THE VEN OLANREWAJU A. BABALOLA PhD
Immanuel College of Theology and Christian Education, Samonda, Ibadan.
No 7 of Robert Green s 48 Laws of Powers reads: “Use the wisdom, knowledge, and legwork of other people to further your own cause. Not only will such assistance save you valuable time and energy, it will give you the good-like aura of efficiency and speed…”. This law is only a counsel stating what already exists in the natural subconsciousness of man; man is wired to look up to something as a guide.
No career path or vocation is entirely novel. Whatever channel one chooses to thread, there are always people who have taken that route before, whose experience can be a guide and a form of compass on how to go about the journey, such that the one who is following can achieve more success than the one whose life is being followed. No one becomes successful in life without having at one time or the other a voice to guide and a shoulder to lean on. It does not matter how gifted and intelligent an individual is, certain situations of life will exhaust his knowhow and prove too challenging for his intellect.
Life is inundated with confusion and challenges sufficiently equipped to destabilize man and make a shipwreck of his lofty ambitions. But the dynamics of life is such that one person s present challenge is another person s experience – that s the beauty of mentoring.
The call to ministry offers a great opportunity of shaping lives and moulding destinies. The laities in most cases look up to their priest as a guide in almost all things, hence, the priest-laity relationship is a form of mentoring where the priest is the mentor and the laities the mentees.
The hierarchical order of priesthood (in the Anglican Communion) is such that younger priests can leverage on the life and experience of the older priests as a guide to sail through the deeply challenging waters of ministry.
Deï¬nition of Terms
Mentoring is a relationship between two people with the goal of professional and personal development. The "mentor" is usually an experienced individual who shares knowledge, experience, and advice with a less experienced person, or "mentee.”
Mentors become trusted advisers and role models – people who have "been there" and "done that." They support and encourage their mentees by offering suggestions and knowledge, both
general and speciï¬c. The goal is to help mentees improve their skills and, hopefully, advance their careers.
The progenitors of the Jews in the patriarchal age were nomads, and their history is rich in scenes of pastoral life. The occupation of tending the ï¬‚ocks was undertaken, not only by the sons of wealthy
chiefs but even by their daughters. (Genesis 30:29 ff.;
Genesis37:12 ff., Exodus 2:10 ). The Vicar of a parish church who superintends and gives instruction in spiritual things is into the act of shepherding.
In the Old Testament, mentoring is establishing a God-ordained relationship with a person(s) who will assume the mentor s spirit of prophecy to execute the will of God. The Old Testament mentors or leaders sought followers that God chose to support the plans of his kingdom. In Exodus 27:18-23, God called Moses to transfer his mentoring spirit as the leader of Israel to Joshua. God told Elijah to anoint Elisha to the status of a prophet as his replacement (1Kings 19:16). God delivered the prophecy to Deborah that Barak followed defeating the Canaanite enemy who was oppressing the children of Israel (Judg. 4:1-9).
Mentors cultivate relationships as supporters, encouragers, and teachers to those less experienced. Organizations produce these liaisons of supporters, encouragers, and teachers through “interpersonal relationships” requiring the mentor to instruct, inspire, nurture, promote and retain integrity in their relationships. Mentoring is a form of teaching and its approach is uncovered in the Old Testament (Ex. 4:28-31; 18:14- 26; 24:13; Num. 27:18; Deut. 3:28; 31:7; 34:9-12; 1 Kings 2:1-9; 2 Kings
2:9; 2 Chr 2:10-15;). Most importantly, mentors give mentees feedback fostering growth and improvement. Leaders are vital for shaping their followers for the impending work that fosters change in organizations.
Jethro & Moses Example
One of the ï¬rst instances of mentoring in the Old Testament is the example of Jethro and Moses. Notice several things we can learn about mentoring for their relationship in Exodus 18.
First, the foundation of mentoring is a close relationship (Exodus 18:1-8).
In these verses, we see the closeness of these men. They greeted one another. They were concerned about each other s welfare. They spent time together talking. They told each other about what was going on. No doubt, this relationship had been cultivated over the forty-year period that Moses was a shepherd in the wilderness (Exodus 3:1).
Often, we focus too much on the mentoring and not enough on the relationship. Without a close relationship built by trust, love, and mutual commitment, mentoring will not work.
Second, there is need for transparency if mentoring relationship will work (Exodus 18:8).
Moses had a willingness to tell what was going on (“Moses told his father in law all that the Lord had done…”). Moses was willing to be vulnerable. He was willing to admit fears, weaknesses, mistakes, and concerns. I have no doubt the Jethro was just as transparent as Moses.
Third, the mentor must genuinely desire the best for his protégé (Exodus 18:9-12).
Jethro was very excited about how God blessed and used Moses. Moses' victory was Jethro s victory. He was happy when things were going well for Moses. He was just as excited if not more excited than Moses over what God had done for him. He threw a big feast for Moses, Aaron, and all the elders of Israel.
We need to learn to celebrate the successes of those we are mentoring. We should be their biggest cheerleader. Instead of bragging on our accomplishments, we should brag on how God uses them.
Fourth, mentors make positive investments in the lives of those they are mentoring (Exodus 18:13-23).
If we are going to mentor others, we must be committed to positively investing in others. It is not about using people to build our ministry; it is about using our ministry to build people. Mentoring only works that way.
Fifth, mentoring is only possible if we are teachable (Exodus 18:24-26).
Moses hearkened to the voice of his father-in-law! There were many reasons, he might have not listened:
Moses was known for his meekness and humility (Numbers 2:3). The fact that he listened to his father-in-law and took his advice shows teachability. Moses did not think he had arrived or that he did not need any help.
