Promoting Christ-centred Biblical Ministry

Index of Articles
reprinted from the Winter 1993 edition of Essentials  


Book Reviews

  Mediocrity in mentoring?

Rhys Bezzant

  Being passionate about the importance of discipling and mentoring younger Christians, I am regularly asked to recommend books which provide some training to those keen but unskilled in the art of disciple-making. It is not that there is a shortage of books around. Indeed, mentoring is a buzz word, and there are any number of books, both Christian and not, which raise some of the important issues. My gripe is this: few of them provide an adequate Biblical basis for what is actually a most complicated and foundational ministry. Let me explain.  
  It promised a lot. Called Connecting: the mentoring relationships you need to succeed in life by P.D. Stanley and J.R. Clinton (Navpress, 1992), I was looking forward to a most thorough presentation. A Vice-president of Navigators and a Professor from Fuller Seminary must have something going for them! The book is certainly stimulating, the result of many years of leadership training and practical ministry. Particularly helpful was the breakdown of chapters, isolating various stages and facets of mentoring relationships: both intensive and occasional mentoring, contemporary and historical, the coach, the counselor, the sponsor and the teacher. Definitions and diagrams made clear the points just covered. No one could accuse them of lack of technical proficiency:  
  "Mentoring is a relational process in which a mentor, who knows or has experienced something, transfers that something (resources of wisdom, information, experience, confidence, insight, relationships, status, etc) to a mentoree, at an appropriate time and manner, so that it facilitates development or empowerment." (p40)  
  I particularly liked the case studies in each chapter illustrating their arguments, and was most moved by the conclusion of the book, which provided an earnest warning to those in leadership not to take past achievements or commitments for granted. In their own research, they had discovered to their great sorrow many examples of Christians who had begun well enough, but for some reason had lost zeal, resolve or love of Christ:  
  "For some it was a clear point of decision or an experience that became a fork in the road… and they did or did not choose the correct fork. For others it was an accumulation of little choices that moved them closer or further away from being Christ's disciple." (p214)  
  However, those with a network of meaningful relationships and mentors fared better than those without.  
  My concern with this book as with many others dealing with similar issues is that the Biblical support for their case was flimsy. While it is true that Paul exercised a mentoring relationship with Timothy and Titus, and that Jesus himself spent intentional time with his band of twelve, surely the Bible has more to say prescriptively about the art of disciple-making. I would love to read a book on this topic that had chapter headings like:  

Intentional relationships from the beginning of the creation


Teaching from experience in the book of Proverbs

  Ministries of people multiplication in the Gospels  
  A ministry of the Word between individuals (Colossians)  
  Prophecy in everyday conversation – a study from Acts  
  Serving friends with words and deeds (1 Peter)  
  Is there anyone out there who wants to give it a go before I, in desperation, turn my hand to the task?  

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