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The Fine Art of Mentoring

Anne Murchison

"Paul and Silas have turned
the rest of the world upside down . . . ".

Acts 17:6 NLT


Go out and train everyone you meet,
far and near, in this way of life . . .
instruct them in the practice
of all I have commanded you.

Matthew 28:19-20 The Message
Jesus Christ

The last words we share with our families before we die are usually those things nearest and dearest to our hearts. Jesus poured His life into His disciples and as he faced imminent death, He commanded them, "Go out and train everyone you meet, far and near, in this way of life . . . instruct them in the practice of all I have commanded you" (Matthew 28:19-20).

Aside from the fact that this was not an option to Jesus, His disciples had the "can't hep its." After the outpouring of the Holy Spirit on Pentecost, their fear and timidity were quickly overcome by a contagious and irrepressible exuberance for sharing the incredible good news. Acts 17:6 says that they turned the world upside down. But for the God- anointed, God-appointed conviction and joyful life of Christ in the hearts of people of faith down through the ages, Christianity would not be the largest and most prevalent religion in the world today.

The most important words in Matthew 28:19-20 are "Go out and train," Jesus did not say go out and save them, He said, "Go out and train them." Only God can save.

"No one can come to Me, unless the Father who sent Me draws him; and I will raise him up on the last day. It is written in the prophets, 'And they shall all be taught of God.' Everyone who has heard and learned from the Father, comes to Me" (John 6:44-45 NAS).

The true witness of Christ is not in our words but in our lives. Undoubtedly the presence of God in every committed believer entreats and appeals to those who do not know Him and those who want to know Him more. His Holy Spirit will draw the spiritually hungry and thirsty to those who have a greater reality of Christ throbbing within them.

"Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, as though God were entreating through us; we beg you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God" (2 Corinthians 5:20 NAS).

Max Lucado has written, "Blessed are the available. Blessed are the conduits, the tunnels, the tools. Deliriously joyful are the ones who believe that if God has used sticks and rocks to do His will, Then He can use us."

Living without Christ is a tragedy of unspeakable proportions with unspeakable conse- quences in this world and in the world to come. We were created for relationship with God and relationship with one another. Tragically, broken families and shattered relationships have always been the inevitable fallout of rejecting Christ, living a lukewarm "Christian" life or living as a Christian in name only.

The command to "go and train" remains in place, and there is always a pressing need for mentors (disciplers) to "go and train" seekers in all walks of life.

"We know love by this, that He laid down His life for us; and we ought to lay down our lives for the brethren" (1 John 3:16-17 NAS).

Of all the things I have written, this subject is to me the dearest and most personal. I suffered from an enormous hole in my soul.  My life bears the fruit of the vine and the many branches of those believers who have lain down their lives for me throughout the years. Without them I would have nothing to say on this subject. They would be the first
to give the glory to Christ.

David Ferguson has written that "we are here to remove one another’s aloneness." Indeed! My very dear friend Janis Coffee was my good Samaritan. I was that wounded person lying on the roadside at the end of my rope. She led me to the Lord and discipled me weekly through a Bible study she led in my home. Her mentoring, though, extended far beyond that Wednesday morning class. I was spiritually bankrupt and a mental wreck when I came to the Lord, and dear Janis held my hand daily through the early months and years of my Christian walk, if not face-to-face then via telephone and often via long distance calls.

We are here to remove
one another's aloneness.

David Ferguson — Intimate Life Ministries

Janis described the discipleship (mentoring) relationship as taking me by my left hand as the Lord took me by the right hand. At some point she promised we would be able to let go and I would joyfully walk on with the Lord. More importantly, Janis and I continue on together as sojourners in this world and fellow saints in the one to come.

