Mentoring is a popular term today in corporate offices to religious circles with highly varying interpretations and practices. In the industry the term mentor is now being promoted as a designation even!!
In the East, people often relate to the term “mentoring” as the age-old guru-shishya relationship, wherein GURU- the master is divine and therefore the SHISHYA —the disciple is called for an unquestioning following. Though they stay together in a GURUKUL, the divine master is mystical and stay aloof from the trainees with very limited interactions. The relationship is beyond all definitions that involves love, devotion (bhakti), unconditional obedience (no-questions asked) etc. It’s mystical and often mysterious. The other extreme is the loose and changing relationship between individuals as increasingly being observed in our postmodern society. Richard Foster in his book ‘Celebration of Discipline’ laments as follows. “We have received excellent instruction on how God leads through the scripture, and through reason, and through circumstances, and through the promptings of the spirit upon the individual heart. There has also been teaching, good teaching on exceptional means of guidance; angels, visions, dreams, signs and more…But, we have heard too little about how God leads through PEOPLE, the body of Christ and on this subject, there is profound silence today”.
It appears that fellowships are increasingly getting fragmented inside without any personal relationship among the members. Are we digressing to be in “fellowship” without relationships these days? Yet, when the term mentoring is mentioned, often what comes to our mind is the erstwhile guru-shishya relationship and frankly the contemporary youth is afraid of it.
Mentoring as we see in the Bible is quite different from the guru- shishya relationship perceptions. Throughout the history line of the Bible, right from the Genesis we find active mentoring relationships. We can clearly sense the impact of mentoring in most of the biblical characters. May it be Moses – Joshua, Naomi-Ruth, Samuel-Saul & David, Elijah-Elisha, Mordecai – Esther in the OT and Barnabas-Saul, Barnabas-Mark, Peter-Mark, Paul- Timothy & Titus and so on in the NT, plenty are the examples in the Biblical history.
May I narrate two patterns in mentoring as we observe in these Biblical examples (and of course from my own mentors as I write this as a tribute to them).
- Mentoring is walking together
In contrast to the guru- shishya relationship, wherein the ‘divine’ Guruji is mostly aloof from the shishyas, Biblical mentors and their mentees walked together long distances. Examples are many
- Elisha (1Kings 19:19), leaving his home, after sacrificing oxen, burning the very yoke and the other ploughing instruments, set out to follow Elijah and became his attendant. Their walking together continued till 2 Kings 2 when Elisha was refusing to leave Elijah and finally inheriting a double portion of his spirit (2 Kings 2: 12).
- Joshua (Exodus 24 :13), (described again as the attendant of Moses) accompanied Moses to the mountain Sinai. Moses says to people… until “we” come back
- Ruth’s long journeys with Naomi in the backdrop of the book of Ruth can’t be ignored while Ruth emerges in the family tree of David (and thereby, of Jesus)
- Esther’s long stay at Mordecai’s house as an adopted daughter…
- Paul’s long journeys with Barnabas, Timothy, Titus, Silas, Silvanus….
- Above all these examples… our Lord Jesus WALKED with the disciples to mentor them. In fact, Jesus had long journeys with his 12 disciples. Practically 3 and a half years of continuous walking with the disciples.
Several things happen in a journey, especially when it’s a long one. It is difficult to hide secrets, weaknesses or special agendas in such a long journey. The fellow travelers develop a friendship and mutual dependency.
In Deuteronomy 6: 1-25 we find tools for Godly parenting /mentoring as God commands Moses “Hear O Israel….These commands that I give you today are to be upon your hearts. Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home, when you walk, when you are lying down, when you get up. Tie them as symbols on your hand, forehead, doorframes of your houses and your gates. (Deuteronomy 6: 4-8). This is what happens when we walk/journey together. Through the fresh hours and stress hours of journeying, doctrines, history, character, values get passed on to the next generation. Was Moses remembering his parents Jochebed and Amram and the way they parented/ mentored him? Was that the secret of Moses’ convictions, despite his growing up at the Pharaoh’s palace? Notwithstanding the gap of about 300 years between Joseph and Moses, he was sure of the history and God’s plans and promises too. Was that stemming up from Jochebed’s mentoring?
