It has been my joy over many years to work with as well as observe the ministry of mentors. They have worked behind the scenes encouraging, helping, guiding and sharing with emerging national leaders of churches around the world. These unsung heroes have made a contribution to the growth of the church in a significant way.
My understanding, after many years of observing this vital ministry that has greatly strengthened emerging national leaders, is that it is crucial how this mentoring is focused. The best mentors help leaders develop in their walk with God. Leaders – and potential leaders – are then strengthened in faith, in understanding God’s ways and in their daily walk with God.
Rather they model ‘how to’ and develop a wholesome friendship with the national pastor.
Mentoring – an experienced and Spirit-led ministry
These mentors are both experienced missionaries and pastors who are led by the Holy Spirit into this ministry of mentoring. For missionaries it is usually easier as they already speak the language and understand the local culture.
Experienced pastors face more hurdles in this task; however they can and do make a valuable contribution as they sensitively share their insights and experience.
This is not a task for the inexperienced or novice. Emerging church leaders welcome pastors who make themselves available to strengthen their ministry and encourage pastors in other nations.
It would be remiss of me to not point out here that there have been both missionaries and pastors who have not understood the importance of respecting the indigenous pastors enough and thus have been prone to take control. Just as we should respect the autonomy of each local church in our own society, we should maintain this attitude internationally.
A related issue is that of governance. That is, church government. There are various models, each with their strengths and weaknesses. I suggest that area is best left to the indigenous church leaders.
I like the following definitions of a mentor…
- Galbraith and Zelenak: ‘A mentor shares the dream or vision of the learner and assists in its promotion.’
- Caffarella: ‘Mentoring is “An intense, caring relationship in which someone with experience works with a less experienced person to promote both professional and personal growth. Mentors model expected behaviour and values and provide support and a sounding board for the protégé.”’
- Paul: ‘Whatever you have learned or received or heard from me, or seen in me – put it into practice. And the God of peace will be with you’ (Philippians 4:9).
In my years of active involvement in world missions I have seen wonderful examples of these relationships work out to the glory of God. The greater the humility of the mentor, the greater the fruit of their work. In my observation I would say that the most effective mentoring meant the need for the mentor to become less and less while the value of the friendship becomes more and more.
Interestingly great mentors do not applaud themselves or seek to be centre-stage… they are aware that their reward is eternal.
These are the kind of mentors needed today! Their friendship, experience and help are greatly needed in many places and situations in the emerging churches and church planting movements of the 21st century.
There are good Bible examples of mentoring ministry such as Paul and Timothy, Paul and Titus, Barnabas and John Mark, Elijah and Elisha and many more. A study of their relationships and mentoring is a worthwhile exercise.
A needed specialist field
Candy’s Six Stage Model for a Mentoring Relationship is helpful. They are:
- Mutual Trust Building
- Risk Taking
- Teaching of Skills
- Professional Standards
Note the last stage…there must be a beginning and an ending. Mentoring in the full sense must have a vision and a closure of the role of mentoring. This does not mean a cutting of every link, but rather, a natural continuity as friends. This long-term relationship is quite special. I have observed it and thank God for it.
Having begun with a title in the form of a question, I conclude with a further question: ‘Who is willing to seek entry into this special field of ministry?’
I encourage you to ask the Lord for direction and his guidance. He is the one who opens doors that no man can shut.
Dr George Forbes is internationally recognised as a missionary statesman with a heart for the lost of the nations. With a wealth of missionary knowledge and a unique ability to communicate the global picture, he is widely known as the ‘story-teller.’ Link: firstname.lastname@example.org