At a recent conference, I spoke on mentoring. During the question and answer time, someone mentioned that there was an extremely difficult woman in her life, and not only did she not want to mentor her—she didn't even like her. I was quick to point out that I too had been one of those women—extremely needy and narcissistic and  not at all easy to work with or be with. Everything was about "me, me, me." Who would have thought that God would change such a pathetic person? Only someone who knows that God can and does transform even the worst of mankind, whenever and however He chooses. If a little leaven leavens the whole lump, just consider what a little unconditional love and forgiveness can do in the life of another.

There have been many mentors in my life, people who walked with me through very difficult times, people who instructed me and taught me so very much. I will forever be grateful for the wise counsel, visible witness, and patient friendship of Janis Coffee, Helga Zidermanis, Nan Self, Joanne and Sam Ventura, Deborah and Joe Oakley, Olen and Sybil Griffing, Diane Barnes, Linda Lesniewski and my pastors and their wives. All have had more of an impact on my life than they will ever know. I love and appreciate them all more than my heart can express.

Words alone
do not minister Life.

It Isn't Our Words that Minister. It is Our Lives.

If you take nothing else away from this message, please take this: Words alone do not minister Life. It is the manifested life of Christ in your life that ministers most clearly, most profoundly and need I say this? Eternally. It is not what you know but Who you know. It is not how much you know, but how faithful you are to what you know about Him. If you are a committed believer in Christ, you have much of value to offer no matter how small it may seem.

As Paul wrote in 2 Corinthians 5:20 (NAS), "Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, as though God were entreating through us . . .".

Don't let these words frighten you. Honesty and vulnerability about ourselves, uncondi- tional love for others and a passion to see "Christ formed in" yourself and others is all that is necessary.

Different Levels of Mentoring

There are many levels of intimacy, friendship and discipleship. We can clearly see these levels in the life of Jesus. Obviously, His most intimate relationship was with His father, as should be ours. On the second level, I believe there was only one for Jesus, and that was John. On the third level there were Peter, James, and this may shock you, but I believe Mary, Martha, Lazarus and Mary Magdalene were on this same level of relationship with Jesus. They were certainly mentioned more than the nine other disciples, who were on the fourth level of relationship with Jesus. On the fifth and more distant level there were the seventy disciples, on the sixth level there were the multitudes. It is well worth noting here that the Scribes and Pharisees are not even on the chart. They were never in any kind of relationship with Jesus. Legalism is the antithesis of relationship. It is in direct opposition to it.

There are many levels
of intimacy, friendship,
mentoring and discipleship.

Mother Mentoring

It always amazes me when someone tells me that I have been like a mother to them, and it occurs surprisingly more than I ever expected.

Nan Self mentored me through prayer and her knowledge of the Word. Many a night I called her in tears. Her prayers lifted me out of the pit of despair more times than I can recount. Somewhere along the way, Nan went through some very tough times, and I was able to do the same for her.

Deborah Oakley freely admits that she "hounded" me to mentor her for several years before I gave in. I never wanted to mentor her, because I knew I didn't have the maturity or the patience she needed. Ours was a more intense mentoring relationship than most—more like immature mother and immature teenage daughter than I would like to admit. We laughed and we cried. We fought and we hugged. We wrestled until the Lord broke through in both of our lives. Without her husband, Joe, none of it would have been possible. Together with the Lord we parented her into the remarkable woman she is today. Our relationship is a lot less like mother and daughter today, yet she tells me I'm the only real mother she ever had. Today Joe and Deborah are pastoring Grace Fellowship Church in Grand Prairie, Texas.

At every level of relationship
this is the goal.
That Christ be formed in us!

Paul wrote in Galatians 4:19 (NIV) "My dear children, for whom I am again in the pains of childbirth until Christ is formed in you." Indeed some of these mothering relationships have at times been the most difficult of all my relationships and at the same time the most rewarding. They were equivalent to what hospitals call intensive care.

At every level of relationship this is the goal. That Christ be formed in us!!! And this occurs when we impart our very lives for a moment or a lifetime.

