Tuesday, January 20, 2009


Mentoring – Imparting To Others What God Has Given To Us

Mentoring can be counted to take the age of modern civilization. Throughout human history, mentoring was the primary vehicle of imparting knowledge, skills, experience and value from one generation to another.

“Teach them the decrees and laws, and show them the way to live and the duties they are to perform.” (Ex. 18:20)

This advice was given to the great leader Moses by his father-in-law the priest of Midian and it has become close to being the mentoring paradigm of today. From there, followed several mentoring relationships where the impartation of God’s ways and power were made from generation to generation. This survived several generations but unfortunately, there was poor preservation and what is left of mentoring in today’s practice is lacking in the qualities and principles that once characterized it. The benefits and impact of mentoring are not widespread across the churches of today, but in recent years, many have observed that God is gradually bringing to the remembrance of several churches all over the world the value and importance of mentoring. Mightily, He has raised people to behold that vision of mentoring and these have gone forth to restore the divine culture of mentoring in the body of Christ.

The world today has advanced accordingly with improved technology and techniques that made modern learning contingent on classrooms, interactive videos, computers etc. We don’t disagree that these methods of learning are effective, but it is sad that because people are increasingly grown on technology these days, many have become relationally deficient and self-centered. Each man works for his own, towards his own good and benefits, most of the time relying heavily if not solely on the resources technology provides. The healthy relational interdependence that comes from relationships where iron sharpens iron is almost non-existent for some. We view this as a pitiful state of the body of Christ because God has not intended for us to be isolated thus. Instead, God has given us a spiritual family made up of believers. Here are the parents, the teachers and the friends who will accompany us as we grow up in the faith. This family is where we can find guidance, support, empowerment and encouragement as we grow towards maturity in the faith. With this in mind, let us approach the topic of mentoring.

A basic model of mentoring may be seen from the profession of Geishas – the professional entertainers of Japan. The Geishas were people who performed traditional Japanese arts at banquets or other commercial dining establishments. Traditionally, they played the Shamisen (Japanese guitar) or Tuzumi (small drum) and they also perform classical Japanese dances, sing songs, play games and chat with the guests.

There isn’t a girl who becomes a Geisha by coincidence. Typically, she would have undergone training before she acquired the status of a Geisha. Girls who want to become Geishas move into special "maiko houses" at a young age where they learn various traditional Japanese arts such as playing instruments, singing, dancing, and acquire conversational and other social skills. When a girl is ready to become an apprentice, a formal relationship between her and another elder Geisha will be established. This more experienced ‘older sister’ will then become the most important figure in the young Geisha’s life. She will hone the skills of the younger Geisha and refine her social mannerisms and conduct. The older Geisha will also introduce the younger Geisha to various contacts who have the potential to benefit and promote the young Geisha’s career. Her main role is to guide the younger Geisha towards success in the profession. When that happens, the young Geisha will then take on the full role grow in the profession until she is experienced enough to train those younger than her in the line.

Likewise, the relationship of mentoring and the role of a mentor is to ultimately result in the one being mentored – the student – succeeding in his relationship with God and becoming a potential mentor himself.


Does discipleship and mentoring involve the same process and activities? Our opinion is yes, for we see the term ‘mentoring’ as a more contemporary form of the word ‘discipleship’. We believe they translate to the same intention, which is to model a Christian lifestyle for a believer and impart spiritual discipline to him until he is able to teach others in that capacity. Just that usually when people mention ‘discipleship’ they usually mean imparting the elementary teachings of the Christian belief to younger believers while ‘mentoring’ is more commonly used to refer to Christian relationships where the older Christian is grooming the younger one to maturity in the faith or even leadership. Our opinion is that the two can be considered are part of one so we won’t be drawing a distinction between them, but for our preference of words we shall use the term ‘mentoring’. Incidentally, we shall also refer to parties of the mentoring relationship as ‘mentor’ and ‘student’.

