My wife Stacy is an advocate for healthy mentor relationships in the church. She serves at our church in a role to educate and coordinate those interested in mentoring, something which is central to her faith experience and maturity.
One thing that frustrates both of us is when mentoring in the church takes on culturally defined norms. People seek out “life coaches” or people with more years of life experience and the relationships are centered on how to raise kids, and succeed in work. All good things but perhaps something less than what Christian mentoring should look like. Perhaps Christian mentoring is more about “gospel reminding” than trite talk of the weather…
Steven Curtis Chapman seems to agree and in his book, Speechless, he outlines some things we should look for in a mentor. I commend this list to you!
“1. Be intentional about being a follower of Jesus Christ. To have a mentor in songwriting, gardening, and golf is one things, but to have a mentor in the gospel is quite another. Jesus calls us to be mastered by his cross, not to have our own personal guru or coach. Pray for spiritual mentors who find joy in connecting you to Christ and not primarily themselves. Look for those who are themselves still in the process of growing in grace as opposed to being “retired from active duty.”
“2. Be sobered by the fact that each of us is already shaping the lives of those who are watching and following us. We are all mentors for others. Therefore, let us be careful about who we follow. Our models and mentors are already affecting the generation behind us.
“3. Get ready to be taught, exposed, stretched, rebuked, and loved. Don’t think primarily about showing up at Starbucks for a latte, a scone, and a deep conversation about your favorite author. Though being an apprentice in the gospel is free, that doesn’t mean it won’t cost you. To what are you willing to say no in order to say yes to the freedom for which Jesus has set you free?
“4. Be realistic. Don’t expect to find “the mentor of your dreams.” Few of us ever have that experience. Our role models in the faith should be men and women who have lived before us in a such a way as to say, “Follow me as I follow Christ.” Their lives are a contagion of grace, an aroma of love, an incarnation of the life of the cross, a picture of what it means to suffer well. But many of them may only be accessible to us through great literature, both in Scripture and in thousands of books. But accessible they are. The writer of the book of Hebrews encouraged Christians in his day to take heart from “the great crowd of witnesses” that surrounded them, referring to the Old Testament saints who have left us a living hope in what has been and what is to come. Those same witnesses surround us.
“5. Choose childlike servants rather than so-called experts as your models. We live in a day when true heroism has been replaced with celebrity. Entertainers and athletes are our culture’s heroes. Look for models and mentors who live close to Jesus – those who prefer anonymity to the spotlight; who lovingly take up a towel to wash feet; who are astonished that Jesus loves someone like them. You will find these individuals everywhere.”
– Steven Curtis Chapman, “Speechless. Living in Awe of God’s Disruptive Grace”