The Risk of Mentoring

 

 

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The Risk of Mentoring
 

 

 
e-Commentary - 2012 from Graceworks
Written by Soo-Inn Tan (posted with permission)
Friday, 01 June 2012 08:45
 


 
"I planted the seed, Apollos watered it, but God has been making it grow. So neither the one who plants nor the one who waters is anything, but only God, who makes things grow." (1 Corinthians 3:6-7 NIV)
 
Recently I spoke at a camp for Malaysian Care, a Malaysian evangelical ministry committed to meeting human need in Jesus's name. They work among groups like the urban and rural poor, drug addicts, and prisoners. I am deeply encouraged by their commitment to show God's love in very difficult situations. I was honoured to speak at the camp.

The new executive director of the ministry welcomed me and reminded me that I had done his marriage preparation and conducted his wedding, and had had him in one of my discipleship groups. He called me a mentor. I praised God and must confess to some degree of "parental pride." But I have another confession to make. At first, I couldn't remember. All the events he referred to took place about twenty years ago. I had forgotten. And we had not been in touch for a while. I was somewhat embarrassed but as he shared I began to recall some of the times we had spent together. It began to come back to me.

The whole incident reminded me of a key principle of ministry. We are called to be faithful, to do what the Lord has called us to do. We cannot know what our ministry will result in down the road. Indeed we may never know until the life to come (1 Corinthians 4:5a). And surely we cannot guarantee how people will turn out. There are too many variables. And finally that is God's call. We are just called to be faithful.

I have been committed to mentoring for a long time now. I am as enthusiastic about mentoring now as when I started more than thirty years ago. If anything I am even more convinced that the key way to grow people is to walk with them. Relational ministry is very demanding in terms of time and energy. I am more preacher than mentor. Mentoring takes a lot out of me. But I am committed to mentoring because it is the primary way to shape lives. It is Jesus's way. He called His disciples so that they might be with Him (Mark 3:14), to be in a relationship with Him. Lives are changed through relationships.

However I don't think that mentoring will ever be a popular ministry. It is very inefficient. Since it is so time intensive you can only mentor a few at any one time. Mentoring requires transparency. Your mentorees will come to know your strengths and weaknesses. Clay feet are soon revealed, a threat to leaders who want to maintain a facade of being people who have it all together. And mentoring, powerful as it is, cannot guarantee how mentorees will turn out. Bernice and I have found out that some mentorees who held so much promise, never fulfilled their potential while others, whose lives were a mess, turned out spectacularly.

Mentoring then, as in all we seek to do for the Lord, demands that we be faithful. Our job is to "plant and water" but only God can give the growth. I know so much more about mentoring now than when I first started. I made all sorts of mentoring mistakes along the way. Yet once in awhile you meet someone like the present executive director of Malaysian Care. And you know it's God. Who are you walking with?

 

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