Some mentees were always with Paul in all his journeys as we see in the New Testament records. Paul had a ministry, he took his friends along in that journey, and they developed the same passion for those convictions he stood for.
Personally, I too cherish several travel times that I was privileged to have with my mentors. Some of those long travels (missionary journeys with them) were quite transformative. In those journeys together, we discussed, struggled on issues, laughed, cried… And through it all, though I never knew then, doctrines, new directions / visions for future etc. too were being formed in me, as we grew in mutual relationships as well.
The walking together was beyond a few physical walks. It was journeying the life journey together, staying connected and enjoying the togetherness of that journey.
- Mentoring is working together
In contrast with the Guru- Shishya relationship, where the Shishya has to devotedly wait for his Guruji’s instructions (often without even an explanation), we find mentees getting involved in the work/ministry of the mentor in the Biblical examples of mentoring. This is quite exemplified in Barnabas-Paul relationship. Though Barnabas himself was nicknamed “son of exhortation” (possibly because he was well known for his preaching), he delegated the Bible studies etc. to Paul (more of a thinker /writer/strategist than a preacher as we observe). Barnabas and Paul worked together for quite a long time, and significantly in the first missionary journey that covered over 10 mission stations as recorded. The same pattern of working together continued with Paul and Timothy, Titus, Silas and so on.
The mentor and mentees together formed serving communities that ministered effectively to their difficult contexts.
Paul was particular about proper follow up for all his initiatives and he chose a three-way pattern of follow up (visiting them, writing to them often and deputing someone to visit them). In each of his patterns of follow up, his “mentees” were involved very actively… It’s amazing that they formed a serving community that made changes, addressed issues and took the mission forward in those difficult situations.
While the bold Titus was sent to Crete for addressing the membership problems there, the hesitant Timothy was deputed to address the leadership problems at Ephesus. Paul trusted his mentees to make them his coworkers in the serving team. And in ministering together they were mentored to take the mission forward…
I too cherish the opportunities that I received from the Lord to work together with my mentors. In working together with them I was learning much more than I would have learned theoretically/from any text book. And I often wonder how they trusted to delegate… I remember my first speaking assignment in a camp. The invitation was to a senior EGF elder, who agreed and talked to the organizers that I’ll be his stand by. He asked me to prepare for the sessions as if he won’t go. And Io and behold he sent me, equipping me and praying for me. Working together, forming serving teams is the pattern that I found in my senior EGF friend.
Biblical mentoring is WALKING together and WORKING together. While walking together the personal friendship and regard for each other gets closer and closer. And in working together the vision gets built and the mission expands to a greater vigor and relevance.
It’s important that we do delegation with discernment, balancing the walking and working aspects of mentoring.
As we live in a relationally starving society that can be repaired only with good personal relationships and mentoring, let’s engage ourselves in mentoring and getting mentored, staying connected, walking and working together as in the Biblical storylines.
Walking together doesn’t mean missionary journeys alone. It can be for holidaying too as Jesus did many times. (let’s go to a quiet place for rest—Mark 6:31 is an example). Let’s walk together as students/graduates on all kind of our journeys… And the same way let’s work together in our ministry engagements forming serving teams like Paul did.
As UESI, may the Lord bless us as a community that loves to WALK and WORK together.
Reji Koshy Daniel
Reji Koshy Daniel, an alumnus of Kollam ICEU of the 1980s, lives in Pune with his wife Betsy and children Monica and Roshan. A Mechanical Engineer by training, he has been in leadership roles in the automotive industry in Business Development and Operations. Currently he works with ESAF SMALL FINANCE BANK in the Sustainable Banking area. He is also serving as the national treasurer of UESI.