A Multiplicity of Mentors
Having returned from the 43rd General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church in America (PCA), I am overwhelmed with gratitude for the enormous blessing–not only of being with the many dear brothers with whom I have formed strong friendships over the past decade, but also of being with a number of theological, spiritual and leadership mentors whom the Lord has placed in my life. While there, I listened to one of my close friends–whom I also consider to be a mentor–make the statement to a Ph.D. student that many young men are longing for a mentor but are afraid to ask older and wiser men in our denomination to mentor them out of fear that they will tell them that they don’t have time. He then noted that the fathers in the faith often think that the young men don’t want to be mentored; so, the end result is that neither the young men nor the fathers of our denomination approach one another about this important part of a young minister’s life. The solution, according to my friend, was for young men in ministry to purposefully pursue such mentors.
In addition, my friend remarked that young men in ministry need to pursue multiple mentors–a number of individuals who will come alongside them in areas of Christian living, systematic theology, biblical theology, church history, ecclesiology, shepherding, leadership, family life, writing, etc. Listening to my friend counsel a younger man along these lines triggered something in me that I’m pretty sure that I haven’t thought about in some time–namely, that I have had the unique privilege of having a multiplicity of mentors throughout my Christian life. So, why is it so important for young men and women to seek out a multiplicity of mentors. Here are a few reasons to consider:
1. No one person has all the wisdom and experience from which we need to glean.Only the Savior could perfectly mentor others. The disciples lacked nothing from the time that they spent with the Savior. This means that the Scriptures are the greatest source of mentoring–as all Christians are mentored by God as they pour over the Scriptures of the Old and New Testament, sitting at the feet of Jesus. As the Proverb explains, “Wherethere is no counsel, the people fall; But in the multitude of counselors there is safety” (Prov. 11:14). When we read Moses, the Psalmists, the prophets, the Gospels, the Pauline epistles, the Apocalyptic literature, etc. we are being mentored by God–but we are also being mentored by a multitude of counselors. While this is so, we see in the Scriptures that young Timothy needed the father-like Apostle Paul to come alongside him and give him the pastoral counsel that he lacked. Young men in ministry need elder brothers and father-like figures in the faith.
Add to this the fact that the Lord gives different people different gifts. There are men in our denomination who are incredibly gifted evangelists. It serves me well to be around them and observe them exercising this gift out of a desire to see others converted to Christ. There are other men in the denomination who have a breadth of knowledge in historical theology. Whenever I am wrestling through a particular issue, one of the most helpful things for me to do is call them or have a conversation with them about how that issue was relevant in the history of the church. This is true in almost every sphere of life and ministry.
2. Even the most intelligent and godly individuals have blind spots. I have many times heard fathers in the faith, whom I greatly respect for their experience and knowledge, make less than informed statements that left me asking myself, “Why in the world would he say that?” Every one of us has clay feet. Every one of us is often wrong. The most learned, experienced and diligent men and women are still finite, sinful creatures. This means that we must learn to seek out counsel from numerous mentors who will help us think through issues more carefully. After all, “the simple believes every word, But the prudent considers well his steps” (Prov. 14:15).
One of the ways that we can avoid the blind spots of our mentors is by seeking out mentors from a diversity of camps within our denomination. Because of our propensity to join together and commit to one particular camp within our ecclesiastical circle (which is inevitable and not always a bad thing), we need to be able to seek counsel from men who move in different social and ecclesiastical circles. In this way, we will get differing perspectives and will be more equipped to see what our mentors sometimes fail to see.
3. We should want to become a beneficial mentor to others.The more that we are mentored, the more we are being equipped to mentor others. My dad used to pray that God would make us wise beyond our years. The way in which that prayer is answered is by the Lord giving us a heart for the Scriptures and by placing wiser and godlier men and women in our lives to help instruct us. The end result should not be in our thinking we are now better than others or more successful than others–rather, it should be in our seeking to pour into the lives of others and to share with them what the Lord has taught us through our interactions with our mentors. The benefits accrued from being mentored by others should be passed on to our children, friend and parishioners. In fact, there should be a cumulative effect that results in forthcoming generations being more wise and knowledgeable than the one in which we live. If our desire is to bring glory to God by being the wisest and godliest men and women we can be, our desire should be to bring Him glory by pouring into the lives of others to help them attain that same goal.
These are only a few of the reasons why men and women–especially young men in, or pursuing, ministry–should seek out a multiplicity of mentors and counselors. Of this much we may be sure–we will be better for it, our families will be better for it, our friends will be better for it and the church will be better for it. May the Lord give us humble and teachable hearts to seek out a multiplicity of mentors.
Nick, This is good advice. I was at GA and I was invited by Paul Gilchrist to a meeting with other Honorably Retired TE’s and Pastors Emeritus. It was both inspiring and (at times) alarming to see the really old timers and some of them are on their last legs. We do well to invest in mentoring and being mentored while the window is open. Soon today’s younger men will be the seniors and there will be no one who has more experience for you to consult. Carpe diem
Thanks John. I am greatful for men like yourself who have served in the PCA for so many years.
Mentors may come along at different times and at different ages; sometimes God mentors me through you. Dad
You are the best mentor I ever had. I wouldn’t be who I am without you. I praise God for our friendship too.
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