“Join together in following my example….” (Philippians 3:17)
These words scratched on parchment thousands of years ago, leap off the page into our 21st century existence. From the heart of Paul, to the relevant relationships of today, God in His creator-knowledge knew that we needed living and skin encased examples of Christ-followers in our lives. He knew we needed to observe the principles of faith at work in the lives of the people in our culture, in our time, and in our spheres of living. He knows that we are mimickers by nature and that we are influenced by the company we keep.
This was easily understood in Paul’s day. Nearly every Jewish person was a disciple of someone. Some followed Paul. Some followed Apollos. Some followed John the Baptist. Some (like Paul) followed Gamaliel. Some followed Jesus. It was a discipleship culture and there was honor in following.
Not so in our modern, independent American society. We would rather lead than follow. We would rather do our own thing than be told what to do. We would rather be the mentor than to be mentored. But in actuality our facebook accounts, twitter followings, fashion interests, and celebrity culture fascination only highlight the fact that we are, indeed, innately followers. Shall we just admit that fact and become a little more productive and intentional about who we follow?
Assuming that you would like to grow in your faith and that you would like a respectable (not perfect) person to follow, may I suggest five keys to finding a good mentor?
1. Pray for one.
God, who knows you best, also knows the people in your life. He can make a perfect match suited to work within you the things of character that He is after. I believe that it is a prayer that is within His will. And, as our hearts are set upon the godly pursuit of finding a mentor through prayer, our minds become focused and aware of the people around us, making it much more likely to come across our mentor because we are looking for God’s answer to our request.
2. Make yourself teachable.
As you wait for a mentor, there is much that can be done to prepare your heart. Mentors are drawn to people who avail themselves to learning. God’s Word through your mentor will need to fall on soft soil in order to take root. A teachable posture before a mentoring relationship begins will set the tone for what is to come. Take notes in church. Read books on matters of faith. Grow in humility. Confess your sins daily so as to yield yourself to the Holy Spirit. Be proactive in growing in faith now so that you are ready to receive from a mentor.
3. Observe strategically.
In what areas of your life do you need strengthening and who can help you with that? Who is a little ahead of you on your spiritual journey? (They don’t need to be miles ahead of you, may even just twenty steps or so). Whose path crosses regularly with yours so that you can observe them in their daily life? Who do you see character and Christ-likeness in? Perhaps they are your future mentor.
4. Position yourself.
Logic would say that we are not going to find a mentor in places where the Christ-like are unlikely to be. If you find someone that you would like to follow as they walk toward Christ, then go to the places where they are. Take them out to lunch. Begin an informal relationship. Ask them questions. Begin gleaning from them.
Finally, just approach them and ask if they will mentor you. Yes, you may run the risk of getting turned down (I have been rejected at least twice) for various reasons, but you don’t know unless you ask. Chances are, they will feel honored. Mentorship doesn’t have to be formal, but growth can happen very quickly when you give someone the permission to speak into your life. Asking makes it purposeful and clear. And, if for whatever reason the answer is no, then you can go back and begin the search again. You can still observe that person from afar, or go out for an occasional coffee, or find other ways to learn from them.
There are different seasons of life.
Some seasons will involve a formal discipling/mentoring relationship. Some seasons will take on a more informal relationship. In some seasons you may be the leader. In other seasons you may be the follower. Let us actively pursue growing in Christ in a humble and strenuous way, in community with, and with encouragement from, those who are further along in their journey with Christ. You will become a better mentor to someone by being mentored by others. I pray God’s richest blessings upon you as you seek to learn from those that have gone before.
You can listen to this weekend’s sermon here.