Unmasking the Sorry State of Mentorship
Michael S. Mahan
Often in the American Church we become excited about new trends meant to better our lives and help us to mature in our Christian growth that tends to be swapped in and out like the latest smart phone. In recent years one of those many trends has been a nationwide refocusing on discipleship which brings with it some joys and some challenges. It is a blessing to see believers slowly trying to pull away from the twisted mentality that leading others to Christ is the end goal of one’s Christian walk and now we are reconnecting with Christ's command to “make disciples”. This shift of mentality is meant to encourage depth in someone’s walk with Christ instead of the surface level “ticket to Heaven” perspective that we have grown so accustomed to which requires the absolute bare minimum. It’s no secret that we love the bare minimum.
However, the unfortunate truth of this wonderful transition is that there are many teachers in America, but few mentors. The difference between the two may seem inconsequential, but I tend to view the separation summarized as such: the teacher ends their lesson when class is over, but a mentor remains involved in the lives of the students even after the bell has rung. From the pulpit we hear calls to discipleship and become invigorated by the message, but sadly that feeling is often all we are left with. We are told to position ourselves to be taught and mentored, but the truth is we are often left to be “self teachers” where we counsel and advise ourselves, but there is a limit to how much growth this may yield. The simple answer for this lack of hands on mentoring is that there are simply too many Christians desiring mentorship and not enough teachers who are willing to take on this vital task.
"There are simply too many Christians desiring mentorship and not enough teachers who are willing to take on this vital task."
Being a teacher alone is difficult. As James writes “Not many of you should become teachers, my brothers, for you know that we who teach will be judged with greater strictness.” When we reflect on our days in the classroom this truth floods into one’s mind. We sit in the classroom listening to the teacher draw from points of their life and we criticize their personal choices, we judge their disciplinary style, and we evaluate their character from simple interpersonal observations. Because of this, many teachers learn the ability to put on a mask like a wall that hides much of who they are in order to protect their reputation, because they fear this judgement.
Fortunately, a true mentor forsakes their ability to maintain this mask, because eventually our familiarity highlights the cracks in their mask which will reveal their character. As you spend time with a friend or a family member you learn more and more who they are underneath all that they present and a mentor is no exception. This stark vulnerability stops a great number of qualified individuals from even desiring to be a mentor because they are afraid that they are unqualified to invest in others being ever so conscious of their flaws. We allow the fear of inadequacy to frighten us away from making the best and only decision that the light of God presents to us: to address these struggles and teach what you know to whom God gives you.
What if we chose to remove our masks? What if we learned to be honest with one another and refused to hide from the “blank” that we’re struggling with or confess that “blank” is an area that we need to grow in? What if in that honesty we find freedom from whatever it is that we hide in our closets or on our web history? What if in our confession within community we finally forsake the ability to ignore our flawed character because we have others to challenge us to grow in it? I believe that if we lived with this authenticity we would see a radical increase in the spiritual growth of the modern Christian as they discover the vibrant community of sinners bound together in a common Christian fellowship. We have to understand that in our Christian walk we will have struggles and we will have our own areas of growth due to our fallen nature, but we should never allow this to lead us to complacency when God's redemption has equipped us to be used for so much more.
“If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. If we say we have not sinned, we make Him a liar, and His word is not in us.”
- Matthew 28:19, ESV.
- James 3:1, ESV.
- 1 John 1:8-10, ESV.