"For we never came with flattering speech, as you know, nor with a pretext for greed— God is witness—nor did we seek glory from men, either from you or from others, even though as apostles of Christ we might have asserted our authority. But we proved to be gentle among you, as a nursing mother tenderly cares for her own children. Having thus a fond affection for you, we were well-pleased to impart [(share, reveal) to you not only the gospel of God but [we have] also [imparted (shared, revealed)] our own lives, because you had become very dear to us. For you recall, brethren, our labor and hardship, how working night and day so as not to be a burden to any of you, we proclaimed to you the gospel of God. You are witnesses, and so is God, how devoutly and uprightly and blamelessly we behaved toward you believers; just as you know how we were exhorting and encouraging and imploring each one of you as a father would his own children, so that you may walk in a manner worthy of the God who calls you into His own kingdom and glory. And for this reason we also constantly thank God that when you received from us the word of God's message, you accepted it not as the word of men, but for what it really is, the word of God, which also performs its work in you who believe" (1 Thessalonians 2:5-13 NAS).

We are always mentoring. We are always imparting our lives for good or for evil, for better or for worse, whether in a one-on-one relationship, a Bible study or to those who are simply observing our lives from a distance. And what we are ministering is the true character of Christ or lack of it.

We are always mentoring.
We are always imparting our lives
for good or for evil,
for better or for worse.

If it is for but a moment, the Lord will have someone to take up where we leave off. If it is for a lifetime, the Lord's grace will be sufficient, and in the end all the glory will go to Him.

Unfortunately too many who call themselves Christians have one foot in the kingdom and one foot in the world. When we walk half-heartedly after the Lord we are sending a very confusing message to those we are mentoring as well as those who are simply observing us from a distance.

"A student is not greater than his teacher. A servant is not above his master. The student shares his teacher's fate. The servant shares his master's! . . . " (Matthew 10:24-25 The Living Bible)!

Relationships are Only Possible When We Are There for One Another—When We Are Present with One Another

The word for "relationship" in the Greek is koinonia. It is the same word as "communion", "communication," "fellowship" and "partnership". The word "koinonia" not only implies but requires close, personal honest relationship, and the only basis for relationship with God is hearing and obeying the voice (communication) of His Spirit. Jesus said, "My sheep hear my voice" (John 10:27). Likewise, the only basis for relationship with family, friends and brothers and sisters in Christ is to hear their voice—to listen for the unspoken words beneath the spoken words.

Mentoring is about communion. It is about fellowship. It is about a partnership. It is about communicating openly and honestly. I can say without equivocation that we cannot offer anything of substance to anyone without honest and heartfelt communication.

Without question, this is why we were created—to fellowship with God, make disciples
and to have and be in relationship with one another. God is personal and relational, and
He clearly has communicated that our relationship with Him cannot be separate or isolated from our relationships with others at any level. His Word, in fact, describes relationship with other believers as a body—one body with Him. Relationship is not an option. It is as essential as the air we breathe and the blood that courses through our veins. The way we relate with people reveals and exposes the quality of our relationship with God.

The quality of our spiritual life
is no better than the quality
of our human relationships.

Mike Mason wrote in his book, Practicing the Presence of People, that the quality of our spiritual life is no better than the quality of our human relationships and that the way we connect with people is an accurate picture of our connection with God. When we want to know how we are doing spiritually, we only need to turn our thoughts toward the one person in our lives with whom we are having the most trouble. This person represents the place in our hearts where peace with God is lacking. A sobering thought indeed.

Let me say here that I believe we are called by God to certain relationships. Janis was called to me. I was called to Deborah. Sometimes we recognize the calling of God to a relationship immediately, and sometimes it takes time to realize that call. I have come to understand, however, that there is not a beginning and end to a mentoring relationship, only a change in that relationship from teacher and disciple to friend to friend. Several of my called out relationships simply reluctantly manifested over a period of time. With others I recognized the call to intimate relationship immediately. And I really want every moment I spend with anyone to be a moment of intimacy and authenticity—a moment where we both know we have touched heaven, even if we are only talking about the weather.

