A MANDATE FOR MENTORING
BY DR. HOWARD G. HENDRICKS
The most compelling question every Christian man must ask is this: What am I doing today that will guarantee my impact for Jesus Christ in the next generation?
If I understand my New Testament correctly, there are only two things God is going to take off our planet. One is His Word, and the other is His people. If you are building His Word into people, you can be confident that will last forever.
That’s why I am so passionate about mentoring. Mentoring is a ministry of multiplication. Every time you build into the life of another man, you launch a process that ideally will never end.
My life and ministry are the result of mentoring. I am a product of a core of individuals who built into my life ever since I came to Jesus Christ 60 years ago. One in particular, Walt, literally changed the course of my life.
I was born into a broken home in the city of Philadelphia. My parents were separated before I was born. I never saw them together except once when I was called to testify in a divorce court. I’m sure I could have been reared, died, and gone to hell, and nobody would particularly have cared, except that a small group of believers got together in my neighborhood to start an evangelical church. That small group of individuals developed a passion for their community.
Walt belonged to that church, and he went to the Sunday school superintendent and said, “I want to teach a Sunday school class.”
The superintendent said, “Wonderful, Walt, but we don’t have any boys. Go out into the community. Anybody you pick up–that’s your class.”
I’ll never forget the day I met him. Walt was six feet, four inches tall. He said to me as a little kid, “Hey, son, how would you like to go to Sunday school?”
Well, anything that had “school” in it had to be bad news.
Then he said, “How would you like to play marbles?”
That was different! Would you believe we got down and played marbles, and he beat me in every single game? I lost my marbles early in life! By the time Walt got through, I didn’t care where he was going–that’s where I wanted to go.
For your information, he picked up 13 of us boys, nine from broken homes. Today, 11 are in full time vocational Christian work. And Walt never went to school beyond the sixth grade.
That’s the power of a mentor. You don’t need a Ph.D. to be used by God in the ministry of mentoring.
Have you ever asked, “Who has most affected my life?” Think about the people who made a difference. What did they do? How did they do it? Why did they do it? Answer those questions and you will be hooked on mentoring the rest of your life.
I want to ask and answer two central questions, then apply those answers to your life. The first question is, Why be concerned about mentoring? Is this just another gimmick? Is this simply some secular idea imported from the corporate world that we’ve introduced into the Christian community and baptized with a few verses of Scripture? Or is it a biblically legitimate strategy for our generation?
I am convinced there are three compelling reasons you must become involved in a ministry of mentoring. First, you need to be involved in mentoring because of the severe shortage of leaders. Leaders are fast becoming an endangered species. Wherever I go, across America or around the world, the screaming need is for leaders. I meet few churches or Christian organizations that can afford to hang a sign outside their front door saying, “No Help Wanted.”
We need leaders in our churches. The average church in America is Operated by 15 to 20 percent of its membership. But God gives to every believer a spiritual gift with which to function in the body, not to spectate in the stands.
I tell my students there are only two groups of people in church: the pillars who support it and the caterpillars who crawl in and out week after week. The latter occupy 18 inches, more or less, on a pew, shake your hand as a pastor, and say with something of a pious whine, “Pastor, that was a wonderful message. We’ll see you next week.” They seldom come closer to the truth, for the fact is that 80 percent of the churches in America have plateaued or are in serious decline.
We need leaders in our homes, too. The American family is unraveling like a cheap sweater. May I remind you of one historical fact: No nation has ever survived the disintegration of its home life. Once the home goes, it’s just a question of time before it all goes.
Pierre Mornell, distinguished West Coast psychiatrist, wrote a book titled Passive Men, Wild Women, and in that book he says, Over the last few years I’ve seen in my office an increasing number of couples who share a common denominator. The man is active, articulate, energetic, and usually successful in his work. But he is inactive, inarticulate, lethargic, and withdrawn at home. In his relationship with his wife he is passive. And his passivity drives her crazy. In the face of his retreat, she goes wild. (New York: Ballantine, 1979, p. 1)
Where are the men willing to step up to the plate and assume the leadership role God has given them in their homes?
