By Rick Lewis
Even mentors with many years of experience find that the inherent complexity of human relationships creates an environment in which there will always be much left to learn about this process. Part of this complexity comes from the fact that human relationships function on many levels. On the first level, it is clear that mentors’ words and actions have an impact on mentorees. What may not be quite so obvious is that on deeper levels, other factors within a mentor – such as inner attitudes, emotional health and the condition of the soul – are all in play, affecting the way the relationship functions and develops. Perhaps the most powerful of these factors operating within a Christian mentor is their godliness. Mentoring is not only about what you do; it’s about who you are. I invite you who are mentors to stir up your awareness and understanding of the interconnectedness between who you are, what you do, and the outcomes of your mentoring.
When I first moved to the United Kingdom from Australia, finding a local mentor was high on my list of priorities. I approached Herb Works, a retired American pastor doing some short-term mission work in the city where we both lived. Herb was a ‘foreigner’ like me, but his ability to empathise on that issue was not the main reason I chose him. There was a spiritual integrity about him that I found engaging and inspiring. Even though he was not quite sure what I was looking for in a mentoring relationship, he agreed to meet with me on a regular basis. Our times together were valuable to me not because of anything Herb said but because in the totality of his life he reminded me of Jesus. In a quietly empowering fashion, this quality of his soul called me back into connection with Christ. In the year we had together before he returned to the United States the greatest gift he gave me was his godly presence in my life.
Train yourself in godliness, for while bodily training is of some value, godliness is of value in every way (1Tim 4:7-8)
Be a True Disciple
The first requirement of a mentor who will seek to promote the work of God’s Spirit in another’s life is that they should be pursuing the same goal for themselves. Good mentors are wholeheartedly committed to Christ with steadfast passion and a desire to keep growing in the things of the Lord. Godliness arises as a character quality where there is profound reverence for God and perseverance through testing circumstances. Its source is the presence of the Spirit of God, dwelling in and rearranging a person’s life. It is developed only by progressive surrender to the work of the Spirit, and it does not come cheaply. Mentorees generally discern this quality intuitively and it is one of the first things they will look for in a mentor. Godliness in a mentor is the signal that this person has, in his or her own way, walked the path that the mentoree seeks to navigate.
Be Settled in God
Godly mentors have deep satisfaction in keeping company with God. Prayer is a welcome activity for them because it is part of their ongoing conversation with the one who is the centre of their life. They hunger for intimacy with God, but are not frantically desperate about it. Their life in God is secure, unthreatened and a source of deep joy. Out of their own experience of knowing God and his work in their life comes the conviction that God – and only God – can satisfy the deepest human longings and bring the restoration and empowerment necessary for effective service. Their confidence in God’s goodness and greatness encourages mentorees to access God’s resources for their own growth and strength.
Be Anchored in the Bible
Godliness is anchored in the Bible and derives specific shape from the character and ministry of Christ as revealed in the gospels. Godly mentors are at home in God’s Word. They internalise and obey its truth so their lifestyle is rooted in the Christian scriptures. By constantly putting God’s Word into practice they are able to discern what is right in practical contemporary situations that are not specifically addressed in the Bible. As a result, the wisdom and moral perspectives they share with mentorees are highly valued for their authority, authenticity and relevance. The people we serve need mentors with the spiritual integrity that comes from being with Jesus in private and walking with him in public.
Be Sensitive to the Holy Spirit
Godly mentors are attuned to the prompting of the Holy Spirit. Out of a deep desire to live a life pleasing to God they are able to discern the “still, small voice” and are in the habit of following that leading. Within mentoring, this sensitivity is of great value in helping identify what God is doing in the lives of mentorees.