My relationship with Joanne Ventura comes immediately to mind as one of those to which I did not feel called. Likewise, she did not feel called to be my friend, but unmistakably we were. Initially it had been her husband Sam who suggested that he would like us to be friends. We stuck it out and, after twenty years are the dearest of friends. And Sam is also on that first level of relationship for me. On an important note, relationship with a married man can only take place in the light of relationship with his wife and NEVER separate from her. If Joanne did not at any time trust Sam or me, neither of us would want to be friends. Fortunately, as a single woman of many years, I have been blessed with the friendship of many of my friends' husbands. As long as I prove trustworthy that will always be the case, and I consider it a sacred privilege.

The Bridge to Intimacy

In that very dear book, Anne of Green Gables, it was the deepest longing of Anne's heart to have a "bosom friend" who was a "kindred spirit". Fortunately, I have been blessed with many such friends.

The bridge to intimacy in relationships is strengthened most noticeably during times of sharing our disappointments, failures and sorrows with one another, otherwise we are likely to remain more or less superficial with one another. The best illustration of this point is once again my bosom friend, Joanne Ventura.

Certainly the thing that transformed my relationship with Joanne from "arms length" to "bosom friend" was the long illness and serious financial difficulties of my husband over six years. At some point during this time I called Joanne one night about 8:30 and told her I had to talk. She invited me over and met me at the door in her robe. Sam excused himself and she and I sat together as I poured out my anger and grief.

Joanne listened without interruption, which is rare enough in our hyperactive self-centered world. I shall never forget it. She knitted, occasionally peering over her half-glasses as I ranted on and on about how angry I was at my husband for dying and how mad I was at God for the whole mess.

I shall never forget it. When my venting ended, Joanne put down her knitting, removed her glasses, looked me in the eye and said, "I'm on your side. Right or wrong I'm on your side—and I'm not saying you are wrong." It was the defining moment of my life, and it was the defining moment in our relationship. No one had ever actually said the words, "I'm on your side no matter what," much less actually demonstrated it. Whatever had restrained us from committing ourselves to a friendship was forever broken.

Though trials are what usually draw us closer to one another, this does not mean that intimate relationships do not include laughter and good times. It does mean that true intimate relationships—joyful, rewarding, fulfilling relationships—are built upon nothing less than the rock of vulnerable, trusting, full disclosure. All secrets are barriers that say "No trespassing. Keep out," which we must respect, by the way. There are at least ten people who know everything there is to know about me. Even my worst secrets have been laid bare before them. And that makes me feel really good, even though a lot of what they know about me is really awful!

So if intimacy is forged by walking in the fiery furnace with others as Jesus did with Shadrach, Meschach and Abednego, we need to learn how to 1) fully disclose ourselves to others wisely, 2) discern who can be trusted with our secrets and who cannot and 3) listen as people pour out their hearts to us and guard what they tell us as if it were the gold in Fort Knox. Most of us need serious instruction in these three things.

I cannot say this enough. If you cannot keep a confidence, then you have no business mentoring.

If you cannot keep a confidence,
then you have no business mentoring.

So How do You Discern Who Is Trustworthy and Who Is Not?

First, if you are desiring a mentor, here are three clues that are easily discerned about trustworthy people: 1) their conversations are not full of gossip about others; 2) they do not talk endlessly about themselves and their "issues" to anyone and everyone who will listen, and 3) they do not probe you for information about you or anyone or anything that you are not ready to give them. BEWARE of such as these. Here is a good rule of thumb for knowing what to reveal about others and what to protect. If I hear someone say something publicly, as I do in my own testimony, then, and only then do I feel safe in discussing it with others—and that only in a constructive and non-judgmental way.

