I’ll admit it: I need mentors. The culture here in America celebrates internal motivation over outside mentors, afterall we’re the birthplace of Nike® and its slogan-mantra, Just Do It®. As a product of my culture, I can see many areas of my life where I’m sufficiently self-motivated and don’t need a helpful nudge. That may be fine for day-to-day pursuits, but as a born again Christian I believe the church is severely lacking in mentors, particularly for men.
I lean heavily on mentors who left me with their writings–Matthew Henry, Spurgeon, Thomas Watson and other Puritans, and a few from recent years, like RC Sproul. I know my wife has been greatly served by Elisabeth Elliott (and so have I). But who of us couldn’t benefit from an older, wiser saint (or two, or three) here, with us, a warm body walking with us on a regular basis to offer their insights and godly counsel?
Mentoring and discipleship look very different across the sexes in the church. The women’s discipleship in my local church is vibrant. Those women have done an amazing job at both mentoring and having a godly heart open to being mentored. And what I observe locally matches up with what I’ve seen historically at other churches. Us men? Not so much.
Mentoring is Investing
Christian mentoring is an investment with compounding interest that continues into eternity. Even if we see no earthly results in the short-term, the Lord sees, and promises to generously reward a mentor’s faithfulness. Let me tell you about some of the mentors who have been faithful in my life (even when I was not).
If you know my testimony, you know I was a nominal Christian for two decades before I was genuinely converted at the age of 34. In the providence of God, He was kind during those unconverted years to put men in my life who were there at key times, leaving a godly impression that lasted through wasted years of doubt and sin.
For just a few years of my late teens, from about 16-18, I attended a Calvary Chapel church. There were many individuals and families who were the stable spiritual family I needed when my own earthly family was torn apart by my parents’ separation and divorce.
Jeff & Joni
Jeff and Joni were a couple who were probably in their late 20s/early 30s who would regularly pick me up for church before I could drive. This was the mid-1980s. They both had Pontiac Trans Ams, his light blue and her’s white. They were only Christians for a couple years, saved when my previous pastor had witnessed to Jeff in the tire shop Jeff worked at. They were the first young Christian marrieds I’d ever known. When God saved them He really saved them; what a joy-filled and godly couple! I have many fond memories of that sweet couple and their influence in my life.
I’m also forever grateful for a brother there, Frank. Frank was also in his mid-to-late 20s. (To my teenage self, these people were older!) We had a lot in common: We were both from New Jersey, both Italian and former Roman Catholics, and we cracked each other up.
Most churches have their mid-week service on Wednesday nights, but since Calvary Chapel was renting from another church, theirs was on Thursday nights. Every Thursday night, after the Bible study, Frank would corral me to a quiet corner, usually waving me over and calling out, Annnnnthonyyyyyyy, mimicking the old Prince Spaghetti commercial on TV about a little Italian boy in New York getting called home for his Prince Spaghetti dinner by his mother from a tenement window. We’d huddle and he’d ask about my week, how things were at home, maybe share a Scripture, and then he would pray with me. Not a long prayer, maybe 5 minutes or so, but as I remember, he did that faithfully every week.
Almost two decades later, around 2004, (when I still not genuinely a believer but thought I was), I was going through the throes of an unwanted divorce. During those agonizing months I remember once sitting in a diner in a suburb of Atlanta with Earl Wittmer. Earl was about 80 then, and had lived a lifetime of service to the Lord. When I met him he was heading up the Bibles-for-Missions Thrift Store and serving as an elder in his PCA church. He met with me and listened as I chronicled how my life was turned upside-down, and did his best to point me to the level horizon of fixing my eyes on Jesus.
The Need for Mentors Continues
Last week I heard a rebroadcast of an RC Sproul message on prayer. In it he told the story of how, as a young seminary student in Pennsylvania, he was mentored in prayer by a retired missionary doctor, Dr Jamison. When that saint could no longer physically work as a doctor, he decided to “change careers” and work 8-hours a day in prayer. RC Sproul humbly mentioned that it was Dr Jamison’s example that led him to also know eight hours in prayer on a few occasions.
It’s not the quantity of prayer I wished I’d had a mentor like Dr Jamison for, but the quality. I have many questions. Practical questions. I want to know details–how does one spend hours and hours in prayer? Do you run out of things to pray about? Do you get tired? Move around? Kneel? Sit? Walk the floor? All three? What do you do when you have to go the bathroom–do you get up, go, and return? I’m serious. But where are the prayer mentors to ask?
The Church Needs More Than Mentors
It’s not just prayer. Where are the mentors who will teach men go evangelize? Where are the mentors who will teach men to preach? I don’t mean the professional academics who teach students to orate from A-grade outline from homiletics class. I mean to speak with the unction of the Spirit of God to call sinners to repentance and Christians to greater Christ-likeness. Where are the mentors to help younger men wrestle through the trials and temptations as they grow in Christ?
Here’s what I know: I could use a few godly mentors, and I’m not alone.