We need leaders in our society as well. In politics, in business, in industry, in education, in agriculture, in the professions, in the military. I don’t need to remind you that the landscape is littered with the bodies of men who have forfeited their right to be leaders because they were not men of integrity. They were not men we could trust.
Second, we need mentoring because of the perceived need for mentors. There’s a severe deficiency in our culture, and it’s seen in a number of areas. The first is the absence of fathers. I’m not talking only about physically absent; I’m talking about fathers who are emotionally and spiritually absent. The result is that the average boy in our society grows up and doesn’t have a clue what good father looks like.
The pedestals are empty! There’s a shortage of older male models. It was well expressed by a little kid in a barbershop some time ago when I asked, “Hey, son, whom do you want to be like?”
He looked me straight in the eye and said, “Mister, I ain’t found nobody I want to be like.”
Do you think he’s an exception? No, there is a terrifying void of affirming maleness in our society.
Recently my wife and I were in Jerusalem, visiting the Wailing Wall. We counted five bar mitzvahs going on. It was an exciting thing to watch those boys hoisted on the shoulders of their fathers, uncles, and friends, paraded around that sacred area with people clapping and singing, and women throwing candy. Those boys will never forget that day. But what do we have in American society that even partially replicates that?
Someone asked me in a television interview, “What would you say has been your greatest contribution as a seminary professor?”
I answered, “To affirm the maleness of many of my students.”
That’s what we must do as men. Everywhere I go–to the university campus, evangelical churches, or the business and professional community–I find many young men asking, “Where can I find a mature friend?” And I find most older men asking, “Where can I find a ministry?” The result is the younger men are frustrated and the older men are unfulfilled. Intellectual honesty compels me to tell you: I find more younger men looking for older men to mentor them than I find older men willing to become involved in the lives of younger men. I say that to our shame.
Third, we need mentoring because of the rape of existing leadership. Two of the greatest curses ever perpetrated on a society have been crammed down our throats. One of them is the generation gap. There is no generation gap in the body of the Christ! You cannot drill any man out of the corps regardless of his age. Young people desperately need older people, and older people seriously need younger people who are going to carry on in the next generation.
The second curse is that of retirement. Retirement is a cultural, not a biblical, concept. You may retire from your company–you may not have an option–but you never retire from the Christian life and ministry. The only thing society knows to do with older men is to put them out to pasture and encourage them to play with the toys they have accumulated.
Have you noticed how many men there are over 50 who are reaching for the bench, who are sliding for home? At the very time when they ought to be tearing the place apart for Jesus Christ, they’re caving in. May I remind you, the statistics are alarming of how many men die shortly after retirement. The reason is simple–they have no purpose for living. I’m finding an increasing number of guys blowing out their aorta on the way to Sarasota. The result? We’re losing a great leadership pool in the body of Christ.
What Is Mentoring?
You say, “I’m convinced, but what is mentoring?” That’s our second key question.
Let me answer with a simple definition. Mentoring is a process involving people.
Sometimes it’s a whole series of individuals that God brings into your life at various stages and for various purposes. In every case, those people are committed to helping you grow and perpetuate the reaming process.
The apostle Peter, in 2 Peter 3:18, said: “Grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.” He was saying, “As long as you live, you ream. And as long as you ream, you live.”
Unfortunately, the epitaph of many a man is well expressed in the words “Died, age 26; buried, age 64.”
If you stop reaming and growing today, you stop ministering tomorrow.
Bear in mind that mentoring is not a new concept. The trades, the arts, and the guilds have engaged in mentoring for centuries. Craftsmen not only know what to do and how to do it, but they also know why they do what they’re doing. They’re suffused with basic attitudes, particularly a pride in their work. And they know what to get excited about!
All of us know about the great artist Michelangelo. But few know about Bertoldo, his teacher. There’s a debate in art circles about who was the greater–Michelangelo, the pupil, or Bertoldo, the teacher who produced him.
