This past Mother’s Day, which can be quite hard for those who never had the chance to have children, I preached about spiritual mothering/fathering, aka mentoring. That is a privilege granted to all, and one in which we can all participate. Normally I’m a one passage man when it comes to preaching, but for this particular sermon I bounced around to a few passages.
Here’s what I mean by “mentoring:” a more mature (spiritually/experience/age) walking alongside to encourage, build up, challenge, bless, direct, and resource a less mature (spiritually/experience/age) person. It can consist of something as simple as spending time, asking questions, listening, answering, praying with and for, as well as sharing what worked and didn’t work. Sharing failures can often be just as helpful, if not more so, than sharing “what worked.”
Anyone can do that. If you have a pulse, you can be mentored. If you’ve had a pulse for longer than someone else, then its possible you could mentor someone in some way. You don’t need to find THE mentor to end all mentors or become THE mentor to end all mentors. Simply seek out the possibility to become one mentor among others or to find one mentor among others.
During my sermon prep time, I noticed the mentoring progression in Timothy’s life. The first step is just a recognition of need. Timothy had a very clear need for it, as his faith was passed down to him from his grandmother, to his mother, to him.
I have been reminded of your sincere faith, which first lived in your grandmother Lois and in your mother Eunice and, I am persuaded, now lives in you also.- II Timothy 1:5
Timothy didn’t have a dad instructing him in the faith. But Jesus never leaves his children as orphans. Not only does he give us His Spirit, he brings us into a family where we can have several dads.
And so Paul became his mentor, or spiritual dad (though I get not all mentoring is like a father-son relationship).
Even though you have ten thousand guardians in Christ, you do not have many fathers, for in Christ Jesus I became your father through the gospel. Therefore I urge you to imitate me. For this reason I am sending to you Timothy, my son whom I love, who is faithful in the Lord. He will remind you of my way of life in Christ Jesus, which agrees with what I teach everywhere in every church. I Cor 4:15-17
Even though we all have the Holy Spirit, we still need someone to imitate, learn from, walk with someone who has been there before. Paul did not say, “Well you guys have the Holy Spirit, so you probably don’t need any other direction.” Nope, we still need people! And so Paul sends Timothy “his son.” Everything passed down to him about how to live out one’s faith in the 1st century, he will now pass on to folks who really don’t have a clue. Because this new Corinthian church comprises very few mature believers, Paul has to bring in a “ringer.”
But a ringer is never the ideal nor is it the goal. The goal is to create a mentoring culture. Eventually Timothy becomes a pastor. How apropos that Paul would write these words to him. Who knows better the need for a mentor, the opportunity, the experience?
Likewise, teach the older women to be reverent in the way they live, not to be slanderers or addicted to much wine, but to teach what is good. Then they can train the younger women to love their husbands and children, to be self-controlled and pure…Titus 2:3-5
Older ladies are to mentor the younger ladies. Same thing with the dudes (II Tim 2:2). Whenever this process is not dependent upon A person, you know that the Lord has created a mentoring culture. It is something people just do. Older seeking younger. Younger seeking older.
Getting to that point takes time. You’ve seen the progression. A need to be mentored. Then someone recognizes that need and capitalizes on the opportunity. Then the mentored person shares what he’s learned by mentoring multiple people. Then those people seek out others to pass it on.
Some programs work. Some don’t.
Organic is key, but organic doesn’t mean lack of oversight. Organic certainly doesn’t mean lack of intentionality.
Timothy was the perfect candidate to create a mentoring culture in his church. If you’ve benefited from someone sharing life with you, don’t wait. Take someone younger out to eat, fish, shop, etc… Who knows? Maybe you’ll click. Maybe you won’t. Maybe you’ll find that the person is actually more mature than you! Good, then get them involved in the process. Maybe you simply become friends. That’s not bad either. But it only takes a few people who are intentional about seeking out younger and older to create a mentoring culture.