Is mentoring biblical for every Christian?

We believe the answer is yes. This is based on the Lord Jesus’ commandment “Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.” (Mt. 28:19,20). This we all know is the great commission and a mandate for every one of us to obey and not only for the disciples. Paul who was called by the Lord later established several mentoring relationships in his ministry and he taught those mentored by him that they should form similar mentoring relationships with other believers and continue the ministry of the Lord. Paul mentored Timothy and told him “Hold fast the pattern of sound words which you have heard from me, in faith and love which are in Christ Jesus. That good thing which was committed to you, keep by the Holy Spirit who dwells in us.” (2 Tim. 1:13-14). He also said to Timothy “And the things that you have heard from me among many witnesses, commit these to faithful men who will be able to teach others also.” (2 Tim. 2:2). So quite clearly Paul intended for the mentoring relationship to continue after him and Timothy.

We would think that God’s intention for His children to be mentored is no different from His intention for us to be shepherded. The Lord Himself is our Chief Shepherd, but He has intended for earthly shepherds to take care of His flock as well, that is why we see mentoring relationships in the Bible like those of Elijah and Elisha, Eli and Samuel, Jesus and the Twelve, Paul and Timothy… and several others, which involved the impartation of life, works and spirit from person to person, fulfilling the divine. Thus, the Bible presents mentoring as one of God’s way of building and progressing His holy kingdom here on earth.

Portrait of a Mentor

Every mentor is an individual, so every mentor will have his or her own unique personality or style. However, there are a few things that we think mentors should take note of. First and foremost, a mentor must not neglect his student while trying to meet the objectives of the mentoring program. In some of today’s mentoring patterns, the mentors are committed only to completing a structured program with their student with help from some literature tools or some outlines and then expect them to do the same with others. And because some mentoring programs are part of a group’s fellowship agenda, people have been made mentors apart from their motivation. To them, mentoring is naturally seen as an obligation rather than a privilege. The result of such mentoring programs is knowledge multiplication without life multiplication. Yet, mentoring is about lives impacting lives.

What qualifies a person to be a mentor then becomes a relevant question. We are inclined to think that it is insufficient consideration when the suitability of a mentor is decided based on indicators provided by spiritual age or accomplishment. Spiritual years in the Lord can hardly be an accurate indicator of the growth and maturity of the person that might have taken place during that period, since the Lord works differently in different people. The number of miracles one performs, how well he prays or how eloquently he preaches are also not a reliable indication of one’s suitability as a mentor, for the origin of these things are gifts from God or His anointing granted to that person and they are not qualities granted on account of a man’s merits. As such, a person can continue to exercise his gifts when he ministers in the presence of God on some occasions with three-quarters of his daily time living according to his flesh and not in the Spirit. So, no, we won’t use the above as independent indicators of a person’s suitability as a mentor. What are needed in a mentor we think should be that he continues to pursue perfection in the Lord (2 Cor.7:1) and guard his spiritual discipline (1 Tim.4:16), for these are two main things he is going to have to teach his student. In another words, a mentor should be a God-fearing and growing Christian. If we stagnate in our spiritual growth, we cannot continue to impart lives of Christ to our students. As a result, many mentoring relationships are only of a short continuance.

A mentor is a teacher for he is supposed to teach his students the full counsel of God’s Word. He is also the spiritual guide who must pray for his students and lead them to spiritual maturity. In his role of doing so, the mentor is also a coach, for he will need to sharpen their skills, improve their ways of working towards God’s destiny, and encourage them as they go along. These are part of what characterizes a mentor. Let us now discuss other things that are required of a mentor.

Giving Time

One very prominent distinction in the Lord’s mentoring relationship with His disciples was the amount of time He committed to them. The Lord spent a great deal of time with His disciples. He invested His life in their lives, their affairs. Should our mentoring be any different? Perhaps not, since Paul followed the Lord’s example too. “we were well pleased to impart to you not only the gospel of God, but also our own lives…”(1 Thess. 2:8).

