Christians are really good at creating and using language that is non-existent in the Bible.
We construct rules for ourselves, like “quiet time” and “devotionals.” We use phrases that are out of touch and inexplicably alienate non-believers.
We are also really good at taking a concept in scripture and attaching so many restrictions, rules, and regulations to it that it becomes impossible to follow. Or we water it down so much that it no longer resembles the original design.
The term “mentor” is a perfect example, in my mind. I am not sure how this word has penetrated the Christian lexicon, especially since it has no Biblical basis.
But I have an even bigger problem with the word “mentor”…
The last thing Jesus told us must have been important. He was departing the earth for a long time and had a few last things to tell his disciples.
He didn’t say, “It sure has been fun” or “Don’t worry” or “Hang in there, guys.” He gave His disciples, and thus, us, very specific instruction. He said…
“All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you.”
Ooh, it’s so good. “…go and make disciples.” Notice, He did not say, “Go and make mentors” or “Go and find yourself a mentor.”
Okay, before anyone perhaps gets in a tizzy, let me explain that I am not opposed to someone having a mentor. I think mentoring can be a valuable process and have known people for whom it has proven beneficial.
However, the reason I don’t particularly like the word “mentor” is because, more and more, I am hearing the word used in place of another, very clear word that Jesus Himself used: “disciple.”
It seems that, as the Church has moved farther and father away from the practice of making disciples, the concept of mentoring has crept in.
One definition of mentor is “to serve as a trusted counselor or teacher, especially in occupational settings.” A mentor is someone who gives advice, or counsels you. They offer guidance and their expertise in a particular area. Again, I recognize the usefulness of mentoring, but discipleship is something quite different.
A disciple, on the other hand, is defined as “one who embraces or assists in spreading the teachings of another,” and/or “an active adherent, as of a movement or philosophy.”
A disciple is actively following and embracing a particular teaching and then participating in telling others about that very teaching.
There is, by definition in discipleship, an inherent replication process. Jesus did not have 12 disciples whom He mentored. If that has been the case, they would have taken His teachings and all the signs and wonders they had seen Him perform and stopped there, with them.
Can you imagine if the disciples had said, “Well, that was some good mentoring. I learned a lot, but there is no need to share what I learned with anyone else.”…?
I, for one, would not be sitting here writing this. I would not know Christ, most likely, if those men had not behaved as disciples, “adherents of a movement”–the movement of Jesus Christ.
When those in the Church as so quick to use the word “mentor” and use it as a substitute for true discipleship, we are doing more harm than good. The world doesn’t need mentors, it needs radical, devoted, blinded-by-His-teachings-and-nothing-else disciples of Christ.
For starters, I am banning the word “mentor” from my vocabulary.
Do you agree or disagree? Have you had good experience being mentored? Have you ever been discipled? What were those experiences like?
On Thursday, I will answer the question: What is Discipleship? Don’t miss the follow-up.