Leadership and mentoring Essay
Mentoring is currently trendy among pastors. In spite of the hype it is occupying nowadays in leadership conferences, it is but a contemporizing of discipleship concept. It is rather a more trendy word for a more Biblical term “discipleship.
In Megginson’s word (The Mentoring Manual), he defined “mentoring” as “providing guidance, support and practical help through life crisis or into new stages of development.” It seems that, with the word, comes a new meaning or new approach in nurturing would-be leaders (Eims,1978).
We assume struggles against our weaknesses as part of a Christian’s life. Mentoring anticipates these weaknesses even in leaders; only, in current-day mentoring, the leaders are presumed to be having struggles with sins that are most common with newly converted Christians (Neighbor, 1990)..
It is accepted that leaders are the same as non-believers in desires and passions. Examples such as young people having problems like drug-abuse, teenage pregnancy, bullying or peer pressure, and even premarital sex are talked about in these conferences. Though one cannot deny the fact that these are all realities that even leaders could be facing, still the expectation in a spiritual leader is that he is not living in these sins deliberately while exercising his spiritual leadership (Neighbor, 1990).
Many seminar-workshops regarding mentoring contain assumptions that leaders lead a double life. Their conduct in public is different from their private lives which they live in totally opposite nature. Many examples are taken from the Bible to support the idea of mentoring. Examples such as David and Solomon, Elijah and Elisha, Moses and Joshua, Jesus and His disciples as well as Paul and Timothy are all used to buttress the teaching.
The following sample diagram shows the recent use of many national leaders in the effort to implement the mentoring concept in evangelical circles.
5 Tracks to Guide Pastors and Evangelists as They Implement the Ministry of Mentoring
(Source: Evangelism Explosion Level 2- Training retreat)
Biblical Idea of Mentoring
We can be liberal in applying different terminology as we approach the work of discipleship provided we do not lose its essence in the process. How should we strike this balance of relevance and integrity as we champion this cause initiated by biblical heroes?
The best way to do this is probably to apply proper interpretation of the Word of God to what we try to achieve. For example, though Moses and Joshua showed some weaknesses in character, we cannot find in recorded Scripture that either one of them were secretly engaged in gross sinful practices. Moses may have had some problems in his leadership approach that his father in law had to intervene and teach him some strategies to be more effective in how to execute his leadership but he did not have problems with hiding something from the people of God. He may have had occasional outbursts problem but those things he quickly got over with in repentance.
The first thing to do as we develop leaders or try to attract more leaders is to examine how Jesus did it to His disciples and how His disciples in turn, did it to their disciples. We have Jesus to twelve apostles and Paul to Timothy pattern as our basis. We have a record in the gospels how Jesus mentored the first disciples. Leaders today need to catch or have a grasp of what it is and how to grow leaders. Although Jesus knew full well the weaknesses and even the sinfulness of the raw disciples whom He just called from their “secular” backgrounds, He did not shy away from telling them the cost of discipleship (Briscoe, 1988). It is very important to elevate before the potential leaders the loftiness of the kind of work they will be committing for the rest of their lives. It is not a commitment good for one year or two but a lifelong surrender of one’s rights and privileges to Someone Who would use our transformed lives to transform others.
What Makes A Good Discipler/Mentor?
As what was pointed out above, a good grasp of Biblical principles that pertain to spiritual leadership is a must. He also must be somebody who regularly intercedes for and in behalf of those whom he is mentoring or discipling. He must possess a life of faith which is not simply being a mystic but one who is able to articulate his faith not only through words but in actions. He must be able to spend adequate time (qualitative time) with his mentees/disciples which means that he knows them individually very well. It follows then that he has the ability to hear them out and help them as they ask for assistance to their areas of weaknesses/struggles. A good mentor possesses a deep and abiding confidence that even when criticized, he is not the sort of person who feels threatened but able to accept and has the resiliency to adapt as to the changes he himself must take. Lastly, he is one person who constantly develops himself in areas of personal study, prayer, meditation, preaching and teaching competencies, as well as relational skills (Hendrichsen, 1974) .
Mentoring Today: Its Connotations
As mentioned earlier, discipleship is taking a new turn with the advent of this new term “mentoring.” Instead of presuming leaders to be more mature and ahead in their spiritual walk, the presumption today is that leaders have neither depth nor height when it comes to their spiritual level. As a result, a lot of cynicism in leadership is hovering around evangelical circles. Instead of becoming more fruitful, in terms of many Christians aspiring for true spiritual leadership, what is happening these days is potential leaders (those who have the “call” to the ministry) are discouraged and consequently not being mentored. Doubts or cynicism are simmering within their ranks as they look to current leaders.