Be willing to spend enough quality time with your students. Do not limit the discipleship relationship to only bible studies and spiritually-related activities. Letting your students be spectators of your life can be as equally enriching for them as a well-conducted Bible study Successful students often testify that most of the valuable lessons they received through mentoring were caught from their mentors’ way of life and conduct rather than taught. God may order small works with a great plan towards His glory in mind. You can start by inviting the students to your home if possible. It can be an effective lesson for them if they saw how we treat our family relations and how we conduct ourselves with people whom we meet and live with everyday. Besides the home, social activities such as picnics, short holidays or meals can be great opportunities to impart life and godly patterns for them. Remember Ex. 18:20, towards their students mentors are not meant to simply “Teach them the decrees and laws,..” but they were expected to “show them the way to live and the duties they are to perform.”

It is not enough to simply teach the word, for knowledge does not reap more life unless it is first applied to the present life. Therefore it is important for mentors to supplement their teachings of the scriptures with lessons on the reality of God and His Word in his lives and how whatever he has learn in the Scriptures can be used to influence his daily decisions and growth.

Being In Relationship With His Student

The success of whomever we mentor will be the consolidated effort of God, ourselves and our student. Nothing will come about if we purely dictate and our lives are not involved in the process of mentoring. We are not saying that all mentors have to be highly emotional during the mentoring process, but certainly they cannot be devoid of emotional investment too.

Mentor should remain in relationship with his students and love them wholeheartedly, and in this sense love can also be known as “TIME”. Once, after disciplining my daughter with a cane, I went into my room to seek the Lord for His wisdom. I had mixed feelings about my actions. I feared that the discipline might result in an adverse effect on the child. What if she subsequently rebels rather than obeys? I dreaded to imagine the reality of that. But then I soon heard the Spirit encouraging me “Do not worry, if your child is convinced that you love her unconditionally, your discipline on her will not reap rebellion. However, if you do not spend enough time with her that is able to convince her of your love, then most surely your discipline will bring about resentment and bitterness”. That brought me much relief, but it also reminded me that discipline independent of love is futile! If love does not form the grounds on which a mentor’s discipline towards his student is exercised, then it might not reap the kind of results he wants. No authority will be respected and valued unless it is born of love. It is not reasonable to want a person to receive your correction and discipline when he or she does not feel love and acceptance from you. I think most people can accept this.

It is out of love that grace, mercy and compassion flow. Spiritual parenting is very much like natural parenting. When done with all our heart, it involves a lot of heartache, disappointment, discouragement, together with the love, joy and gratification that one can gain from seeing a live blossom and grow under our care. Unless we truly love (which requires much investment of time and energy), we can never administer grace, mercy and compassion to our students. If we find it hard to even imagine how we can love anyone this way, we should pray more for our students so that God may move our heart to love them in a deeper way. Praying for our students will certainly engender more love and compassion for them. That way it becomes easier for us to treat them with graciousness when they are weak and we will be more ready to satisfy God’s command for us to “bear with the failings of the weak..” (Rom. 15:1).

Paul, when he wrote a letter to his disciple Gaius, he mentioned that on hearing that Gaius was walking in the truth, he “rejoiced greatly” (3 John 4). Paul did not say, “I have heard that you are walking in the truth. Okay, make sure you keep it up!” Instead, Paul’s love can be felt in his letter to Gaius. And we wish to mention also that this love from a mentor should be generous enough to still flourish when the student exceeds the mentor in terms of spiritual success or achievements. A mentor should look forward to his student’s excellence over his for the Lord has told us, “The glory of this latter temple shall be greater than the former” (Haggai 2:9). Contextually, we do not interpret this verse with the statement we just made, but the essence can be applied to the circumstances cited. Our exhortation is, a mentor should avoid taking offense when the student excels beyond him, in other words ‘outshines’ him. If God allows it, shouldn’t a mentor give thanks to Him for watching over his students and shouldn’t he also love his students enough to encourage them even more in their pursuits of godly plans? The impartation of godly qualities from mentors to their students is never complete without huge doses of love accompanying them. A mentor should not be selfish but in all integrity they ought to help their students fulfill their destiny in God.

