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Being rooted and built up

A call to mentorship

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Have you ever had a mentor? Have you been a mentor to H someone? If yes, what impact did it make in your life? If no, we ask the same question — how do you think a lack of mentorship has impacted your spiritual journey?
Rick and I have experienced both formal and informal mentoring as a pathway for growth and discipleship. These relationships reinforce our conviction that we need one another in the body of Christ. Mentoring has kept us humble and dependent on God and his Word; receiving wise counsel has been invaluable in deepening our relationship with Christ and discerning our own paths.

There are many biblical examples of mentorship: Moses and Joshua and Elizabeth and Mary are two that come to mind. It seems God regards mentoring as a worthy investment. Interstingly, the pastoral application of our MB Confession of Faith states: “Discipleship happens when mature Christians walk with younger believers in their spiritual journey.” One could ask the question, does discipleship even happen without mentoring?

While at times church programs can help facilitate formal mentoring relationships, in our experience we have found that most mentoring opportunities begin quite informally, or even stay that way. Formal language and titles such as mentor and mentee can be a barrier to many who feel unqualified for the role. Our best advice is to be open to the people God brings your way, be willing to invest in others (even if they seem indifferent), be prepared to learn from one another, seek out people who you see as role models — and don’t be afraid to be a role model yourself!

Most mentoring opportunities begin quite informally, or even stay that way. Formal language and titles such as mentor and mentee can be a barrier to many who feel unqualified for the role.”

For more helpful tips on mentorship, we suggest Mentoring Matters. (This booklet is an updated version of a Ministry Quest pamphlet published together with CCMBC and MB Seminary.)

On the back of Mentoring Matters, it says: “Good mentoring is not about having all the right answers, it is about asking the right kind of questions.” Mentors don’t need to be skilled teachers or pastors, nor feel like they have all the “right” answers; when mentors fall into this way of thinking, it may prevent them from mentoring well.

In Colossians 2:6-7, Paul writes: “So then, just as you received Christ Jesus as Lord, continue to live your lives in him, rooted and built up in him, strengthened in the faith as you were taught, and overflowing with thankfulness.”

These verses offer a clear outcome for a mentoring relationship — to help others grow in their capacity to be rooted and built up in Christ. They also provide us with two metaphors on how to journey with others: being a gardener (“rooted’), and being a builder (“built up”). Interestingly, Paul also uses the same language in 1 Corinthians 3:6-11. When we look at the larger context of these Corinthian verses, we also see that Christ is our solid foundation and that God helps all things grow.

“Rooted”: mentors as gardeners

Even though I (Rick) grew up on an acreage with a large garden, I never thought gardening would become such a passion, a part of my vocation, and an important metaphor by which I engage with Scripture. Gardening and mentoring have, at their core, a stewardship ethic that seeks growth, beauty, and nourishment — with the hope of providing goodness (fruit) over the long term.

Gardening literally begins from the ground up; caring for the soil is the starting point to a sustained life of fruitfulness. In this metaphor, soil represents the capacity of the heart to receive and give love. A heart that is rich and deep demonstrates a willingness to absorb and transform the conflicts and losses we experience
in life (i.e. the complex “organic” matter) into a form of nutrition that produces a 30-, 60- or 100-fold yield.

But being fruitful is not guaranteed—it requires knowledge and skill in understanding and guiding growth and maturation. When the mentor-gardener remains diligent in watching for signs of progress and/or vulnerabilities, he or she can offer wisdom to allow God to prune areas of the mentee’s life and encourage the mentee to abide in Christ so that his or her life can bear much fruit.

Gardening can also be a way to express beauty and har- mony. Mentoring is a practice that can significantly enhance the well-being of a community of people. Just as well-tended gardens and fields contribute to a healthy landscape, so too is the effect of Christ-followers committed to living in community through the gift of God’s Spirit. For the mentor-gardener, it is both humbling and exciting that the Master Gardener, in his wisdom, has invited his apprentices into this magnificent work!

“Built up”: mentors as builders

I (Jacquie) have always been intrigued by how homes are designed and built — in my early 20s, I spent a couple of years studying civil engineering. One of the things I learned during that time is that all structures need a solid foundation; but to finish a project, a lot more needs to be done!

Colossians 2:6 tells us that we need to be built up in Christ. Interestingly, the Spanish verb for “to build” is edificar. This word, which has an obvious connection to the word edify — meaning to uplift, instruct or even to construct — offers helpful imagery for a mentoring relationship. Any construction project needs a good foreman, an experienced person who can watch over the work of another, while everyone follows a common blueprint (God’s Word). But a foreman isn’t going to help someone else learn to build by doing all the work.

Likewise, a mentor can offer supportive words through good questions and wise counsel, but they also need to allow the mentee to learn their own skills and develop their own ways of working. As it says in 1 Corinthians 3:9 (ESV), “For we are God’s fellow workers. You are God’s field, God’s building.”

Mentorship occurs through offering wise counsel, yes, but also through drawing out the unique gifts and characteristics that God, through Christ, his Word, and by his Spirit, has given to this individual. The role of the mentor is to help another carefully build upon the foundation they have in Christ. A mentee is ultimately God’s building, not the mentor’s.

Mentorship, either as mentor or mentee, takes time, effort and a willingness to be vulnerable to another person and to God. Yet a mentoring relationship can lead to mutual edification, strengthen each person’s faith and lead to overflowing gratitude for the way God, through his Spirit, transforms us into his beautiful new creation in Christ.

Who in your life might already be mentoring you? Who sees you as a mentor? While a culture of mentoring in a church community is a good eventual goal, it will take individuals willing to take on these roles — even if they are hesitant to call them as such — to move in that direction. While it is God who forms people into Christ’s likeness, let us not miss out on the opportunity to be his apprentices and fellow workers!

1 comment

Stephanie June 28, 2024 - 16:39

Beautiful imagery to capture these thoughts

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