And the things you have heard me say in the presence of many witnesses entrust to reliable men who will also be qualified to teach others (2 Timothy 2:2, NIV).
It has often been stated that "Christianity is just one generation from extinction." It is the responsibility of one generation to pass on their faith and wisdom to the next. The genius of multiplication is its potential for rapid growth. If one person disciples two people a year and each of those people in turn disciple two people a year, the law of multiplication quickly reaches exponential proportions. As an educational institution we are inextricably connected to the discipleship/developmental process. Our very mission is to function as a community of rigorous learning (learners/disciples engaged in deep learning), that calls students to seek the kingdom of God (Christ-centred), to be profoundly shaped by the Scriptures (Bible-anchored), and to be formed spiritually and intellectually for lives of service (ministry-focused). Everything we do as an institution grows out of this…everything!
Discipleship is often understood in formal and informal terms; with groups and with individuals. However, discipleship can be best understood as a kind of "mentoring". I had a professor at Dallas Seminary that would frequently say, "You can impress at a distance, but you only impact up close." While our campus will soon have hundreds of students filling classes and dorms, I want to encourage you to pray for opportunities to impact a few more deeply. The results and rewards of this are immeasurable.
Mentoring is understood as the investment of a more mature or experienced person (the mentor) in the life of another less mature or less-experienced person (the protégé). The language of mentoring has its roots in Greek mythology. Homer's Odyssey describes how Athena takes on the appearance of an old man named "Mentor" in order to guide a young man named "Telemachus" through challenges. While predating the origins of this word, the Bible records many such "mentoring" relationships – between Moses and Jethro, Joshua and Moses, Ezra and Nehemiah, Elisha and Elijah, John Mark and Barnabas, and Timothy and Paul. However, the ultimate mentoring investment was the one Jesus made with his disciples.
Jesus carefully, prayerfully selected those into whom he would pour particular time and energy, and we are wise to follow his example. We may not be able to invest as heavily in as many, but we should seek to reproduce ourselves in someone. You may not feel like you are ready to be a "disciple-maker" or a "mentor", but this is our fundamental calling, as this is the essence of the Great Commission. There are all kinds of resources available but allow me to offer some very basic practices:
- Share your story. Share your history, your family of origin, your pain, and your joys. Relationships of trust are built on openness and vulnerability. We cannot mentor someone while aloof and distant. Protégés are hungry to learn from an older, wiser individual. Your story and your experiences matter. How did you navigate life with its unrest and turmoil.?
- Share your beliefs. Share your faith, your values, and your convictions. Protégés are interested in knowing how we got to where we are; what shaped our beliefs and values. They are interested in knowing what is central and foundational to our personal worldview. They want to know about our walk with God. Time together in God's Word is always a great catalyst to these conversations.
- Share your behaviors. Share your practices, your personal disciplines, your physical exercise habits, your marriage practices, your parenting practices, your work practices, your neighborhood practices, your citizenship practices, your ministerial practices, and any other life skills that may help. We should never assume that these are intuited or always understood by others.
- Issue a challenge. Challenge them to set goals for their own growth. These goals may be personal, spiritual, relational, ministry, or professional goals. Help them to think critically, biblically, and strategically. Challenge them to live a life of obedience and surrender to Christ. The ultimate objective of a mentor is to see real change in the thinking and living of the protégé. This what Jesus did and this is discipleship at its best!
Partnering together in preparing the next generation,
Michael B. Pawelke, DMin