What is a Mentor?

In last year’s mid-year letter, I requested prayer for renewal in our ministry and that we’d be able to identify volunteers who excel in disciple-making. For the benefit of the millions of seekers God sends us, we want their practices to be widespread, their results amplified. We’re now launching a “Mentoring” program in which some of those excellent volunteers can review others’ responses and give them advice (via videoconference ) on how they might improve in their ministry. Since our founding, we’ve had the very biggest of visions: to give everyone on earth multiple opportunities to know Jesus, to see hundreds of millions receive Him and be built in their faith

It makes perfect sense that we’d need to continually be revising our estimate of just how hard that is going to be, of the processes and resources we’re going to have to put into place to make that happen. As the idea for this process begins to become reality, I’m asking you again to pray that we can find enough excellent Online Missionaries to be our first mentors: the Josiahs and Jeremiahs among us, as I put it. As I’ve thought through it, we’re specifically looking for the Moseses, the Barnabases, the Samuels, Jonathans and Elijahs. Let me explain further.

Mentoring takes a deep commitment to the process and mutual trust.

For our mentors, we’ll need Online Missionaries who love the Lord, who love the lost and love the mission. They need to have experience, but must still be passionate enough to overlook any fatigue or frustrations they may have—and invest themselves heavily in improving the ministries of others with less experience. Jonathan, the son of King Saul, was a faithful and fearless warrior in his own right, who could’ve been next in line to be King of Israel. Instead of working toward this purpose, he was selflessly committed to the development and protection of David, whom he knew would be the next king instead of Saul. (1 Samuel 23:17)

It was God Who chose Elisha for Elijah to mentor. When Elijah placed his mantle on to Elisha, it so galvanized him that he made a sacrifice of the implements of his livelihood right away. (1 Kings 19) And the Bible tells us that David loved Jonathan as his own soul. (1 Samuel 18:3)

Mentoring requires great humility, insight and teachability.

This effort will mean some of our best disciple-makers will have to reduce the time they spend discipling new believers for the sake of the overall health of the ministry. It will also require them to look carefully for apparent as well as latent strengths in their “mentees” and capitalize upon them. Barnabas is an example of this: he saw something in Saul of Tarsus that others were unwilling or unable to see. Like Jonathan, he was willing to humbly take a back seat to his protégé when the time came. His insight wasn’t only limited to the newcomer, either. He found John Mark’s recovery worth his investment, even though it resulted in conflict and division. Paul ultimately found John Mark “profitable” (2 Tim. 4:11) and likewise made mentoring Timothy and Titus a priority in his life.

Not all mentoring is discipleship, but discipleship is a form of mentoring.

When we think about famous mentoring relationships in popular fiction, we usually know the shift from student to leader is coming. That the young protégé is meant to be the hero. The mentor might be a former hero like Obi-Wan Kenobi, an “almost contender” like Burgess Meredith’s Mickey in the “Rocky” movies, or even a servant like Batman’s butler Alfred. Making mere change, the improvement of the individual being mentored, the ultimate aim of both mentor and mentee is a worldly twist we’d like to avoid. Much of the world’s mentoring tradition has this slant. In our case, the hero isn’t the mentee or even the mentor. Mentors need not try to “multiply” in the sense of reproducing themselves. We mean to give God’s Kingdom and righteousness first place. The hero of our story is Jesus, and the mentor’s prayerful efforts help conform him or her to His image in ways he or she cannot do alone.

Several of you who receive this letter have been mentors in one way or another to me and/or Cindy. Your willingness to speak truth into our lives, your transparency, your love for Jesus and radical dependence on Him for the power to live the Christian life have made a tremendous impact on us. Thank you so much for your prayers and investments in us! May God bless you!

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