The greatest desire in the heart of a young son or daughter is to have a strong loving relationship with his or her father. Depending on the statistics you read, the typical father in America spends an average of thirty seconds to seven minutes per day in meaningful conversation with his children. The increasing number of single parent families in our world reflects a parallel concern in the House of Faith. We are out of practice in training our spiritual offspring! As leaders, we must refocus and reprioritize our time for the sake of those who look up to us for discipleship and spiritual fatherhood. They need mentors. An overwhelming percentage of Christians—especially new converts—are raised up in the Church without a Christian father figure to guide them in their journey. Across the social lines of boomers, busters, and Gen X, there is many a “Timothy” looking for a “Paul.” Without a strong mentor, millions of Christians will never reach spiritual maturity.
Relationships between spiritual leaders and most of the men and women in churches today are casual and non-committal. Typically, we make eye contact on Sunday morning and say, “How are you doing? Let’s do lunch sometime.” This false attempt at friendship never satisfies the yearning in the hearts of those who need a mentor. God’s plan for “fathering” is clearly demonstrated in Romans, yet it is not always understood as a methodology. It must be employed by the Church if we desire to walk out our calling to disciple the nations.
A mentor wears many hats as a “father figure” in the church. He communicates values and passes down critical specialized information. He stands by as a counselor and advisor to help bring clarity to someone’s life along the way. He passes on qualities to his disciple that are like spiritual vitamins and minerals, catalysts for digesting and assimilating spiritual truth and godly wisdom.
Seven titles describe the role that a mentor plays in the life of his disciple.
1. Discipler—He communicates the basics of following Christ. The discipler takes the disciple through the daily disciplines that help make them a successful and true follower of Christ. How to pray, build strong relationships, offer and receive forgiveness, walk in the Spirit and other important steps are taught in this caring relationship.
2. Spiritual Guide—He provides accountability and insight for maturity. To guide someone in spiritual matters is to help them understand the spiritual implications of events in everyday life. The disciple must learn to be accountable to someone who has walked the path before him and can bring correction and instruction with mature and productive methods.
3. Coach—He gives motivation and teaching skills for action. A coach shows his team members how to play the game with a victorious outcome. He knows the players and the skills in which they must improve to be their best. He provides encouragement and recognition while bringing them through the regiments of the game of life.
4. Counselor—He resolves problems in times of crisis and provides a mature perspective in a loving manner. One of the main roles of a counselor is to offer sound biblical advice on how Christians should relate to each other. This includes, but is not limited to spouses, children, co-workers, creditors and other Christians. The mentor in the role of the counselor must be sensitive to the disposition and maturity level of his disciple. A good mentor must convict and admonish yet endeavor to do so without alienating his disciple.
5. Teacher—He transfers knowledge and understanding of the issue at hand. The teacher is one who has learned the lessons in academics and through life experience and has the skill to pass on that information to the disciple as a student.
6. Sponsor—He provides opportunities for the disciple to discover the next step in his growth and keeps him connected to others who are important in his walk (most people stop the growing process when the next step is unclear). The sponsor has been down the road before and knows what to do next as well as who should come along side to help. He provides direction as well as relationship for the disciple.
7. Role Model—He becomes a living example to be emulated in all phases of life. Ninety percent of what we learn comes from what has been demonstrated for us. As the disciple observes the life of the mentor through a consistent time investment, he learns what to do in a given situation and how to give a Christ-like response. The writer of Hebrews admonishes us to “follow” the faith of those who have rule over us. It is the mentor’s duty to provide a model that can be followed by others to the glory of God.
While every person in our lives is important to us, not all are to be considered “fathers.” I Corinthians 4:15 states, “For though you have ten thousand instructors in Christ, you do not have many fathers . . .” Oh, that God would make each of us a father of many nations! If not a nation, then a father of twelve, like Jesus was with his disciples.
As you read this, are there believers in your church or cell that need your gifts and talents as a mentor? Cast off the “let’s do lunch” attitude and put on the garment of mentorship!