Moses followed Jethro s advice to the letter. He hearkened and did all that Jethro said. He chose able men out of Israel and set up heads over the people. Often we complain about not having a mentor, but mentoring will only work if someone is willing to be taught!
Mentoring in the New Testament is different because it looks at what God s Word teaches about mentoring and training leaders. Believing that all Scripture is given by inspiration of God and is proï¬table for learning. The New Testament is replete with examples of mentoring. Of signiï¬cant consideration in this presentation is that of Paul and Timothy in (I Timothy 1 -2:3). We shall carefully examine the aforementioned scripture to further enhance our understanding of mentoring outside of the Old Testament example.
Paul and Timothy Example (I Timothy 1 -2:3)
In verse 3b, Paul by praying ceaselessly for Timothy emphasized one of the basic responsibilities of the mentor to the mentee. The mentee is actively present in thought of the mentor every time so much that in all the mentor does, he remembers always to pray for the mentee.
Also, Paul did not forget to tell Timothy that he would only be able to keep all he needs by the help of the Holy Spirit. The mentor does not present himself to the mentee as the all in all, this is the difference between mentorship in Christianity and mentorship elsewhere. It is the Holy Spirit that dwells in the believer that helps the manifestation of the ï¬nished work.
So what lessons can we learn from the mentoring relationship of Paul and Timothy?
chose Elisha, Jesus chose the disciples, Barnabas chose Paul, and Paul chose Timothy.
Shepherding is taking care of and guarding a ï¬‚ock of sheep. The shepherd is the guardian of the sheep who smells like the sheep. The shepherd is a higher animal with a more developed intelligence than the sheep but uses his greater natural endowments to safeguard and provide for the sheep. There are three important points that highlights the shepherd-sheep relationship.
his life, puts his life on the line for the safety of the sheep. All the dangerous animals that like to feed on sheep are animals powerful enough to also kill the shepherd – wolf, bear, giant snake, hyena, crocodile…these are the animals against which the shepherd protects the sheep. That is the reason behind the conï¬dence expressed by the Psalmist – 'Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil'. The sheep will fear no evil because she is with the shepherd who is willing to ï¬ght off any danger for her sake.
Because of this responsibility, the shepherd will deliberately pursue improvement – he will develop a near perfect hunting skill, he will develop strategies of communication with the sheep in case there is a need to warn them of imminent danger, he will develop understanding of seasons and the peculiarities of the pasture so that he only leads the sheep to safe pastures with a minimal risk of dangerous predators and poisonous plants.
Life is a battleï¬eld of organized warfare both physically and spiritually. The priest more especially is the one who must stand in gap during the day and in the night to ï¬ght spiritual battle on behalf of his members (the laity), otherwise the marauding wolf of this world will devour them and truncate their respective destinies.
Similarly, in a house, the father is the head and the priest representing Christ; he must lead the family in warfare against the onslaught of the evil one.
The word of the God is the bread of life. The priest therefore as shepherd of the laity has the responsibility of feeding them with
the right word and must feed them to satisfaction. This was what Jesus was telling Peter in John 21:15-17 that he should feed and care for the sheep. It is by feeding them with the quality word and in appropriate proportion and ration that full growth is achieved, this will manifest in their spiritual and physical wellbeing.
Mentoring is a broad concept that is found in every institution of the world. In Christianity, it is called 'discipleship'; in politics it is called 'godfatherism'; while in education it is called tutoring.
The Christian mentor is chieï¬‚y the priest in charge of a parish who has the responsibility of developing the life of his parishioners both spiritually and physically. The Christian mentor is the elder who is carefully nurturing a younger Christian so as to help him achieve all God has purposed for his life. The methods of a Christian mentor include:
Also, the rudimentary requirements for success in life, like the dignity of labour, prudence, kindness… are thought to the mentee by the mentor showing practical examples by his own way of life.
football coach identiï¬es talents in young footballers and help to daily nurture it until it becomes a superstar, the Christian mentor tends the gifts and calling of his mentee until the gifts become beneï¬cial to both the body of Christ and the carrier of the gift.
Dear clergy and leaders of the church, if you want to succeed in life and ministry and want a beautiful continuity of the ministry that will surpass you, then give room for mentoring and good shepherding of the ï¬‚ock in your care and give yourself up for mentoring. You can hardly ever get all the training you need for life from your biological parents or natural mentor alone. God always sends people to ï¬ll the gaps in your life. It takes humility to accept and receive mentors. Your lack of mentorship is not a sign of superiority it is a minus for you. Look for someone who has achieved more than you and learn from the person and in turn search for one you will train and pass of your spirit to. It is deï¬nitely a blessing to be mentored.
Thank you for listening.
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Bonhoeffer, Dietrich (1954). Publishers.
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Brad Merchant (2002). Mentoring Like Jesus: Making Discipleship A Part of Everyday life, GrandRapid.
Fazel E. Freeks & George Lotter (2014). “Possible Mentoring and Discipleship in the New Testament” Journal for Christian Scholarship 3rd Quarter.
Henrichsen W. A. (2000). Disciples are made not Born. Helping others to grow to maturity in Christ.
Naomi Ruth, (2010). The Power of Mentoring: Other Mentors In the Bible, Bloomï¬eld Press.
Shepherding (2011). In Merriam-Webster.com. Retrieved June 28, 2022 from https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/shepherding
Travis Snode, (2014). Mentoring mission in the Old Testament, Baptist Vision.
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