by Kevin Hall
I’ve grown up going to Sunday School, “big church,” small group Bible studies, retreats, and mission trips. Like most Christians, I learned how important it is to read the Bible and pray. I heard many Bible stories and even learned great applications for my Christian life. But, like most churches, my church didn’t teach me how to read the Bible or how to pray. Sure, I learned the order of the books of the Bible, and of course, I heard many prayers. But the discipleship component was missing. Through the years, I learned a lot from watching my dad, who daily studied the Word in depth. My college and seminary days were valuable as many great theologians and professors instructed me. However, it wasn’t until my seminary “Dean” (the name I still call him today) became my mentor and invested in my life that I actually learned what it meant to be discipled.
I met Dr. Chuck Lawless just before classes started for the semester. God brought us together in what he calls a “divine intersection,” that is “those crossroads in which we meet the people [God] has waiting to mentor us.” Dr. Lawless defines 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.” His recently published study, Mentor: How Along-the-Way Discipleship will Change your Life (A Lifeway/Threads study), explains what mentoring is, why it’s important, and how to do it.
Mentoring produces transformed lives through relational discipleship. Mentoring not only encourages believers but also equips them to walk with Christ. Dr. Lawless explains, “We know we need to study the Bible, but we don’t always know where to begin. Pastors tell us prayer matters, but we don’t always understand how to pray. Telling others about Jesus is essential, but not always modeled. We don’t need someone to tell us what to do as much as how to do it.” I longed for this kind of discipleship growing up–-someone to come along side of me to help me put the spiritual disciplines into practice and hold me accountable to them. Mentoring is the biblical model of how we learn how to follow Christ.
It’s not hard to see the biblical discipleship model of mentoring that is so prevalent in Scripture. Jesus is the master mentor as He provides “along-the-way discipleship” to his disciples. We find the great apostle Paul modeling discipleship through mentoring with Timothy. Also consider Moses and Aaron, Eli and Samuel, Naomi and Ruth, and Elijah and Elisha, just to name some. We read words like “come follow me and be my disciple” (Matthew 9:9) and “you should imitate me, just as I imitate Christ” (1 Corinthians 11:1). We can say the same if we decide to disciple others through mentoring relationships: “come walk with me as I walk with Christ.”
As you look at mentoring as a key way to disciple others, consider these five points from Dr. Lawless:
- Be Intentional – While God brings people together through divine intersections, we must still do our part in being intentional about seeking to build relationships.
- Be Growing – We can’t guide others toward growth unless we are growing.
- Be Sacrificial – Mentoring requires us to give our time and energy to others.
- Be Forgiving – Mentoring provides a safe place for mentees (and mentors) to deal with failure and creates an atmosphere for honesty in our daily walk.
- Be Open – There are several different types of mentoring relationships in which you could be involved. Mentoring pushes the mentor to grow and learn from the mentee. Mentors also need to be open to taking risks but also ready for rewards.
All of us need to be discipled, no matter what stage of our spiritual walk we find ourselves. If you’re looking for a mentor, consider these five points from Dr. Lawless:
- Be Selective – Don’t just pick anyone as a mentor. Find someone who is mature, growing, positive, and prayerful. They should be the same gender and share common interests.
- Be Observant – Be vigilant for potential mentors. Your local church or current ministry is a great place to start looking.
- **Be a Learner **– The goal is to be open to guidance and direction. Take advantage of learning from a growing, mature believer.
- Be Bold – Take initiative when you find someone you desire to have as a mentor. Many times, you must make the first move and initiate contact.
- Be Honest – Your relationship with your mentor should lead toward your being able to share openly and honestly about your accomplishments and hardships.
Through mentoring relationships, we follow the biblical model of discipleship. Even more importantly, though, mentoring allows us to obey Christ’s missional mandate to make disciples of all nations.
Don’t miss this key way to fulfilling God’s mandate to make disciples. Mentoring provides along-the-way discipleship that will truly change your life. It changed mine!
Kevin Hall graduated from Cedarville University with a B.A. and from The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary with an Advanced M.Div. Kevin formerly served as Assistant to the Dean at Southern Seminary’s Billy Graham School. He has served the church as a Youth Pastor and deacon. Kevin has been a church consultant since 2006. Kevin and his wife have one son.