The point is, we do not disregard the fact that even leaders do have struggles with sin, only instead of talking too much about weaknesses, why not try to focus on what spiritual qualities leaders should aspire.
The issue at stake here is leadership in general. We need to raise the standard back from a mixed secular-biblical kind of leadership qualities. Assuming we now have a proper understanding of spiritual leadership and how to pass it on to potential individuals, let us now move to the next issues that we should be dealing (Smith, 1992).
What are the demands of mentoring?
1. Mentoring presupposes that the mentor is a spiritual father.
It means that he is spiritually fruitful himself. It could be that his mentee is one of his spiritual fruits, directly or indirectly.
2. Mentoring process must be mutual, relationship wise.
It is not only the mentor who desires the mentoring relationship or the mentee alone. Both have to aspire to go through the process knowing that it is essential.
3. Mentoring should “major” on spiritual hunger and passion over spiritual motions.
It is very important that the mentor is discerning and is able to identify true spiritual hunger among leader candidates. If the hunger for God and His Word is there, then mentoring is in order.
4. Mentors should first give of themselves generously.
In Jesus’ words in John 17:19, “…For their sakes I sanctify Myself, that they also may be sanctified by the truth.” Based on this biblical example of Jesus, a mentor must be the one who first have given his life for the cause.
5. Mentors should make extra effort to keep himself “biblical” amidst the changing times.
There is always the danger of losing the essence of biblical Christianity. Church history has given us enough proofs to this. As we continue the work of discipleship and pass it on to the next generation of disciplers, we must make doubly sure we preserve the faith as it is revealed in the Bible.
Sustaining the Process of Mentoring: A Case of
Malcolm Muggeridge, towards the end of his life, he reflected: “Looking over my 90 years, I realize I have never made any progress in good times. I only progressed in the hard times.” While this may not be easily acceptable in today’s ears, in mentoring, spiritual progress is made and sustained most of the time, not in good times, but during difficult times.
In the life of Charles Haddon Spurgeon, true mentoring is no less than a dedication of whole life to God and the work. His was the life of true sacrifices exemplified even in times when sustaining the ministry is so tough by all human standard. Spurgeon’s wife was physically invalid in a very young age of thirty three. This physical condition of his wife has forced Spurgeon to subdue his own sexual desires. Aside from that, he was stricken with rheumatic gout that caused him to be confined to bed and at times even preached with searing pain in his knees. Moreover, Spurgeon struggled with deep depressions. Through all these, many indelible lessons can be gleaned from Spurgeon as a mentor.
Insights into CH Spurgeon’s life reveal a deep abiding faith. His sermons are by products of his personal dedication. Spurgeon stated:
“Have great faith. Little faith will take your soul to heaven; great faith will bring heaven to your soul.”
A modern-day mentor can learn a lot from Spurgeon (Smith, 1992). His writings exude many practical benefits of faith. He put so much emphasis on faith. He was always speaking out of the overflow of his heart. It was said that Spurgeon was trained by his own mother and was paid for each Scripture verse he memorized, with a penny. We are not just training people as the world does. We train people to think Biblically. Our actions should flow from what we have been instructed in the Word of God. It’s good that today, in churches, discipleship is being popularized, hiding it in the guise of contemporary terminology. But as spiritual leaders, we must keep at our aim, which is, the discipling of nations to follow Christ. We know how to frame this huge goal into smaller and personal one. We focus on certain individuals and teach them nothing else but Biblical teachings.
As Spurgeon’s mother imparted to him the primary importance of memorizing God’s Word, and knew how to motivate him, thus, it also a challenge to us to treasure God’s Word first in order to be able to impart it to our followers. The question that we must be facing everyday as we mentor is, “how much do we treasure the Word of God?” Do we endeavor to impart its principles to our mentees, or what we are teaching today are principles or techniques in the corporate world? This is what we mean by being biblical as we mentor. Keep the faith (Mallison, John ,Mentoring to Develop Disciples and Leaders, Scripture).
When we do mentoring, we are reproducing our own lives on other people. This premise then assumes that we only beget what we are like, hence, a very dangerous job (Ogden, 1998). Again, learning from Spurgeon, in addition to memorizing and meditating Scriptures, he read and learned the Christian classics. He saw himself as the Pilgrim in John Bunyan’s Pilgrim’s Progress. It became his life metaphor. Of course, Pilgrim’s progress’ theme is thoroughly biblical: the whole metaphor of the book is about the Christian journey; that we are just pilgrims in this world and not permanent dwellers. You see, even in reading books, people get to be mentored indirectly by the authors.
