“As iron sharpens iron, so one man sharpens another.”Proverbs 27:17
“You need to make sure you have a mentor.”
Those were the wise words Pastor Ben Green, a former ATLAS Board member, told me three and a half years ago when I first became director of ATLAS. He rightly understood that if I wanted others to see the value of mentoring (which is the focus of the ATLAS ministry), then I needed to first be experiencing it myself. Ben suggested I reach out to a guy named Tom Burton, which I did and we’ve been meeting monthly now ever since.
Mentors are a gift from God. God works powerfully through the intentional, regular conversations of Christ-centered mentoring relationships.
Like Tom does in my life, mentors help us see life through gospel lenses. They help us look upward through a telescope lens to see the vastness of our great God from whom the gospel flows. And they also help us look inward with a microscope lens to see how the gospel reaches down into every crevice of our lives.
Though these are definitely not the only four, here are four good things that good mentors give us. Take these as four encouragements as to why you need a mentor.
MENTORS GIVE US A MODEL
Good mentors give us a model of the Christian life we can see and observe. They model for us the process of growing into the image of Jesus. They model how to deal with conflict, stress, and struggles. They model how to pursue godly disciplines like praying, reading Scripture, and serving. This is not to say mentors are perfect. It simply means that when sin does pop up in their lives, they demonstrate how to honestly fight it by confessing, repenting, and leaning on Christ. Paul gives voice to the place of modeling in the Christian life when he says, “Follow my example, as I follow the example of Christ.” (1 Corinthians 11:1)
At ATLAS, we hear from people who want help with relationships in their lives. Often this is because they haven’t had a good model to follow in their lives that showed them what it looks like to be part of a healthy relationship. A mentor can help provide that needed visual to understand how to apply relational truths from Scripture to our lives.
MENTORS GIVE US EYES
One time in a previous job I was driving down a four-lane highway on my way to a meeting. I came up to a car I wanted to pass, so I glanced quickly over my shoulder as I started merging into the left lane. I evidently didn’t check well enough because I suddenly heard a car horn and realized I was merging right into another car. I quickly swerved back into the right lane. They passed and gave me the expected and deserved one-finger wave.
Just like that car in my blind spot, we all have areas and issues in our lives that we don’t see clearly, or even that we don’t see at all. Paul Tripp frequently says that we are often “blind to our own blindness.” That’s why good mentors help give us eyes to see the areas in our lives that need attention.
While the Holy Spirit is the one who convicts us of sin and leads us into truth (John 16:8, 13), mentors are effective tools in the Spirit’s hands to do that work in our lives.
MENTORS GIVE US REMINDERS
In my opinion, one of the most important roles of a mentor is reminding.
Peter writes, “I think it right, as long as I am in this body, to stir you up by way of reminder … And I will make every effort so that after my departure you may be able at any time to recall these things.” (2 Peter 1:13, 15) Peter understood one of the central parts of his ministry was to remind his people with such frequency and in such a way that they themselves would remember the gospel truths he taught them once he was gone.
When you get punched in the face by the world, you need someone in your corner to help refocus and reorient you back to the truth of the gospel. When your hope takes a hit, a good mentor reminds you of how the hope we have in Jesus Christ is indestructible. A good mentor reminds you of the good things God has done in your life and the good things he has promised yet to do.
Some people may get tired of saying the same things over and over again. “How many times do I have to tell you not to do that!?!,” a frustrated parent might yell. But a good mentor led by grace understands that discipling people is often a ministry of reminding. Like plants in a garden, gospel truths need to be repeatedly watered and cared for. The Spirit works through patient repetition to help gospel truths grow deep.
MENTORS GIVE US A PUSH
Along with two amazing senior pastors (Harvey Friez in Pierre, SD and Phil Lutz here in Willmar, MN), I have been tremendously blessed by four amazing associate pastors in my life (Dustin Speaks in Pierre, and Gary Esboldt, Ben Green, and Paul Vasilko in Willmar). Interestingly, each associate pastor has blessed me by pushing me further in my faith than I wanted to go at the time. Pastor Dustin pushed me to lead a small group for the first time. Pastor Gary encouraged me to start teaching an adult Sunday school class. Pastor Ben pushed me to get a mentor myself. And Pastor Paul has continued that trend by pushing me to continue learning and growing in new ways.
Like each of these pastors/mentors in my life, a good mentor will push you beyond yourself. They will recognize potential and help you pursue it. In their book As Iron Sharpens Iron: Building Character in a Mentoring Relationship, Howard & William Hendricks write, “Mentors look inside us and find the man we long to be. Then they help bring that man to life.”
AGAIN, YOU NEED A MENTOR
As Pastor Ben told me, I say to you. If you don’t already have a mentor, you need one. If you live in the Willmar, MN area and are interested in learning more about what it means to have a mentor, contacts us at ATLAS. We exist to help connect people into Christ-centered mentoring relationships.