The Missing Link
Spiritual growth is a big deal. All of us desire to have lives formed into the image of Christ. We want to be women and men who feel connected to Jesus—who pray often, love well, and serve others. This is why we do things like read our Bible, pray, and spend Sunday morning singing songs and listening to sermons.
However, there's a big problem. Many of us are missing something crucial for spiritual growth.
For most of human history, knowledge and learning happened in the context of personal, often times one-on-one relationships. This is certainly the case in the people of God. All throughout the Scriptures we find examples of people more mature in their faith training and pouring into others. For example, in the Old Testament Eli trains Samuel, and then Samuel trains David. Later on in Scripture, Paul trains Timothy, and Timothy in turn trains the leaders of his church. These sorts of spiritual friendships are part of the warp and woof of the Christian life. We need them.
In the modern age though, the learning process has shifted. In today's world, many people are learning through computers, classrooms, blogs, books, and videos. And as great as all of these things are, they have a way of isolating people and interfering with one of the most important part of our spiritual growth—mentoring relationships.
Mentoring relationships is the “missing link” in many people’s spiritual growth. We need these relationships to grow, change, and see things differently. Mentors can play a variety of functions in our lives. It’s helpful to understand each of these so that we can become proactive in meeting the needs of our spiritual growth.
Here are the Nine Mentor Functions adopted from the book Connecting: The Mentoring Relationships You Need To Succeed In Life by Paul Stanley and Robert Clinton:
- Discipler: guidance in the basics of following Christ;
- Spiritual Guide: accountability for spiritual growth and discernment;
- Coach: specific skills development and the motivation to use them well;
- Counselor: timely advice, offering correct perspectives on ourselves, others, and ministry;
- Teacher: knowledge, and the motivation to “see” truth;
- Sponsor: career guidance, protection as you move upward, and opening doors for new opportunities;
- Contemporary Model: a person who is a model for life and/or ministry;
- Historical Model: a historical person whose life reveals dynamic principles and values for ministry today;
- Divine Contact: timely guidance or discernment which is perceived as divine intervention. There is no “ideal mentor.”;
There is no mentor out there that can fulfill all of these functions at the same time. That’s okay because God has placed many different Christians in our life that can help mentor us in different and diverse ways. The important thing is that we have the self-awareness to identify the types of mentoring relationships we need, and then proactively seek out those relationships with others.
Another way of thinking about the Nine Mentor Types is by placing them on a continuum in terms of duration and intensity. Notice how some relationships are more or less deliberate.
|MORE DELIBERATE||LESS DELIBERATE|
|ACTIVE (INTENSIVE)||OCCASIONAL (FOCUSED)||PASSIVE (LOOSE)|
|1. Discipler||4. Counselor||7. Contemporary Model|
|2. Spiritual Guide||5. Teacher||8. Historical Model|
|3. Coach||6. Sponsor||9. Divine Contact|
Some mentoring relationship (e.g. #1-3) require a more formalized commitment from both parties so that meetings can be set and goals can be tracked. On the other hand, other mentoring relationships (e.g. #7-9) are less deliberate. Both are needed but some are more appropriate during certain seasons of life and ministry than others.
It's my hope that all of us would seek upward mentors in our life that have greater wisdom, knowledge, and experience in the Christian life, and can walk with us on our faith journey. Samuel, David, and Timothy needed a mentor and so do we. And as we grow on our journey, God gives us the privilege and responsibility of mentoring others.
Finding these kinds of relationships is sometimes difficult. It takes us outside of our comfort zone but I think most us crave mentoring relationships. We desire the kind of guidance, wisdom, coaching, and accountability that we find in Jesus giving to his disciples, and Paul giving to Timothy and Titus.
So how do we find these kinds of mentoring friendships? It all starts with reaching out and meeting people at Hope. I've seen many mentor-mentee relationships form as a result of men getting to know each other at a Men's Retreat or women get connected by being in the same small group. We've got to go out of our way to get to know others. The staff and elders are also available to talk to about mentoring, and perhaps make some suggestions.