Second, the only way to learn who can be trusted with our secrets is to slowly unfold ourselves a little at a time and then wait to see what the listener does with the information. I have finally learned after years of fouling up to consider even the most trivial information shared with me to be confidential. I'm still learning that even when others repeat information that has been disclosed to me, that I still need to keep my mouth shut. We only share the information and secrets of others because it somehow makes us feel important to let others know we are in on the know. So it is always wise to enter into intimate disclosure of oneself slowly and carefully, postponing the sharing of our deepest secrets until we are certain they will be as safely guarded as we would guard them ourselves.

Even so, there comes a time when the past is the past. We have confessed our specific sins to others enough. There is no more need to share those dark secrets about ourselves as we make new friends. The spots have been cleansed and healed.

Beyond these principles of developing loving, meaningful, enduring relationships with others, specifically, in Christ, the primary way we develop mentoring relationships with others is around discussing and studying the Word of God together. We can do this is by using a study guide or Bible study. Or we can put together a list of questions we have and open the Bible and see what we learn together. It is important to remember that we cannot—can not—accomplish this without imparting our lives. The words of Jesus say it all.

"I tell you the truth, unless a kernel of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains only a single seed. But if it dies, it produces many seeds. The man who loves his life will lose it, while the man who hates his life in this world will keep it for eternal life. Whoever serves me must follow me; and where I am, my servant also will be. My Father will honor the one who serves me" (John 12:24-26 NIV).

I tell you the truth,
unless a kernel of wheat
falls to the ground and dies,
it remains only a single seed.
But if it dies, it produces many seeds.

John 12:24-26 NIV

Not Every Mentoring Relationship Bears Fruit

Not all of our mentoring efforts will produce the results we hope for. And that is God's business. One particularly close relationship comes to mind. I spent a number of years with both the young woman and her husband. They were active in church and teaching the Word of God. They seemed to have a devoted marriage and poured their lives into their children. And then the terrible revelation came to light that they were no longer walking with the Lord. That which had appeared to be almost perfect disintegrated. Both had numerous affairs. Both quit walking with the Lord. They are divorced and tragically their family is in shambles. Many of us who know this couple are bewildered and hurt, not just for ourselves but for them and their children. No one has a clue how such a devastating thing could have happened. Even so, we continue to pray for them and trust God for the outcome.

When we arrive before the throne of God in heaven, we will not have to answer for others—only ourselves. What did we do with what we were given? When we stand before God will we be found faithful? Certainly no one is perfectly faithful, and the Lord knows I fall far short of the glory of God, but when all is said and done, the question is how did I finish? Where is my heart? What is my priority?

1 Corinthians 4:2-3 (NIV) says, "Now it is required that those who have been given a trust must prove faithful."

And Luke 12:48 (NAS) says, "And from everyone who has been given much shall much be required . . . ".

The Secrets of Being a Good Listener

So now that we've looked just a little into the biblical value of relationships—and now that I have talked a little bit about discerning who is trustworthy and who is not and how to begin sharing the vulnerable parts of ourselves a little at a time with others—let's take a look at some of the things that will make us better listeners to the trusting disclosures of others.

We long to be known
and we fear it like nothing else.

John Eldredge and Brent Curtis
The Sacred Romance

John Eldredge and Brent Curtis, in their book The Sacred Romance, wrote that we long to be known and we fear it like nothing else. Listening empathically is one of the ways we do this. This kind of listening is one of the rarest, most valuable, powerful, healing gifts we can give to one another. Author and priest John Powell has written that we discover who we are by telling others who we are. Similarly, Brenda Waggoner, wrote in The Velveteen Woman that we cannot become real by ourselves. I fervently believe that ministry begins with listening. I believe with the help of the Holy Spirit that we can actually listen a soul out of darkness into light, from death to life and from shame to freedom and transparency.