In saying that, it brings us to remember that relationship involves ‘doing it together’. Nobody will enjoy the idea of having a trainer who stands on shore and asks his trainee to get into the deep blue sea during a survival skills program. Similarly, it is natural for anyone to feel abandoned by a mentor when asked to ‘do it alone’. In the mentoring relationships that we have came across in the Bible, the students were usually asked to follow their mentors and together they progress, be it on a journey or any other activity. Many people have said this, but let us say it again that good leaders don’t just say ‘go’, but they say ‘let’s go’. And so should a good mentor be. They provide companionship for their students as they show them the way to God.

All in all, a good mentor makes his student feel that he is at the center of his heart, not at the periphery. When people feel centered, they treasure that place and are more willing invest reciprocally. Like what we mentioned earlier, love allows the mentor to administer admonishment and correction whenever it becomes necessary. For where a relationship is founded on love, the student is more willing to accept the authority of the mentor to rebuke and correct. It would be awful for anyone to have to face such things from people who don’t love and care for them in the very first place.

Trusting God To Work

Being a mentor to someone does not mean we have to go to impossible extents to make sure our student turns out to meet the ideal standard set for him. If we know that God is the Chief Shepherd, then we must also remember that it is He who will bring things to pass. This is something about humility – that we learn to depend on God and trust on His providence. No amount of work apart from God is ever going to achieve spiritual results, for the perishable works of the flesh cannot inherit the imperishable harvest from God (1 Cor. 15:50). Therefore it is very important for a mentor to act accordingly to the counsel of God and commit his mentoring plans to the Lord. It is helpful here to keep in mind the ultimate goal of mentoring, which is to connect strongly the student to God so that he is able to work independent of the mentor.

In Gal.3:23-25, the Bible refered the law as a guardian and tutor to men until the coming of the Lord Jesus. When the Lord eventually came to men and fulfilled the work of the cross, the law let the Holy Spirit take over. Similarly, mentors serve like tutors to their students to bring them to the knowledge of God and as and when God directs, release them to complete their journey with Him on their own. No way should a mentor ever become the vine and his students the branches because that would be replacing the presence of God. Instead, mentoring plans and pursuits should reinforce the connection of the students as being branches to Jesus, the Vine (John 15:5). Only then will there be eternal results.

Toxic Mentor

In all a mentor’s intentions and plans for his students, it is possible for the devil to use them to fulfill his plans to steal, kill and destroy. When a mentor has students who listen to him and do what he advises, it is very tempting for him to use the students to carry out his plans and ambitions. Now, even if such things involve good training for the students, it is still wrong because God judges the intentions of a man’s heart. Once the motivations of the heart are not pure, Satan gets the chance to gain a foothold on that person and even the fruit of his labor may be in vain.

“Shepherd the flock of God which is among you, serving as overseers, not by compulsion but willingly, not for dishonest gain but eagerly; nor as being lords over those entrusted to you, but being examples to the flock;” (1 Pet. 5:2-3)

The Bible is instructive on how a mentor should treat his students. We are to be eager in serving God’s plans for their lives, and not labor for them only when we can reap gains in doing so. Therefore, we urge every mentor to love his students and exercise integrity in our treatment of them.

Very importantly too, a mentor should watch out that he does not end up placing himself on an earthly pedestal. People in general tend to want to be needed and there is a propensity to desire the idolization of others. With a student, this desire can come to pass if not careful. Therefore there is the need for mentors to constantly examine our hearts and be watchful of vested interest and selfish desire.

