God is concerned about His Kingdom being extended in history. He has taken time to inform us of how His Kingdom is to expand in painstaking detail. The Bible informs us of how we are to carry out this mission. One essential ingredient for God’s Kingdom expansion that is rarely talked about and often overlooked is the mentor/mentee relationship. God is the God who is the one (one God) and the many (three distinct persons) and has designed discipleship to be about the one (the individual christian) and the many (the body of Christ). Our church culture today obsesses over the many while neglecting the one. This is a sure plan to create very anemic Christians. We would see a radical transformation if the church would grab ahold of the discipling of the individual.
Apprenticeship vs. Collectivism
Historically where cultures have prospered have been ones in which apprenticeship was the primary model of educating and equipping its citizens. Apprenticeship can be defined as “a person legally bound through indenture to a master craftsman in order to learn a trade.” In certain fields we still have semblances of this (although that is declining). When you became an apprentice it was a very serious commitment.
In contrast to apprenticeship is collectivism. This is “emphasis on collective rather than individual action or identity.” This is commonly talked about as a political or economic philosophy in which it is taught that the aim is to prioritize the collective group over the individual. They say we need to do what we can to benefit the “common good of all people.” Every fabric of our society today is greatly influenced by collectivism. Even the church. Even the seminaries we educate the leaders of our churches. This is a real problem.
Collectivism in every community is necessary at a certain level. The problem is when it is embraced at the exclusion of apprenticeship. Apprenticeship supplies the mind, shepherds the heart and shapes the will. This inherently has a high level of accountability built into it (which we desperately need). Collectivism mainly only supplies the mind leaving the individual to have the illusion that they have a high level of autonomy. A little knowledge with no accountability is a very dangerous thing.
Consider the biblical model of apprenticeship. Who as it that trained Joshua? Moses. Who trained Timothy and Titus? Paul. How did Jesus establish the New Covenant church? Through the apprenticeship of twelve young men. The list could go on and on. This model of apprenticeship is the biblically faithful one and yet we in the church think our members can be equipped only through the collective model of gathering together one time a week. Now, the worship gathering is vitally important and clearly prescribed by God but if that is our only form of discipleship then we have simply prescribed to a flawed plan and not God’s. There is a better way.
Mentorship as Apprenticeship
At ONElife we firmly believe in the process of mentorship as a way to carry out God’s apprenticeship model. Mentorship means to open up our lives to wise and godly counsel.
The great commision was a mandate (not suggestion) given by the Lord Jesus Christ before He ascended back to heaven. He said:
And Jesus came and said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age” (Matt. 28:18-20).
The part of this verse that is in bold is the part that we never talk about. We talk about going into the world. We talk about the importance of making disciples and baptizing. We rarely talk about one of the most crucial parts of the mandate and that is to teach all that Christ has commanded. This is a big assignment. He commanded a lot. This means we are to teach and to apply the bible to our everyday lives in the home, in the church, in the community and in the workplace. Our entire person (mind, heart, will) needs to be subject to the Lordship of Christ and His truths. One hour, at the Sunday morning worship gathering, receiving a message applied to a broad group of people will not accomplish this. More is needed. We must be a reading people and we must be a mentoring people. This is a lifetime endeavor, a marathon not a sprint. Running a marathon is much easier when you run with an experienced runner who is more familiar with the course, the obstacles and knows how to sustain a pace. God has designed us to run the discipleship race with a mentor.
Traits of a Faithful Mentor
Hopefully, to this point I have been able to convince you of the importance of mentorship. It really is not optional for the Christian who wants to be on fire, who wants to grow, and who wants to be an instrument in the redeemer's hands. Now, if you agree that mentorship is needed it is important to find a good mentor. They can be hard to find. Right now I am very blessed to say that there are three mentors I have and all of which have different strengths. One of those mentors I meet with weekly, one quarterly and one yearly. They have poured so much into my life. I have had to pursue them though on a regular basis. Through this I have learned there are three very important qualities to look for in a mentor.
Being a Mentee
Often when a topic like this is discussed there are a certain types of people who love it. They love the idea of mentoring and speaking into other people's lives. They love the idea of “helping” others. Here is the thing though. If you have never been mentored by another person then you are not really qualified to mentor someone. It is like someone who does not know how to tie their shoes attempting to teach others to do it. First, you must learn to tie your own. First, you must humble yourself to be a mentee and to learn from another person. Here are some steps on how to become a mentee.
Follow these five steps and I assure you that your faith will be strengthened and deepened and you effectiveness as a minister in Christ’s kingdom will increase drastically. Find a mentor. Pursue them!
Contributor / Eric Stewart
Eric Stewart is the Lead Pastor of ONElife Church in Flint, MI.