Though the word “mentoring” is not used in the Bible, the concept is evident throughout the Scripture. There are some excellent passages related to mentoring as seen in the ministry of the Holy Spirit in John 14 and 16, in addition to examples from Jesus and the Apostle Paul who both applied mentoring principles to their own ministries.
As demonstrated in John 14:15,18, 20, and 21, Jesus’ mentoring relationship with his disciples (mentees) was intensely personal. Effective mentoring is a love relationship established between God and people through His Holy Spirit. Mentoring is not a matter of passing on a few tidbits of information or “how to’s” of ministry. It is a matter of pouring yourself into another person and sharing yourself with them, not just your knowledge. Paul even goes as far as to compare this kind of ministry to mothering:
“We proved to be gentle among you, as a nursing mother tenderly cares for her own children. Having thus a fond affection for you, we were well pleased to impart to you not only the gospel of God but also our own lives, because you had become very dear to us.” (I Thessalonians 2:7-8)
In John 14 and 16, the Greek word used to describe the Holy Spirit is “paraklete,” which translates as, “one called alongside.” This is an amazing picture of mentoring in that it depicts a mentor as one who comes beside another to point him to the Father and to the Son (John 16:14,15). It is not a matter of directing those we mentor in what they need to do. Rather, the mentor seeks to understand the “mentee,” where they are in their walk with God, and where God wants them to go. In this approach, we who mentor are merely joining the Holy Spirit in His task. Often, the times when a mentee is searching, confused, or struggling are opportunities for them to experience significant growth.
As a mentor walks along life’s road with the mentee, the mentor gets to impart his understanding and experience of God, which often enables the mentee to make progress in his or her walk with God. Paul captures this well in his letter to the Thessalonians, again using parenting as an example:
“For you know how, like a father with his children, we exhorted each one of you and encouraged you and charged you to walk in a manner worthy of God, who calls you into his own kingdom and glory.” (I Thessalonians 2:11-12)
It is amazing to see how Paul describes older apostles as those who tenderly care for younger apostles in partnership with the Holy Spirit, just as as mothers or fathers are called to do with their own children.
The Holy Spirit is called the Spirit of truth (John 14:17, 16:13) and a key tool for mentors will be God’s Word, His truth. It is through the Word that we impart eternal truth which will exhort, encourage and implore younger apostles as Paul did with the Thessalonians. Mentors must be pace-setting learners first and foremost, and can share what they have learned from their own personal experience with God. As mentors tell stories to mentees about how God’s Word has brought transformation and fruit to their own lives, such encouragement and testimony can bring that same fruit to the mentees’ lives. Mentors never reach a place where they are done learning, and often learn from the Spirit while walking alongside the mentee. Mentors ought not to merely offer human wisdom or advice; in fact, good mentoring happens when mentors are willing to be continually driven back to God, both in the Word and in prayer, for those they mentor.
In John 14:12-14, Jesus promises that his disciples who believe will do the works that He did and more, demonstrating that His mentoring model was designed to multiply through His followers. It is amazing to think that Jesus believed these disciples, empowered and taught by the Spirit, were actually going to do the same works that He did and even more. Jesus’ model of mentoring is intentionally reproductive.
This concept of reproduction is also clearly captured in Paul’s mentoring letter to Timothy: “and what you have heard from me in the presence of many witnesses entrust to faithful men who will be able to teach others also” (2 Timothy 2:2).
In this letter, Paul exhorts Timothy to pass on all that Paul taught to people who will also pass on the truth to countless others.The whole of the letter is really his last will and testament passing his ministry on to Timothy—reproducing himself in his beloved son (2 Timothy 1:2).
Paul also expresses this principle of reproduction to the Philippian church: “What you have learned and received and heard and seen in me—practice these things, and the God of peace will be with you” (Philippians 4:9).
These various examples from the New Testament illustrate the way that both Jesus and Paul intentionally mentored their followers, and we are wise to do the same. Mentoring is reproducing by passing on what God has done in us to others, and fathering and mothering a new generation who will do likewise.
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I love the thought of mentoring as a love relationship between God and people. It is “intensely personal,” not just passing on head knowledge, but deep life experience as well.