Christian mentors are people who have a spiritual commitment. They’re not playing games; they’re committed to life change. And they have specific values. High on their priority list is the development in another individual of excellence so that the individual grows in his Christian life to hate the mania of mediocrity, the attitude that anything is good enough for God.
Not only is mentoring a person or a group of people, but it is also a process of developing a person to his maximum potential for Jesus Christ. In Colossians 1:28-29 we read, “We proclaim him, admonishing and teaching everyone with all wisdom.” Why? “So that we may present everyone [mature] in Christ.” And Paul added, “To this end I labor, struggling with all his energy, which so powerfully works in me.”
Why was the apostle Paul committed to mentoring? Because he had clear cut objectives. Your objectives determine your outcome. You achieve that for which you aim. Paul knew that the most important contribution he could make in terms of the next generation was to build into the life of the present one.
I’m finding an increasing number of men who are ending their lives at the top of the pile in terms of their field and at the bottom in terms of fulfillment. I believe the primary reason is that they have fuzzy objectives.
Paul not only had clear-cut objectives, but he also had clear-cut priorities. He not only answered the question “What do I want at the end of life?” but also “What price am I willing to pay for it?”
I happen to be a Van Cliburn fan, and some time ago, a friend who plays in the Dallas Symphony Orchestra said to me, “Howie, are you going to the Van Cliburn concert?”
“I wouldn’t miss it!” I said.
“How would you like to meet Mr. Cliburn?” she asked.
“You’ve got to be kidding!”
“No! You meet me behind the stage at the end of the concert, and I’ll introduce you to him.”
You can be sure I was there. And I had a question I wanted to ask him. “Mr. Cliburn,” I said, “how many hours a day do you spend practicing the piano?”
Very casually he said, “Oh, eight or nine hours a day. Two hours doing nothing but finger exercises.”
And to think my grandmother wanted me to play the piano!
Would I like to play the piano like Van Cliburn? You’d better believe it! But not that badly.
Often a guy will come to me and say, “Hendricks, I’d give my right arm if I had a marriage like yours.”
To which I say, “That’s precisely what it may cost you.”
I sometimes ask men, “If you had an option–I mean, just one choice-I’d you choose?” Your prior either a great job or a great marriage, which would you choose?” Your priorities enable you to answer that searching question.
In 1 Corinthians 9, Paul said the Christian life is a race not a hundred-yard dash but a marathon. Its success is determined at the end. Paul said it’s a unique race because all can win. Not all will, but all can.
But Paul had a fear: He wanted to be sure that “after I have preached to others, I myself will not be disqualified” (1 Cor. 9:27).
If that was a live option to the apostle Paul, what about us?
Where to Find Mentors
Every man reading this book should seek to have three individuals in his life.
You need a Paul.
You need a Barnabas.
And you need a Timothy.
You need a Paul. That is, you need an older man who is willing to build into your life. Please note: not someone who’s smarter than you are, not necessarily someone who’s more gifted than you are, and certainly not someone who has life all together. That person does not exist. You need somebody who’s been down the road. Somebody who’s willing to share with you not only his strengths, but also his weaknesses. Somebody who’s willing to share his successes and his failures–in other words, what he’s learning in the laboratory of life.
Hebrews 13:7 reads: “Remember your leaders, who spoke the word of God to you. Consider the outcome of their way of life and imitate their faith.” Please note what you’re not to imitate: not their method; not their giftedness; not their personality. Comparison is carnality. The Israelite women sang, “Saul has slain his thousands, but David his ten thousands.” The comparison to David so embittered Saul that he spent the rest of his life pursuing David rather than the Philistines.
You also need a Barnabas. That is, you need a soul brother, somebody who loves you but is not impressed by you. Somebody who is not taken in by your charm and popularity and to whom you can be accountable.
By the way, don’t miss your wife’s role in this regard. I’ve never been able to impress my wife and kids. I tried! I used to think my kids would be impressed that I’m a seminary professor. That’s impressive, don’t you think? You don’t think so? Neither did they.