Portrait Of A Student

A student is a learner, and the learning process never comes to an end. No one really graduates from being a student. Until we are perfected, we are to continue to learn from faithful and godly saints (Heb.6:11-12). The identities of the mentors may change along the way (more than one mentor may contribute to your growth), but the learning process perpetuates for the student. The Lord has taught that servanthood comes before leadership. Accordingly, a good mentor must also be a good student. To succeed in being a mentor one must first excel in being a student. Below are some qualities that we believe a good student should possess. The list may not contain all the qualities that God desires or requires for every person (for He works differently in each one), but nevertheless some general ones that anyone as a student can work towards.

Hunger – an essential key to the deeper things of God

In the Gospels, Jesus was often presented as being reluctant to reveal His true nature to those who are not insightful into the things of God because they had not hungered for them. For a successful mentoring relationship to be in place, not just a good mentor is required, but also a student who is willing to be mentored, to listen, ponder, observe, and follow. If we have a student who is not hungry and thirsting for the things of God, then there will be nothing much that will come out of that mentoring relationship. A mentor can have the most effective methods of mentoring people, but even the nicest music is nothing if the audience is deaf. Therefore, for those of you who wish to be mentored, do position yourselves rightly so that you may receive the blessings of your mentoring relationship. Having an excellent mentor over you does not guarantee that you will one day reach the spiritual standards you have set for yourself if no hunger or effort is contributed. So help yourself here and you will reap the returns abundantly.

Let us take a lesson from Elisha and the sons of the prophets who were around when Elijah was about to be taken up to heaven. While Elisha and the sons of the prophets were all enlightened of what was to happen, only Elisha hungered after the things of God enough to go all the way with Elijah until the time of the rapture. Elisha’s hunger was greatly rewarded – when he returned to the sons of the prophets, they said “The spirit of Elijah rests on Elisha.” (2 Kn. 2:15).

Hungering after the things of God not only positions us in a better place to receive the blessings of mentoring, but also keeps us safe from worldly lusts. The human nature is always in hunger for one thing or another. There is no one who exists meaningfully in this world who doesn’t have any wants. Of course, we may choose what we want, but our caution is if you do not hunger for God then you will soon find yourself hungering for other things. Gehazi, Elisha’s disciple was someone who didn’t have a passion for the things of God. He has an anointed and godly mentor but he ended up lusting after material riches (2 Kn. 5:27) which reaped the curse of leprosy upon him and his descendents. When we give up desiring after the things of God and start craving other things, the results (which details we can never foresee) can be very frightening, as we have seen from Gehazi’s example.

We should labour for the fullness of grace to work in our lives

Having a mentor over us does not automatically and immediately take us right up to our destiny in Christ. The journey towards our destiny still remains. The only thing that has changed is that the mentor is now added to make our walk a surer and more disciplined one. In more successful mentoring relationships, the journey may be propelled and the students may take a shorter time to reach God’s destiny for him. Whatever the case, there is no such result that requires no effort from the student. It is necessary for the one being mentored to constantly labour towards God’s plan for him, so that according to Paul, God’s grace will not be granted in vain. “But by the grace of God I am what I am, and His grace toward me was not in vain; but I laboured more abundantly than they all…” (1 Cor. 15:10). This labour may include faithfully reading God’s word, diligently heeding the advice of our mentors, constantly seeking God in prayer, and doing other things that the mentor may prescribe that work towards reaching God’s destiny for us.

Be Proactive – Take The Initiative

One very important quality required of students is that they must reject a ‘see-what-comes-next’ attitude. We spoke about being hungry for the things of God in the earlier paragraphs. Wise men have also correctly phrased that the proof of the passion is in the pursuit. Therefore, if we hunger for the things of God and have a passion to reach our destiny in Christ, then we should take the initiative to approach our mentors for their help or guidance or to receive whatever impartation they can give that will be helpful to us. The initiative belongs to the students and the mentors respond to their needs as expressed. This was clearly shown in Elisha’s attitude while he was being mentored by Elijah. He followed Elijah around and was diligent to heed Elijah’s instructions to him. He wasn’t ready to let go even on occasions when Elijah told him he had to depart for a place. Elisha followed him because he hungered for the anointing that was in him.

