The Importance of Mentoring
The older we get, the more important it is for us to mentor younger Christians. Personal conversion is just the first step in a very long journey. There is a special joy and benefit when “two walk together,” and often one of the two will be a bit further down the road.
I recall my sojourn in Basel when I studied under Prof. Bo Reicke. I will never forget the encouragement it was to be able to meet with him and the example he provided of the wise Christian scholar at work. Paul wrote to his friends in Corinth, “Though you have countless guides in Christ, you do not have many fathers. For I have become your father in Christ through the Gospel” (1 Cor. 4:15). Where would I be today without my Doktorvater’s guidance and care? We all need a mentor, a “father” who is willing to give time to encourage a younger brother or sister.
Here’s the odd thing. I searched in vain on Google Images for a photo of Prof. Reicke. Though he was perhaps one of the leading New Testament scholars of his generation, his memory is all but forgotten today. When I mention his name to my students they often ask, “Who?” Yet in a very real sense they do know him. For he lives on in his students, and in his students’ students. Alas, in many seminaries and Bible schools, education is simply the dissemination of information, not the impartation of life. For Paul it was otherwise. “We were gentle among you,” he said, “like a nursing mother taking care of her children” (1 Thess. 2:7).
Younger Christians need help like that. And as I look back on my life of 54 years I can see the hand of God providing mentors for me at every stage, whether in Hawaii, California, or Switzerland. In Matthew 28:20 we see Jesus assuring His disciples that He would be with them until the end of time. They could always claim His presence. Jesus’ “incarnational ministry” did not end at the ascension. He still lives on, “fleshed out” in the lives of His people. And so, not surprisingly, the early disciples were keen on developing Christ-like men who in turn would develop Christ-like men, and on and on (2 Tim. 2:2).
How about us? Are people more valuable than programs in our ministry? Our evangelism? Our churches? Our classrooms? Can you think of a young student who today needs the care of an older and wiser saint? “I’m too busy,” you say. “I’ve got publishers’ deadlines to meet.” Jesus never wrote a book as far as we know, but even if He were a prolific author I doubt that He would have put deadlines before people. He was not afraid to stoop, to serve, to be touched, or to touch the untouchable or love the unlovable. And today He wants His work to continue through the lives of men and women who follow Him. Being in His family means building one another up (1 Cor. 14), encouraging one another (Heb. 10:24-25), and equipping one another (Eph. 4:11-16) so that we may be team members and not dead wood.
This may not be the academy’s philosophy, but it is His way.
February 2, 2007
David Alan Black is the editor of www.daveblackonline.com.