is meant to shape every part of a believer’s life. David left that day with a Bible reading plan and his first steps to growing into his new faith.
The two met irregularly over the coming months and spent time on the phone. David didn’t realize then how much he would need this knowledge and his pastor’s support in the days ahead.
“When I went back to school, my old friends wanted me to abandon my new life. When I didn’t, they ruthlessly mocked me,” David explains. “If I hadn’t had that foundation over the first few months as a believer, I may have given in to their crushing pressure and eventual disowning of me.”
David and King continued to meet in person and communicate electronically. They discussed reading the Bible, dealing with sin, and making major life decisions. “It was pretty basic, really, just talking and listening and applying Scripture and praying,” King says. “One brother loving another brother.”
In fact, King never considered himself a mentor. “I was initially David’s pastor, which is why he sought me out. But at some point, I became simply an older brother in Christ who loves his younger brother.”
There were challenges, of course, with the new believer stumping even the pastor with questions. “I’m thankful for those times; they’ve given me the opportunity to learn I don’t need to have all the answers to be a good brother to David,”King says. “I can listen, we can search the Scriptures for wisdom, and together we can call on the Lord. As we’ve done that, God has come through time after time.”
And David had to learn not to expect too much of one person. “If you realize they are busy and fallen men, then you don’t get too let down if they are busy or the relationship isn’t as fruitful as you hoped. You have to keep Jesus the center of your worship and heart, not a mere man.”
The pair’s relationship continued through David’s 3-year term as a missionary in Japan and his current roles as a discipleship pastor, husband, and father.
“Probably one of the greatest moments for me was seeing David and his wife commissioned as missionaries for an unreached people group,”
“We should never underestimate how the Spirit might use everyday Christian friendship in a person’s life.” – Pastor David King
King recalls. “We should never underestimate how the Spirit might use everyday Christian friendship in a person’s life.”
And David can’t say enough about the impact of his former pastor’s influence on his life. “I honestly won’t know on this side of eternity how many significant ways I am better because of my relationship with him,” he says. “It’s immeasurable.”
A WORLD OF DIFFERENCE
Alicia Jones first spotted her mentor on a computer screen after asking for help during a difficult time. As a seminary student, she was directed to profiles of older, experienced women who’d volunteered for such a pairing. At the time, Alicia was preparing for a two-year missions assignment in the Ukraine, so she chose Lesley Hildreth, who had missions experience.
“I was seeking some spiritual guidance and perspective from someone spiritually mature,” Alicia explains. “I also wanted someone in my life from whom I could learn as much as possible about being a missionary.”
The two began meeting occasionally, usually over lunch. “Alicia always came to our meetings with such great questions,” Lesley recalls. “She knew I had spent eight years overseas, so she wanted to get my opinion based on my experiences on the field.”
Alicia loved hearing stories of Lesley’s overseas experiences. “Knowing Lesley gave me a more balanced perspective of serving God as a missionary,” Alicia says. “She helped me recognize missionary life isn’t glamorous and that God uses ordinary people to serve Him. We don’t have to become extraordinary before God will consider using us.”
The two met regularly for two years until Alicia left for the Ukraine in 2012.“Alicia challenged me in my own walk with Christ and also reminded me of the importance of pouring myself into others in order to help equip women to share the gospel both locally and internationally,” Lesley recalls.
Now that thousands of miles separate them, Alicia and Lesley communicate via Skype. “I have committed to be here for her when she needs prayer or just needs to vent,” Lesley says. “I want to be that safe person; I know how tough living cross-culturally can be.”
Over these years of lunch meetings and Skype conversations, Alicia says she’s learned that a key to a good mentoring relationship is being open and letting God lead. “The relationship is not primarily about you and your needs but instead what God is doing.”
Camerin Courtney, a writer in the Chicago area, wants a mentor after working on this article. www.camerincourtney.com
QUALITIES OF A GOOD MENTOR
Honest: Bobb Biehl, author of Mentoring: Confidence in Finding a Mentor and Becoming One, writes, “[Look for] someone who will tell you things you need to hear but frankly don’t necessarily want to hear — someone honest with you and honest about their own life, both the good and the bad.
Model: Thomas Carlyle simply says: “Be what you would have your pupils to be.”
Encourager and Equipper: Chuck Lawless, author of Mentor: How Along-the-Way Discipleship Will Change Your Life, writes, “Good mentors encourage us when we’re stressed and equip us when we need it.”
Available: Whether you meet once a week or once a month, make sure there is time for a mentoring relationship.
Committed: Lawless describes mentoring as “a God-given relationship in which one growing Christian encourages and equips another believer to reach his/her potential as a disciple of Christ.”
This article originally appeared on the January, 2013 issue of More Living.