Be Respectful, Faithful & Responsive

In mentoring, the students are required to be respectful and responsive to what they have received from their mentors and then be faithful to carry on the good things that have been exemplified. Not everything that comes from our mentors will be good and acceptable, naturally, because they are not yet perfected. No matter how you wish for them to be, mentors will never be perfect. And neither will students be, for the Lord will perfect His people only when He comes again to receive us into His holy kingdom where we will all be transformed to His likeness. Therefore our mentors are guaranteed to fail us in many ways, some serious and some not. This may appear like a time of weakness, yet if we allow God to turn it into a beautiful time of growth, it can be done. For the Lord may use those times to teach us as students how to love, forgive and continue to submit wisely. Which is an important lesson to learn, for even if we possess all other qualities of the Christian faith and experience spiritual encounters with God frequently, but have not love such that forgiveness cannot flow freely from us, then we have failed the basic quality of the Lord. Because everyone of us will fall short of glory at some point in time (whether every twenty minutes or once in twenty years) we will definitely need mercy from God and from others to love us out of our weaknesses. If we sow mercy then we shall reap mercy. If we are brutal to others when they are weak, how do we expect to be treated when we fall one day?

Be Willing To Be Accountable & Accept Appropriate Rebuke

In order for a mentor to watch over your growth and life, it cannot be any other way but that you are accountable to him in the things that you do and be honest with him about the way that you are. With this sort of accountability in a relationship with your mentor, it means that your weaknesses will be made known to him and each time you fall short of glory he will also know. Your mentor may correct you when there’s a need to, on some occasions more harshly than the others. But such discipline will not kill anyone; instead it can deliver one’s soul from continuing towards destruction. As the Proverbs say “Open rebuke is better than love carefully concealed. Faithful are the wounds of a friend…” (Prov. 27:5-6). When you trust someone sufficient to him or her your mentor, then constantly remind yourself that the rebuke that come from them when you take a wayward step are from good intentions and not cold condemnation.

Mentors should not fear having to discipline those under them who are more prone to stray. Of course, this doesn’t mean mentors are entitled to scold or belittle their students ruthlessly (discipline has to be dealt with love or it is downright brutality). It takes a hardened heart to be harsh to someone like a student who loves and trusts you to be his guide. Mentors are like spiritual parents to those under their charge. So as how good parents discipline the children towards excellence, know that the only reason why your mentor disciplines you is because he or she loves you enough to make the effort to monitor your life. This is what God teaches too:

“He who spares his rod hates his son, but he who loves him disciplines him promptly.” (Prov. 13:23)

Take note also that God has advised the discipline to come swiftly after the wrong has been committed. Therefore do not resent your mentors when they rebuke you the moment you do something out of line. Usually mentors are mature enough to extend grace in most situations (after all we all know that nobody is yet perfect), but there will be situations where they perceive that prompt discipline is necessary. Moreover, we have been warned that “the devil walks about like a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour” (1 Pet. 5:8). Therefore the mentor who loves you will not wait till the devil gains a foothold in your life – before the lion attacks you he will rebuke the ill and save you from further harm.


If you really believe that mentoring is good and is founded on divine intention, then we urge you to seek the Lord to be part of mentoring, be it by being mentored or being a mentor. We have seen most men and women in the body of Christ who praise the good results of mentoring when they see one but out of the many who do that, only a few will yield their hearts and lives to God in this area. Mentoring will not happen on its own, it must be intentional and deliberate. Through our exertions is how we can bring about the fulfillment of God’s desire for a spiritual family to be built on earth. Here, we can leave nothing to chance or coincidence.

Mentoring can be an enjoyable and truly enriching journey. As you seek the Lord to be part of it, we wish for grace and blessings to abound all through your journey.

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