Everyone talks about mentoring. In corporate America, seasoned employees are matched with new recruits. In colleges and high schools, seniors are partnered with freshmen. Mentoring affords one an opportunity to learn from others’ mistakes, takes the mystery out of what to do and what not to do, and offers advice that works. Mentors help others cut through the red tape, battle self-doubt and answer innumerable questions. But traditional mentoring helps you tackle the world’s problems on the world’s terms. Christian mentoring goes beyond that, offering a biblical approach to growth and development – whether at work, school, home or at church.
If one desires to learn how to mentor someone to be a better employee, student, spouse, parent or leader, look no further than the relationship between Paul and Timothy. Paul poured himself into Timothy, who grew into a church leader worthy to carry on Paul’s legacy. Their mentoring relationship was just that – a relationship – a deep and meaningful one where Paul considered Timothy his son. Paul taught Timothy how to lead a Christian church, but more importantly he taught Timothy how to lead a Christian life. Yes, Paul provided Timothy a blueprint on how a church should be run – a blueprint still employed by many pastors today. But he also provided Timothy a blueprint on how to master his own life, fight the good fight, and run until the race is won. Paul developed Timothy’s God-given gifts and shaped his character. Sitting in his prison cell, with death imminent, Paul knew that his hard work had paid off and that he was leaving his ministry in good hands.
Much can be learned about mentoring from Paul. The books of Timothy reveal several aspects of a successful mentoring relationship.
Mentoring is about a relationship.
Mentoring begins and ends with building a relationship – a deeply personal one which may grow deeper than most blood bonds. Paul called Timothy his true son in the faith. Timothy wept for Paul. These were two men who loved one another, who sacrificed for one another, and who would have laid down their lives for one another. Paul wanted to teach Timothy how to lead a church, but to do so, he first had to foster the trust, loyalty and concern that accompanies any real and personal relationship.
A mentor puts his relationship with God first.
Paul put his relationship with God before all things, including his mentoring relationship with Timothy. Paul never lost an opportunity to thank Jesus for all He had done for him – for His strength, His grace, His love – and in all things gave Him honor and praise. Paul understood before one can lead others one must subject oneself to God’s sovereignty and base one’s decisions on God’s will. To mentor others, one must first be mentored by God.
A mentor teaches his prodigy to put his relationship with God first.
Just as Paul put God first, he taught Timothy to do the same. Paul wanted Timothy to lead the church at Ephesus, but more importantly Paul wanted Timothy to hold onto his faith, fight the battle well, and remain ever vigilant to avoid the temptations and heresies that had shipwrecked other Christians. Paul knew that Timothy had to have a close and personal relationship with God for his own sake and for the sake of his ministry. Any leader who does not have his priorities in order will not lead well.
A mentor shows his prodigy how to pray.
Paul taught Timothy how to pray and how to teach others to pray. In fact, the first thing Paul taught Timothy about pastoring a church was how the church should pray. Prayer was more important to Paul than church leadership, hierarchy or management. For the church, or any human endeavor to thrive, it must be built on a foundation of prayer. Good mentors take everything to God in prayer and teach others to do the same.
A mentor helps his prodigy discover and develop his gifts.
Paul reminded Timothy that prophecies had been made about the young pastor and warned him against neglecting his gifts. In fact, Paul helped Timothy discover and foster his God-given gifts. Paul saw how God had blessed Timothy, helped him identify those blessings and enabled him to develop those gifts through the power of the Holy Spirit for the benefit of the church.
A mentor has faith in his prodigy.
Paul was entrusting Timothy with a church plagued by members teaching false doctrines, so-called teachers who did not know what they were talking about. The church needed a strong, faithful, blessed leader to redirect it toward the proper direction. Though young, Paul believed in Timothy – he believed Timothy was up to the task and never conveyed any doubt or concern about Timothy’s ability, or better said, God’s ability to work through Timothy.
A mentor passes along his knowledge.
Paul knew how to lead a church. He knew both the spiritual and pragmatic aspects to ensure that a church held true to God’s doctrines, remained faithful, and fulfilled His will. He shared all his knowledge in direct and simple instructions, giving Timothy a roadmap on how to lead the church at Ephesus. Paul taught Timothy every aspect of running a church – from how to pray, to sound biblical doctrine, to the qualifications of church elders and deacons, to addressing the needs of the members, to ensuring the longevity of the church. Paul left nothing to the imagination.
A mentor passes along his legacy.
Paul knew his life was coming to an end and he wanted someone to continue his legacy. So, he poured himself into Timothy in hopes that Timothy would continue the work Paul had started. Even though Paul had fought the good fight, he wanted Timothy to fight it too, with the same spirit and energy and faith that had characterized Paul’s ministry. Paul gave Timothy the charge – preach the Word – just as Paul had done.
A mentor sacrifices for his prodigy.
Paul loved Timothy, always remembering and praying for him. He wanted what was best for Timothy, much as a father wants what is best for his son. He made a point to visit and write Timothy, and put Timothy’s interests above his own. Just as Paul sacrificed for Timothy, he reminded Timothy that he would have to sacrifice and suffer for the gospel.
A mentor instills a strong work ethic in his prodigy.
Leading the church at Ephesus would be a challenge. Each day, Timothy would have to work hard to keep the church on track and looking toward Christ. Yes, Timothy had to let the Holy Spirit work through him to accomplish God’s mission for his life, but he had to do his part and diligently put forth the effort required to accomplish the tasks God put before him, and do the work of an evangelist.
A mentor develops his prodigy’s faith.
Wherever Timothy’s faith took him, his church would follow. If he wavered, the church would too. Paul helped Timothy develop and grow in his faith, knowing that it would serve as the foundation for his life and for those he led. Paul warned Timothy to flee from false doctrine, selfishness and pride, guard what was entrusted to him and pursue righteousness, faith and love.
A secular mentor develops others according to the world’s perspective. A Christian mentor offers much more. Christian mentors help others discover their God-given gifts, develop those gifts, and empower them to fulfill their God-given plans for their lives. Christian mentoring not only equips others with the tools to run the race, but gives others the peace in knowing that when they reach the finish line, that they ran the right race for the right reasons.