"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
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
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