My younger son once asked, “Hey, Dad, when are you going to get a new job?”
“What’s the matter with my job?” I asked.
“I can’t explain where you work,” he said. “Everyone thinks you work in a cemetery!”
Sometimes I think I do, too!
My kids are not impressed that I studied Greek and Hebrew. They’re probably not even impressed that I wrote this chapter for the Promise Keepers! My kids, like yours, are only impressed by the reality of Jesus Christ in our lives.
Have you got anybody in your life who’s willing to keep you honest? Anybody who is willing to say to you, “Hey, man, you’re neglecting your wife, and don’t give me any guff! I know it, everybody else knows it; it’s about time you knew it!”
Who’s the person in your life who can say, “Hey, man, you talk too much!” without you saying defensively, ‘Well, I don’t see any wings sprouting out on you.”
Paul said in Galatians 2:11, “When Peter came to Antioch, I opposed him to his face, because he was clearly in the wrong.” That’s the kind of Barnabas you need.
Third, you need a Timothy. You need a younger man into whose life you are building. If you want a model, look at 1 and 2 Timothy. Here was Paul, the quintessential mentor, building into the life of his protege. Notice the issues he addressed. He spoke of the need for somebody who can affirm and encourage you, for somebody who will teach you and pray for you, for some’ body who will correct and direct you. That’s the kind of person young people are looking for;
Now, how do you gel these three men … your life? Let me give you two suggestions. First, pray that God will bring into your life a Paul, a Barnabas, and a Timothy. I happen to believe that where prayer focuses, power falls. You may not take God seriously, but He takes prayer very seriously. I am seeing an increasing number of men, younger and older, who are praying for Pauls, for Barnabases, and for Timothys to be brought into their lives. And God is wonderfully answering!
Second, you need to begin to look for these men. Put up your antennae. We have a lot of single students at the seminary who come and say, “Hey, Prof, I’m thinking about getting married.”
“Oh,” I say, “that’s wonderful! You got any gal on the line?”
“Are you dating any?”
“Well, how do you expect to find a wife? You think God’s going to let her down on a sheet out of heaven?”
Obviously, you’ve got to become involved in the process. And by the way, don’t be surprised if it takes more than one or two experiences before you find that person, because there has to be a personal resonance. There’s a chemistry that grows in a good mentoring relationship.
Now, I hear somebody out there saying, ‘Why are you so excited? You’re fairly frothing at the mouth! This mentoring thing really has you.” You’re right. And it’s not because I read some books on mentoring. It’s not because somebody came along and said, “Hendricks, here’s something else you need to get involved in.” No, it’s because it’s the story of my life.
Remember Walt? Here’s what’s interesting–I can’t tell you a thing Walt ever said. But I can tell you everything about him, because he loved me more than my parents did. He loved me for Christ’s sake. And I’m ministering today not only because of a man who led me to Christ and discipled me, but also because he started that mentoring process.
I want to leave you with a passage from Ecclesiastes 4. The wise man says, “Two are better than one.” Why?
Because they have a good return for their work: If one falls down, his friend can help him up. But pity the man who falls and has no one to help him up! Also, if two lie down together, they will keep warm. But how can one keep warm alone? Though one may be overpowered, two can defend themselves. A cord of three strands is not quickly broken. (vv. 9-12)
I want to recommend a cord of three strands–a Paul, a Barnabas, and a Timothy. An older man building into your life, a soul brother to keep you accountable, and a younger man into whose life you can build.
I can assure you after much experience that you haven’t lived as a Christian until you have been mentored. And you haven’t known fulfillment until you have been involved in the process of mentoring.
Gentlemen of God, go for it!
THE ABOVE MATERIAL WAS TAKEN FROM SEVEN PROMISES OF A PROMISE KEEPER, AND PUBLISHED BY FOCUS ON THE FAMILY, 1973, PAGES 47-55. THIS MATERIAL IS COPYRIGHTED AND MAY BE USED FOR STUDY & RESEARCH PURPOSES ONLY.