05 Oct Jesus’ Model of Mentoring
The history we write is not written with ink or on paper, but in the lives of the people we have influenced. If this be true, it is imperative that we hone our skills in this area of our life, and not leave it to chance.
This article is an attempt to quantify Jesus’ own practice in this area of His life.
The Wilderness Encounter
There are many interpretations to the Temptation of Jesus as recorded in the Gospels. I see it as a temptation for shortcuts in ministry, using miracles or the meeting of social needs to replace the preaching of the Word.
Soon after His baptism and the sign of the Holy Spirit on Him, He went into the wilderness for forty days. This was to think through the strategy for the ministry and to clarify in His own mind what the parameters of His life and ministry are to be. He finishes the 40 days with 3 guidelines –
i. Man shall not live by bread alone but by every word that proceeds out of the mouth of the Lord.
ii. You shall not tempt the Lord your God, and
iii. You shall worship the Lord your God and Him alone you shall serve.
In a similar fashion when Paul met Jesus on the road to Damascus and was ministered to by Ananias at Damascus, he goes to Arabia for a time of reflection and avoids going up to Jerusalem (Gal 1:17). I believe this is to sort out his own ideas in the presence of God and without the influence of men, so that he knows the direction he needs to give to his life and ministry.
This season apart is absolutely vital for all of us. It is therefore important for us to have this period of solitude where we reflect on God’s call for us; our God and man; the meaning of God’s word for today etc. so that I can speak with confidence to people on these issues. This is not a one time experience somewhere at the beginning of our spiritual life, but a regular feature of our life as we take time out to be alone before God and His Word. I usually recommend a week every year, remembering that in the Old Testament they spent three weeks every year before God in the festivals.
Select the Team
On Jesus’ return from the wilderness, Jesus immediately began to “recruit” people at different levels. Those at the levels farthest from Him he influenced by His miracles and teaching. But there was a group of 12 who were close to Him in whom He invested His time and energy. There were other levels, but we are not going to look at them. It is this group of 12 we will look at.
The 12 are selected on the basis of their interest in the redemption of Israel. While the interest is apparent in the case of Peter, Andrew, James and John by their involvement, with John the Baptist it is not so apparent. In the case of Matthew the tax collector, probably it would have been there, either overt or hidden, since his response to Jesus’ call was immediate.
Using the same principle, we need to identify people who have shown the same vision or interests that we have and begin to influence and empower them on a planned and consistent manner.
Rather than leaving this to a hit and miss occurrence, it is good to make a plan for each person. How am I going to continually feed inputs into his or her life? Can it be through regular messages or mails? By formal mentoring meetings? By Bible studies? What stage in his or her life is the person now? What would be the most suitable means of communication to the person?
People who are good at this ministry usually advise keeping a history log of the person, the person’s needs, what has been communicated, what needs to be done next and so on. This helps in tracking the efforts we have put in.
To be able to influence a person I need to build a close relationship with the person. We see Jesus taking the initiative to build relationship with the chosen 12. He invites Andrew and John to come and stay with Him (John 1:38-39). Through this He built a relationship with them and their understanding of Him changed from Rabbi (John 1:38) to Messiah (John 1:41).
My personal struggle in this area has been a great hesitation to call people to me, since I did not and do not see myself worthy to call anyone to learn from me. Hence I tended to wait for people to choose me, and so appear to have missed many opportunities. However, those whom God brought into my sphere at work, or in the church, I invested in them for mutual benefit.
People are waiting for you to call them, as they are diffident to approach you. We need to realise it is not us who are ministering, but the Holy Spirit through us, and so we need to be willing to step out and invite people to come into a relationship with us. This needs to be consciously done – first to identify and then to invite them.
This relationship needs to be personal and open, so that the people are free to share their innermost feelings and needs with us, just as the apostles had with Jesus. Jesus knew the needs of the people and could minister to them. We also need to have an interest in getting to know the needs of the people and minister to their needs.
The teaching of Jesus dealt with day to day situations of the people rather than esoteric theological ideas. It was only during His visits to Jerusalem, in his conflicts with the theologians there that He becomes more theological.
If we look at the issues dealt with in the Sermon on the Mount, we find they are the daily issues of anger, adultery, oppression, fear of the future, etc (Matt 5:21-48; 6:25ff). that Jesus dealt with. Similarly, when I am mentoring someone, before going into the philosophical and theological underpinnings, which are important, we need to coach them in the daily disciplines required. These practical teachings are taught, like Deut 6:7-9 says, in the daily walk of life rather than in the classroom.
It is when they fail, or find that they are having difficulty in implementation, or when they begin to wonder as to the importance and need of these disciplines, that we can enter into the philosophical underpinnings of the activity.
As an example, I would mentor a person to attend church faithfully, before trying to teach him the theology of the church. This was the idea when Management training began, one needed to practice for 2 or 3 years before they went for management training.
So also, with the apostles, it was in the later parts of His ministry that Jesus began teaching some of the more difficult doctrines about Himself (Matthew 17:1-13 for example). Both the basic practices and the theory are important, and in our western approach we often put the theory first and then the practice, but in life issues, we need to follow the reverse.
Once we have taught the basic disciplines, we need to encourage them to put the disciplines into practical use in ministry. For this we need to give them responsibilities and authority to execute these responsibilities.
So, we find in Luke 10 that Jesus sends out the apostles and some other disciples, in groups of two to preach and to do signs and wonders in the towns of Israel. In Luke 10:17 they return with joy in their hearts at the success they have had.
Review and Encouragement
I have observed that success is the greatest motivator and failure a great de-motivator. So we need to give clear instructions and adequate guidance for them to succeed in their effort. Even where their efforts are not quite up to the mark they need to be recognised where they have done well and encouraged to do better where they have fallen short. We see one example in John 21 where Jesus rebukes Peter in his response to the crucifixion and encourages him to commit to the ministry.
Mentoring is an important part of our Christian life. Those who are in mentoring ministries like Sunday school, do it as a part of their ministry. However, this is a role all believers can play, if they do it consciously as a part of their responsibilities to those who are younger or less experienced in particular areas where they have expertise and experience. May I encourage you to take this role seriously.
About the Author
P.K.D.Lee is an engineer who worked the Indian Railways for 20 years and then with Haggai Institute for 20 years. He is now retired and lives in Hyderabad.