05 Oct Mentoring
Mentoring is a popular term today from corporate offices to religious circles with highly varying interpretations and practices. In the industry the term mentor is now being promoted as a designation even!
In the East, people often relate to the term “mentoring” as the age old guru-shishya relationship, wherein guru, the master calls shishya, the disciple for an unquestioning following thereof. Though they stay together in a GURUKUL, the master is mystical and aloof from the trainees with limited interactions. The relationship is marked by love, devotion, unconditional obedience, etc. It’s mystical and often mysterious.
The other extreme is the loose and changing relationship between individuals as increasingly being observed in our post-modern society. Richard Foster in his book Celebration of Discipline laments out as follows
“We have received excellent instruction on how God leads through the Scripture, and through reason, and through circumstances, and through the promptings of the spirit upon the individual heart. There has also been teaching, good teaching on exceptional means of guidance; angels, visions, dreams, signs and more. . . But, we have heard too little about how God leads through PEOPLE, the Body of Christ, on this subject there is profound silence today.”
It appears that fellowships are increasingly getting fragmented inside without any personal relationships among the members. Are we digressing to be in “fellowship” without relationships these days?
Yet, when the term mentoring is mentioned, often that comes to our mind is the erstwhile guru-shishya relationship and frankly the contemporary youth is afraid of it.
Mentoring as we see in the Bible is quite different from the guru-shishya relationship perceptions. Right from Genesis we find active mentoring relationships. We can clearly sense the impact of mentoring in most of the biblical characters. May it be with Moses ïƒ Joshua, Naomi ïƒ Ruth, Samuel ïƒ Saul/David; Elijah ïƒ Elisha; Mordecai ïƒ Esther and so on in the OT and Barnabas ïƒ Saul, Barnabas ïƒ Mark, Peter ïƒ Mark, Paul ïƒ Timothy, Titus and so on of the NT, plenty are the examples in the Bible.
May I narrate two patterns in mentoring as we observe in these biblical examples (and of course from my own mentors, as I write this as a tribute to them).
Mentoring is Walking Together
Biblical mentors and their mentees walked together long distances. Examples are many:
Elisha (1Kings 19:19), leaving his home, after sacrificing oxen, burning the very yoke and the other ploughing instruments, set out to follow Elijah and became his attendant. Their walking together continued till 2 Kings 2 when Elisha was refusing to leave Elijah and finally inheriting a double portion of his spirit. (2 Kings 2: 12)
Joshua (Exodus 24:13), described again as the attendant of Moses, accompanied Moses to the mountain Sinai. Moses says to people. . . until “we” come back
Ruth’s long journeys with Naomi can’t be ignored while Ruth emerges in the family tree of David (and of Jesus thereby)
Esther’s long stay at Mordecai’s house as an adopted daughter.
Paul’s long journeys with Barnabas, Timothy, Titus, Silas, Silvanus.
Above all these examples, our Lord Jesus walked with the disciples to mentor them. In fact Jesus had long journeys practically for 3 ½ yrs walking continuously with them.
Several things happen on a walk / journey together especially when it’s a long journey. As no one can hide secrets / weaknesses / special agendas on a long journey, the mentor-mentee would develop a friendship and dependency with the 24 X 7 transparency while they journey together.
In Deut: 6: 1 to 25 we find tools for godly parenting /mentoring as God commands to Moses “Hear O Israel…. These commands that I give you today are to be upon your hearts. Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home, when you walk, when you are lying down, when you get up…. Tie them as symbols on your hand, forehead, doorframes of your houses and your gates” Deut 6: 4-8. This is what happens when we journey together. Through the fresh hours and stress hours of journeying, doctrines, history, character, values get downloaded /passed on to the next generation.
Was Moses remembering Jochebed, Amram, the home he grew up and the way they parented /mentored him? Was that the secret of Moses’ convictions, despite his growing up at the Pahoah’s palace? Notwithstanding the gap of about 300 years between Joseph to Moses, he was sure of the history and God’s plans and promises, too. Was that stemming up from Jochebed’s mentoring?
Some mentees or the other were always with Paul in all his journeys. Paul had a ministry, he took his friends along in that journey, and they developed the same passion for those convictions he stood for.
Personally, I too, cherish several travels that I was privileged to have with my mentors. Some of those long travels (missionary journeys with them) were quite transformative as I always cherish and thank God for. In those journeys we discussed, struggled on issues, laughed, cried. And through it all, though I never knew then, doctrines, new directions / visions for future etc too were getting formed in me, as we grew in mutual relationships as well.
Walking together is journeying the life journey together and enjoying the togetherness in that journey.
Mentoring Is Working Together
In contrast with the guru – shishya relationship, where the shishya has to devotedly wait for his Guruji’ s instructions (often without even an explanation), we find mentees getting involved in the work /ministry of the mentor in the biblical examples of mentoring. This is quite exemplified in Barnabas – Paul relationship. Though Barnabas himself was nicknamed “son of exhortation” (possibly because he was well known for his preaching), he delegated the Bible studies etc., to Paul (more of a thinker / writer / strategist than a preacher). Barnabas and Paul worked together for quite a long time, and significantly in the first missionary journey that covered over 10 mission stations as recorded. The same pattern of working together continued with Paul and Timothy, Titus, Silas and so on.
The mentor – mentee together formed serving communities that ministered effectively to their difficult contexts.
Paul was particular about proper follow up for all his initiatives and he chose a three way pattern of follow up (visiting them, writing to them often and deputing someone to them). In each of his patterns of follow up, his “mentees” were involved very actively. It’s amazing that they formed a serving community that led changes, addressed issues and took the mission forward in those difficult situations.
While the bold Titus was sent to Crete for addressing the membership problems there, the hesitant Timothy was deputed to address the leadership problems at Ephesus. Paul trusted his mentees to make them his co-workers in the serving team. And in ministering together they were mentored to take the mission forward.
I cherish the privilege to work together with my mentors. Through that I was learning much more than what I would have learned from any book. And I often wonder how they trusted to delegate. I remember my first speaking assignment in a camp. The invitation was to a senior EGF elder, who agreed and talked to the organizers that I’ll be his standby. He asked me to prepare for the sessions as if he won’t go. And lo and behold he sent me, and praying for me. Working together, forming serving teams is the pattern that I found in my senior EGF friend.
Biblical mentoring is WALKING together and WORKING together. While walking together the personal friendship and regard get closer and closer. And in working together the vision get built and the mission expands to a greater vigor and relevance.
It’s important that we do delegation with discernment, balancing the Walking and Working aspects of mentoring with lot of prayer.
Walking together doesn’t mean only for missionary journeys. It can be for holidaying too, as Jesus did with disciples many times (let’s go to a quiet place for rest, e.g. Mark 6: 31). As students and graduates let’s walk together on all kinds of our journeys and the same way let’s work together in our ministry forming serving teams like Paul did.
May the Lord make UESI as a community that walks and works together.
About the Author
Reji lives in Pune with his wife Betsy and their children Monica & Roshan. He works as the General Manager in an automotive company in Pune. In UESI, he currently serves as a member of the Finance & Admin Dept among other involvements in Pune and Maharashtra.