Be imitators of God, therefore, as dearly loved children and live a life of love, just as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us as a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God. Ephesians 5:1-2
Why would and should a more experienced and mature Christian walk alongside new and less mature Christians? Because, we are called to be imitators of Christ. The name "Christian" presupposes we are like Jesus Christ, receiving Him as Savior and as Lord as well as imitating His precepts. The name "Christian" denotes someone who is Christ-like; and what did Jesus do? He taught and walked alongside others to mentor and show them His Way. This means being an example of Him and then putting Him and His call and precepts in our life and into the lives of others. Thus, we need to be concerned with our spiritual growth as well as the Christian formation in the lives of others. The Bible is clear on this, yet so few Christians will undertake this vital process and even fewer churches have any visible program to do the most essential and fundamental call. So make sure you and your church are doing as Christ does; make disciples (Matt. 28:16-20; Rom. 14:13-23; 15:1-6; Eph. 5:1-2)!
Romans 15:1-6 tells us that we as followers of Christ have a "debt to the weak." This means those who are convicted by Christ and are growing are strong and those who are new to the faith or have not grown are weak. This is not about condescension; rather, it is realizing Christianity is a growth process where we all start, just as a plant develops and grows. We ought, as in it is our call to do as Christ thought and demonstrated; we are to respect Christ and His call and His children. This is an obligation and a pleasure-to serve Him for His glory.
We are not to be self-centered where we despise or hinder others who are more knowledgeable or condescend to those who are new or less knowledgeable of the faith than we. We all grow after we have had a start in the faith; even the most experienced, faithful Christians started out as spiritual infants and still need to cultivate their faith, whether they are eight or eighty.
The more experienced and mature Christian is called to walk alongside new and less mature Christians to help them grow so they can glorify Christ. In addition, Christians are to remove all aspects of pride and arrogance from their thinking and actions! This means we are to teach, be good examples, and to build others up in the kingdom of God. This is what Scripture calls edification, meaning being educator of endurance and encouragement of His example and Word, as in the Romans passage. As the Father sent Christ, so He sends us into the lives of others (Psalm 69:9; John. 4:34; 5:30; 8:29; Rom. 5:3-5; 12:16; 15:4-8).
In the early model of church as prescribed by Scripture, this was the role of a deacon, which is a type of minister or staff person in ministry who is in the "office" of a leadership role (Acts 6:1-6; Rom. 15:25; 16:1; Phil. 1:1; Titus 1:5-7; 1 Tim. .3:8; 5:17; James 2:15-16). These leaders must have the appropriate gifts of leadership, as well as the gift in their area of ministry (1 Cor. 14: 3-40; Eph. 4:7-16; 1 Peter 4:10-11; Heb. 13:17), all working together in love and cooperative unity to manage His Church effectively. But, as in any ecclesiastical model, this basically means those who are mature in the faith minister and teach those who are less mature and so forth. Its application means we all serve; when we serve, we are serving Christ, being His Hands in others' lives (respecting boundaries with temperance and grace), and in the world.The Struggle of Mentoring
When the Epistles were being written and the church was struggling to be mentors, the Jewish Christians were trying to force unneeded commands and procedures on the new Gentile converts. Thus, some of the churches were exercising their own version of lordship to the exclusion of Christ. So, Paul corrected them in Romans 14-16 and gives us a model to do this in love and make it work well. It is simple; just be a learner of the Lord and place your knowledge into others' lives as well. This is what Jesus calls us, both the individual and the Church collectively, to do; real Lordship is following Christ as he said, making disciples. Being a mentor equips us to make disciples.
The mature Christian has the obligation, the imperative command, to disciple others with time, love, and patience. Thus, we cannot flaunt ourselves because of our maturity or lack of it. Instead, we are to be dedicated to unity rather than to strife and envy. The great enemy of mentorship is envy, one of the most destructive forces on earth, that will bring down leaders and ministries faster than the imagination will allow! It will also cause a church to ignore its call and thus, create a church of pew sitters and not disciples to be a force in the Kingdom.
Keep in mind that Christ's focus was pleasing God and helping others. He walked this earth as a mentor making mentors! What is yours? Pride is the other great enemy of mentorship. In Romans fifteen, verse three, which is one of the most quoted passages in the New Testament, Paul is quoting Psalm 69:9. Since God was able to deny Himself, it is ludicrous to think that our pride is bigger than Him, so we do not need to be humble! Many Christians act as though this were true! Our Lord, Who is God and Creator of the Universe, suffered for the benefit of others, to the exclusion of Himself. So how can we say, I am too important to be a mentor or too busy or whatever excuse we can come up with?
What Christ did and taught must be the model and pattern in our service to others, and the reason for the importance of being humble (1 Pet. 5). The Scriptures were written for us, for our benefit, for our learning, for our growth (1 Cor. 10:11; 2 Tim. 3:15-17; 1 Pet. 1:10-12), all by divine inspiration! And they are not to be books piled on the shelf, dusty and its truths un-comprehended. It is to be sought, read, and applied, as being a mentor and being mentored is all about being biblical. We need to ask ourselves, do we acknowledge God's Word the way we do money? Do we trust others to handle our money, but do not trust them to disciple our soul? All this must transpire by our unity (Rom. 1:21-23; 3:23; 5:2, 11; 8:17-30; 10:8-10).
From our studying to our mentoring to our governing to our hospitality to our public encounters-all must be done with one mind and mouth. We must work as a body, maintaining our individual personalities, but having a unified vision and purpose to glorify God. If this is not so, the result is chaos and strife, Satan's favorite playground!
- We cannot glorify God in the midst of envy and strife, or in the presence of anger and bitterness.
- We cannot be known for our negatives, for they will accomplish nothing. Our focus must be on the positive.
© 1999, 2008, Richard J. Krejcir, Ph.D. Schaeffer Institute of Church Leadership, www.churchleadership.org