Another good characteristic of a mentor is the ability to focus. What is your theme in your Christian life-can be one vital question that should serve to evaluate a mentor. Chances are one’s theme absorbs him towards certain books or preoccupations that teach that same theme. Again, in all these, one should never depart from the measurement of the Word of God. Because we do not determine what we should major as we lead/teach our mentees. We must major on things which we see in the Bible Jesus is majoring (Kuhne, 1978). For example, since Jesus took the time to elaborate to the multitudes the cost of discipleship, it might be that this is where we should be majoring in our teaching sessions. People must know the cost they have to pay before they can truly follow. They must take the right path.
In addition, spiritual mentoring means knowing which kind of people should be in his core of leaders. Spurgeon set the example of this principle. He garnered the acclaim of being with the likes of William Booth, John Ruskin, George Mueller, D.L. Moody, Lord Shaftsbury and Prime Minister Gladstone whose impact on his personal accountability and development in stature contributed greatly. A mentor owes it to his mentees the kind of network their mentor possesses- a safe and accountable one which helps strike a spiritual balance. Imagine the impact of such people as D.L. Moody and William Booth up till this time. Such was the association of C.H. Spurgeon. This kind of association is necessary for every man of God if they are to be preserved from personal flaws and wrong/sinful inclinations. Therefore, people can learn a lot just by observing to whom their mentor is associating himself. Equally important is proximity of a mentor’s association: where do these people reside? Are they accessible or close enough as to foster accountability between each other? Mentoring relationship does not work in distance. It may work to a certain extent but not thoroughly effective. Spurgeon’s books are effective only in mentoring because he had lived, spent, and proven his message.
Authenticity is another major trait of good spiritual mentoring. It means being transparent and not ashamed to admit mistakes made as the mentoring process is being established. Immediately, as soon as the mentor realizes his mistakes committed in the previous week, he must not hesitate to acknowledge and take back those blunders. It is one way of showing authenticity. Since mentoring is a lifelong work, “short-term” pretensions will not work. Anytime the seams will show and those following will observe and it would be more to difficult to recover, or else, the mentees will be following the wrong examples modeled (Bruce, 1971).
Good mentoring will always show by example, how to focus on the big issues of life. It is mentioned earlier that where Jesus majored, there the mentor should major too. Spiritual leadership or mentoring has this in view: the death, burial, and resurrection of Christ. What do these truths embrace? They have to do with life as God wants it to be. The ramifications include practically a person’s daily dealings with community, workplace and the individual persons he encounters. To the mentor, spiritual issues must relate practically to life; if it is not, it cannot be taught or imparted (Hull, 1988). The same significance of Biblical teaching is what the followers are waiting for the mentor to exemplify not just in his discourses but especially in his conduct. If the mentor himself has difficulty in conceptualizing biblical principles, it will result in his actions and his discourses will become vague descriptions lacking in convictions.
It is not to be forgotten the mentor’s dependence on the Spirit’s power. The forming of the character of Christ in one’s life is not the work of man; it is the work of God. For this work to be accomplished, then, one needs to be regularly conscious, as the work progresses, of his need for supernatural intervention (Bly, 1981). It’s so easy to assume God’s presence every time in ministerial work to the point that the mentor has unconsciously developed a ceremonial prayer where people around could no longer sense the spontaneous earnestness coming from the heart that longs for God’s presence. There should the great distinction, which is the very Presence of God and His clear Word flowing every time through the mentor’s life even in times of weakness. Human weakness of the mentor is not his disadvantage but opportunity to illustrate his dependence on God.
In conclusion, many churches have adopted the process and development of mentoring of leaders. This is mainly in response to the many problems that modern day evangelicals have encountered particularly in the influential sphere of leadership. This must not be properly and thoroughly pondered upon by those who desire to embrace the procedures, bearing in mind that the process is not that quick and easy, nor is it without many oppositions. This is an occasion for leaders and congregation to pray and evaluate what God desires for their churches and not be caught by the impulsiveness of the moment. Sure discipleship is still the aim of all evangelistic efforts. But be careful not to sacrifice the Message in the process.
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Eims, Leroy. The Lost Art of Disciple Making. Colorado Springs: Navpress, 1978.
Hendrichsen, Walter A. Disciples are Made, Not Born. Colorado Springs: Cook Communications, 1974.
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Mallison, John ,Mentoring to Develop Disciples and Leaders, Scripture Union, NSW, Australia, p. 34.
Ogden, Greg. Discipleship Essentials: A Guide to Building Your Life in Christ. Downers Grove Ill.: InterVarsity Press, 1998)
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Smith, Fred (1992). Mentored by The Prince of Preachers. Leadership Magazine. Carol Stream, IL 60188. pp 52-56.