Saturday, May 14, 2011

I've Been Thinking: The Ministry of Mentoring

"Most Christians would rather die than think-- in fact, they do," said Bertrand Russell, mathematician, philosopher, social critic and all-around fun guy. That statement clearly indicates he never met the women of First Presbyterian Church, Jackson, MS. Actually, we should probably take a break every now and then. My friend the CE Director and I have a standing dialogue. When she answers the phone I say, "I've been thinking." Then she shrieks, "Oh no!"
Romans 12:2 reads "Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind..." Being conformed to the image of Christ is a process of the heart and mind that is transformed by the Word of God. In response to that Christian "mindset" our Women in the Church ministry and the Christian Education ministry provide numerous opportunities for us to rub shoulders and lives with other women in order to serve as iron sharpening iron. It's called mentoring.

While many are trying to forget high school English in these days near graduation you may still remember Telemachus, son of Odysseus, who was left in the hands of Mentor while his father marched off to the Trojan War. The very word "mentor" means to cause another to think. Just what are we encouraging one another to think about? The Gospel.

The apostle Paul in 1 Thessalonians 2 writes, "But as we have been approved by God to be entrusted with the gospel, even so we speak, not as pleasing men, but God who tests our hearts. For neither at any time did we use flattering words, as you know, nor a cloak for covetousness--God is witness. Nor did we seek glory from men, either from you or from others, when we might have made demands as apostles of Christ. But we were gentle among you, just as a nursing mother cherishes her own children. So, affectionately longing for you, we were well-pleased to impart to you not only the gospel of God, but also our lives because you had become very dear to us." Mentoring is stewardship of the Gospel. How?
1. A mentor is approved by God. God confirms or commends His people as stewards of His word in order to protect it as Paul later writes in Titus 2. "...that the Word of God may not be blasphemed." In the faithful day to day living of our lives the truth and fruitfulness of the Word should be evident.
2. A mentor is entrusted with the Gospel. To put into trust is to invest and the stewardship of the Gospel is performed with full confidence that what will result is the multiplication and maturation of believers.
3.A mentor speaks not for the pleasing or praise of men, but to please God who tests our hearts. The primary goal of mentoring is God's, not our own. The fact that God tests our hearts is a conviction, a guard against self aggrandizement and a comfort in that He knows the motives of our heart at all times.
4. A mentor ministers with sincerity. Flattery is sinful insincerity used to manipulate the heart and affections of the hearer toward the flatterer or toward the hearer. Its aim is to make one or both think more highly of herself than she should, but especially to the benefit of the flatterer. Mentoring is not about increasing self-esteem. It is about filling another with the truth and practicality of the scriptures.
5. A mentor seeks to promote the spiritual well-being of the other but is not a demanding superior. The apostles fought this battle all the time as they shooed away from Jesus those whom they determined to be pesky interlopers. Mentors always have the glory of God and the good of His people foremost in their ministry.
6. A mentor is gentle as a nursing mother cherishes her children. Not how I tend to think of Paul. We love because God first loved us. The sin-cracked love of man is nothing to be compared with the enduring, complete, nourishing love displayed on the cross of Christ.
7. A mentor shares the Gospel. Every woman's greatest need is the Gospel of Christ. My Sunday School teacher's lessons this semester have been how the answers to life's greatest questions are generally found in our theology. A mentor knows and gives the life-giving Word of God. Anything else is merely advice.
8. A mentor lives life with the other. "...we shared not only the Gospel, but our lives..." Being a mentor is not just giving someone a book. It is living the Book with them. It is "follow me as I follow Christ." The Gospel in the Word and the Gospel in a life are a powerful force that changes the lives of men and women, boys and girls, now and forever. Mentoring is a partner in the process of sanctification.

How can this happen? How can I be a mentor or how can I be mentored? While we don't want to try to engineer relationships, we can nevertheless provide platforms where the opportunity for rubbing shoulders and lives is made possible. Bible studies, discipleship groups, community groups, book clubs, prayer groups, crafts for missions or shut-ins, etc. all provide a platform for women to get to know one another beyond the "Hi, I'm fine how are you."  If you'd like to mentor someone, pray that the Lord would send you one. If you don't want to mentor, you'd better not pray for this to happen! God sends his sheep. And don't forget living in the niche. We sit in the same pew each Sunday, visit afterward with our personal friends, hope the sermon speaks to our needs, and lunch with those who make little or no demands. It's called comfort zone. My challenge is that instead of looking for your niche be the niche for someone else.

And one more something to toss in. Remember Aquila and Priscilla in Acts 18? Paul came and stayed "some time" with them as they together made tents and headed for Paul's evening preaching at the synagogue. Later they came upon Apollos who was a fine preacher of one sermon. Aquila and Priscilla taught him a better way, a more complete Gospel. Their mentoring ministry was a family way of life. And how about Elizabeth as she mentors Mary the mother of the yet to be born Jesus. Talk about ministry in a time of crisis. Elizabeth served as counselor to the mother of the Wonderful Counselor who intercedes for us through the ministry of the Holy Spirit. All of our mentoring and counsel must, like Christ's, be awash in prayer and partnered with the Holy Spirit.

This is probably enough thinking for one day on this subject, so I leave you a few bullets:
*Be obedient to answer the command to mentor in Titus 2.
*Be available. You can't be everything to everyone but you can be something to someone.
*Be purposeful while not excluding the work of Providence.
*Be biblical in what you say and live.
*Be real. There's more than enough phony baloney out there as it is.
*Be yourself. God has given each of us a unique ministry.
*Be a good listener.
*Be aware of your every day need for the Gospel.

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