As I’ve grown in my walk with Christ, one of the things I’ve learnt to value is community and fellowship. Throughout the Bible, we are taught the importance of doing life with other believers. Proverbs 27:17 provides an illustration of how Christians can help one another grow in their faith. Out of all the relationships we can build, one of the most valuable is with a mentor. If we desire to grow and know God more, doing life intimately with a Christian who is more mature than we are is something that can be of great help.
What is a mentor
A mentor can be defined as a person who is a “wise and trusted counsellor and/or teacher”. We don’t see the word mentor used explicitly in the Bible, however, we see many examples of people that had “mentors”. Joshua was mentored by Moses, Elisha was mentored by Elijah, Timothy was mentored by Paul, and the disciples were mentored by Jesus. These examples – specifically the example of Jesus and the disciples– point to the parallels that can be drawn between spiritual mentoring and discipleship.
Looking more closely at the example of Jesus, we see that Jesus was a great teacher and taught his disciples many things. However, he did not stop there; Jesus provided his life as an example for his disciples. He was someone they could model their lives after. A mentor is someone who doesn’t just teach with their words but also with their lives.
The benefits of having a mentor
God has established a system of “lead and follow” to help the body of Christ grow into full maturity (Ephesians 4:11-13).
So Christ himself gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the pastors and teachers, to equip his people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ.Ephesians 4:11-13
There are many people in our lives that can help with our spiritual growth, but the unique combination of characteristics a mentor has makes having one worthwhile. Firstly, mentors can provide an outside perspective and insight when giving advice and counsel. Learning from their lived experiences can prevent us from making the same mistakes that many others have made before us.
Like Jesus, a good mentor will practice what they preach, and they will also help you to do the same. Living a holy life is not easy (Romans 17:15), sometimes the temptation to sin and live a life of hypocrisy can be overwhelming. A mentor can help to overcome that as they discourage a life of sin and encourage righteous living.
Finding a mentor
One of the best places to find a spiritual mentor is in your local community. Spiritual mentoring requires discipleship which is done best with someone that you are constantly doing life with. It can be tempting to go out and look for someone with a public platform and accolades, but the reality is someone in your church could provide better discipleship.
Once you’ve found someone that could be a potential mentor, take time to observe them. Carefully examine their lives and establish if this person could be the right fit for you. Don’t be afraid to take the first step in approaching them, ask them for a coffee, get to know them. The worst that can happen is they say no. Lastly, come with clear expectations that can define the relationship, use them even when mentoring has begun to evaluate whether the relationship is fruitful.
The focus is Christ
It’s important to remember that Christ must be the centre of any spiritual mentoring relationship. Ultimately, a mentor is someone you follow as they follow Christ (1 Corinthians 11:1). The aim is spiritual growth and maturity, you’re not trying to become a disciple of your mentor, you’re becoming a disciple of Christ. God can use that person to help you on your journey, but the Holy Spirit is the one who does the work of sanctification and transformation. Be careful not to make your mentor an idol in your life. Always remembering that you have the best mentor living inside of you (John 16:13).