1. Everyone has a rhythm of relating—of communicating. Most of us want to move right in with a surgical strike and fix the problems, but we cannot move people along faster than they are ready or able to go. To be effective in our ongoing mentoring relationships, we must instead learn to discern their rhythm, adjust to their pace and watch and listen as they unfold themselves. Trying to force disclosure can create a breach in the relationship or a crisis in the life of the one we are sincerely longing to help.

2. I have listened to the anguish of many people over the years, people who were angry, ashamed, terrified, bound up in fear and even suicidal. I never cease to be amazed that after a brief time of listening, much to my relief, the peace and comfort of the Lord always settles in their hearts and they are changed by His grace.

3. And don't be afraid of the tears of others. The release of pain through tears is Biblical and healing. And somehow loving acceptance of the pain and tears of those who hurt facilitates their healing and opens the door for further ministry. It is a great privilege to share in such intimate and holy moments with others.

1 Corinthians 12:26 says when one member of the body of Christ suffers we all suffer. Folks going through tough times often need Jesus with skin on to be there for them.

The mind can function more or less on its own in a closed system of self-centered thought.  But the heart requires bonding with others.
Mike Mason
Practicing the Presence of People

Mike Mason says having relationships requires "listening to their hearts, which speaks only through relationships. The mind can function more or less on its own in a closed system of self-centered thought. But the heart requires bonding with others."

I hope these few tips on listening help you to be there for and bond with others.

A Good Listener:

  1. above all else puts aside their own personal control issues and quick fixes for a
      higher call;
  2. listens with with spiritual ears open, hearing and understanding the
      spirit beneath the words;
  3. listens with the heart and mind still and the mouth shut;
  3. listens with no personal agenda;
  5. listens with compassionate spiritual eyes, maintaining involved eye
  6. listens with a compassionate heart;
  7. listens with a committed heart;
  8. listens with attentiveness;
  9. listens without judgment;
10. listens without fear;
11. listens with faith, knowing that the Spirit of God is at work to will and
      do according to His good purpose;
12. waits patiently, quietly and prayerfully through times of silence, making
      room for the unfolding of things previously too deep and too painful to
      even know or express;
13. counts it a privilege to witness a soul in the process of transformation,
      even when it doesn't look like it;
14. offers to explore options;
15. offers to pray when the time of tears and sharing ends;
16. consoles with words of confidence in the faithfulness of God, which is
      usually all anyone needs to hear;
17. waits to give advice until asked;
18. offers a hug;
19. recognizes that these are holy moments of eternal consequence;
20. keeps all holy moments completely confidential.

Some Afterthoughts:

1. To have great friends we must know how to be one or know someone who knows how.
    This is where mentoring comes in.
2. In healthy relationships between humans, intimate friendship requires equality. There
    can be no one up and no one down. (“One up” is an attitude of superiority and “one
    down” is an attitude of inferiority). Without equality there can be no intimacy.
3. We need three kinds of people in our lives: First we need people who are our equals.
    Second, we need people who are more mature than we are, but are not “one up”. These
    would be our role models or mentors. And last, we need people who are less mature
    than we are, but not one down. These would be people for whom we will be a mentor or
    role model.
4. Don’t try to make others like you.
5. It is important to allow people to grow at their pace, not ours.
    If you've ever watched an oak tree grow, you know you cannot rush growth.

"Blessed be God, even the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies, and the God of all comfort; Who comforteth us in all our tribulation, that we may be able to comfort them which are in any trouble, by the comfort wherewith we ourselves are comforted of God. For as the sufferings of Christ abound in us, so our consolation also aboundeth by Christ" (2 Corinthians 1:3-5).

"Therefore, since we have this ministry, as we received mercy, we do not lose heart, but we have renounced the things hidden because of shame, not walking in craftiness or adulterating the word of God, but by the manifestation of truth commending ourselves to every man's conscience in the sight of God" (2 Corinthians 4:1-3 NAS).

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