When you’ve grown up attending church there will be a moment where you have to decide whether you’re following your God for yourself or for whoever has brought you to church your whole life. Whether that is your parents or grandparents, the moment will come where you make your faith your own. This is a pivotal time in the life of a believer. Even if you have gone through the rituals of baptism, communion, and daily devotions, the choice to say I believe in God for me, not to please my elders will move your relationship forward in significant ways. The challenge is, how do you make this important decision if you don’t separate yourself from your parents enough to think through things on your own?
Data shows Gen Z believes mentoring ability is one of the most important qualities in an effective leader. A different study revealed 63% of Millennials said they look for jobs with opportunities to grow and learn leadership skills. Sixty-seven percent of Millennials in another survey said they would leave a position with few growth opportunities.
Whether it’s career growth or personal growth we long for mentors to come alongside us as we learn. It’s how we were created. In Genesis 2 God brings the first human into the Garden of Eden, establishes boundaries, and makes an important observation. Genesis 2:15-18 says,
The Lord God took the man and put him in the Garden of Eden to work it and take care of it. And the Lord God commanded the man, “You are free to eat from any tree in the garden; but you must not eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, for when you eat from it you will certainly die.” The Lord God said, “It is not good for the man to be alone. I will make a helper suitable for him.” (NIV)
I realize this passage reveals the first union between man and woman, however, I think it’s significant that God states plainly that it is not good for man to be alone. We are friends with our spouses, ideally, we are friends before we even begin dating. God created humans in his image and he is a relational being. Because of this, it shouldn’t surprise us that we will flourish when we have a mentor in our lives.
Mentors Walk With Us Through Wilderness Seasons
One common theme we see in Scripture is how God meets people in difficult times. Elijah was exhausted after revealing God’s glory to the prophets (1 King 19). Naomi realized it was time to leave Moab (Ruth 1). David hid from Saul in the caves. (1 Samuel 21-23).
Steve Wiens, author of Whole: Restoring What Is Broken in Me, You, and The Entire World, writes “In the wilderness, you’re given the opportunity to be sustained by the God who will go all the way with you, no matter how hungry you get. No matter how weak, how frail, or how lost. It’s the place where you learn you’re not all that impressive, and you don’t need to be. It’s the place where you learn the ordinary you is enough. The wilderness offers you a chance to be restored by God, if you will stay there long enough.”
Now, I don’t know about you, but every wilderness season I’ve walked through has been incredibly challenging and just miserable. My loved ones have carried me through and been a balm to my soul in dark moments. They have offered wisdom and perspective when I’ve needed others to pave a path I couldn’t find it is mentors who willingly stepped in and walked shoulder to shoulder with me.
Mentors Help Us Choose God
A.W. Tozer wrote,
No matter how well prepared the soil, how well kept the fences, how carefully painted the buildings, let the owner neglect for a while his prized and valued acres and they will revert again to the wild and be swallowed up by the jungle or the wasteland. The bias of nature is toward the wilderness, never toward the fruitful field. That, we repeat, every farmer knows. To the alert Christian, this fact will be more than an observation of interest to farmers; it will be a parable, an object lesson setting forth a law that runs through all the regions of our fallen world, affecting things spiritual as well as things material. We cannot escape the law that would persuade all things to remain wild or to return to a wild state after a period of cultivation. What is true of the field is true also of the soul, if we are but wise enough to see it.The Hunger of the Wilderness, A. W. Tozer
When left to on our own our instinct isn’t to dig in and do the hard work necessary to grow deeper in our relationship with God. 2 Samuel 11-12 is the story of David and Bathsheba. This story may be familiar to you, but it’s worth noting that David was alone and out of place when he chose to enter into adultery with Bathsheba. It was Nathan who called David out on his sin and got him to repent. This was important not only for David’s relationship with God but also for the Nation of Israel.
Mentors Help Us Process Doubt
In a recent Holy Post Podcast episode, AJ Swoboda said Doubt: We all wrestle with doubt. Conservatives demonize doubt. Progressives make it a requirement of faith and try to force “deconstruction”. Neither is correct. Swoboda contends that people aren’t really deconstructing Christianity, but a false form of the faith that should be abandoned. He calls this the third way and says we need to help people find the living God in the middle of the natural spaces where doubt arises. This is the role of a mentor.
Titus 2:1-8 says,
You, however, must teach what is appropriate to sound doctrine. Teach the older men to be temperate, worthy of respect, self-controlled, and sound in faith, in love and in endurance. Likewise, teach the older women to be reverent in the way they live, not to be slanderers or addicted to much wine, but to teach what is good. Then they can urge the younger women to love their husbands and children, to be self-controlled and pure, to be busy at home, to be kind, and to be subject to their husbands, so that no one will malign the word of God. Similarly, encourage the young men to be self-controlled. In everything set them an example by doing what is good. In your teaching show integrity, seriousness and soundness of speech that cannot be condemned, so that those who oppose you may be ashamed because they have nothing bad to say about us. (NIV)
How to Find a Mentor
Finding a mentor isn’t always easy. I’ve discovered that many people don’t feel qualified to be mentors. They think they need to be mentored rather than mentor someone else. I believe we should do both. We should link arms on both sides. That way we are always encouraging someone and we have someone to lean on for accountability.
Mentors are available through churches, work, and community ministries such as AIA, CRU, and FCA. If you have a favorite hobby or a passion project you’re interested in you should look around and see who you admire in the group. Spend time listening to people. Consider what someone brings to the relationship and how they will stretch you.
It’s okay to ask to meet for a few months and see how things go and re-evaluate after a little while. Regardless of how you get started, the point is that you will thrive with a mentor. Don’t hesitate to ask!