Finding a Mentor
Acts 4:36 Joseph, a Levite from Cyprus, whom the apostles called Barnabas (which means Son of Encouragement), sold a field he owned and brought the money and put it at the apostles' feet.
Dwight Moody brought revival to millions. By the time he died at age 62 he had preached to over 100,000 people. He started a Bible Institute, which has become a gold standard for teaching and mentoring effective pastors and evangelists. Moody Bible Institute has been an inspiration to Christian Leaders Institute.
Lyle Dorsett has written an excellent essay on Moody. In his essay, Dorset illustrated how necessary it was for Moody to have mentors. These mentors brought him to the faith and gave him the valuable training needed to give him a great start in his Christian walk. Dorset wrote,
Dwight Moody's life in Christ began when he left the hardscrabble soil of northwestern Massachusetts. Leaving behind his grinding labor as a farm hand, the restless teen moved to Boston, where he found employment in an uncle's shoe store. Moody's godly relative provided room, board, and a day job to his seventeen-year-old nephew with one condition: he must faithfully promise to attend Sunday school and church every week.
Young Moody kept his promise, and Uncle Lemuel Holton witnessed the answer to his prayers. Dwight heard the gospel story from his Sunday school teacher, Edward Kimball, who one Saturday stopped by Holton's shoe store where he found Dwight alone. Moody never forgot the day Kimball came behind the counter "and put his hand upon my shoulder, and talked to me about Christ and my soul. I had not felt I had a soul till then.” Moody stood astounded by the presence of this man who had known him only a few weeks yet wept over his sins. Years later Moody said, "I don't remember what he said, but I can feel the power of that man's hand on my shoulder tonight.” Within a few months, the young shoe store clerk surrendered his life to Christ and expressed a willingness to repent and be mentored in the faith by Edward Kimball and a few other men in Boston's Mount Vernon Congregational Church. The young convert admitted to soon facing 'a conflict with my will. I had a terrible battle to surrender my will, and to take God's will.' http://www.cslewisinstitute.org/Profile_DL_Moody_Dorsett_Single-Page_Full_Article
Moody left the eastern United States and headed for Chicago, an emerging city on Lake Michigan in the Midwest of the USA. Moody had the gift of making money. He could have lost his spiritual focus, but he was willing to be mentored by another Christian leader. Her name was Mrs. H. Phillips. Dorset outlined this mentoring relationship as well,
Despite his ambition to earn money, Moody purposely pursued his walk with the Lord. Soon after his arrival in Chicago, he began rooming and taking meals in the house of "Mother” H. Phillips. Mrs. Phillips not only housed and fed Moody, she held him accountable to pray and read his Bible daily and attend services at First Baptist, her home church. But Mother Phillips did more than mentor Moody; she encouraged him to assist her in city mission work. Thanks to the witness of this godly woman, Moody began an outreach to a growing throng of street children--thousands of impoverished boys and girls who roamed the streets and alleys of the neighborhoods where the lowest social and economic classes lived.
Moody grew in his relationship with God as he continued to gain wealth in his business enterprises. There were leaders that invited Moody to Bible Studies and revival meetings in Chicago around 1857. Moody was called into bi-vocational ministry, like many who are studying at Christian Leaders Institute.
God brought another mentor into Moody's life. God led J. B. Stillson, a much older Christian Leader to serve as a spiritual mentor. Stillson taught Moody how to study the Bible. Soon he was using study aids including concordances and Bible dictionaries.
By the time the United States' Civil war broke out, Moody had received great amounts of mentorship and ministry training from well-grounded leaders and various sources. He became a chaplain for General Grant and tirelessly shared the Gospel and ministered to the dying. After the war, he became an evangelist who led millions to Christ. He remembered the importance of the mentors in his life and set up Moody Bible Institute to be a mentoring place that continues as a ministry training school today.
What would have happened to Moody if God had not raised up these mentors?
What motivates a mentor? A mentor is motivated to help others advance, thus investing in the lives of others. Mentors are motivated to help others because they love to reproduce in others the various learning that they have received.
I remember asking Rich DeVos Sr. to be my mentor back in 1993. Rich loved the reproducing of Christianity. Based on what he learned in building Amway for a generation, he mentored me and introduced me to ideas, people, attitudes, and challenges that helped build the culture that we both loved. He freely offered recognition when I accomplished something and invested in me to bring me to even greater ministry effectiveness.
Everyone Needs To Be In A Mentor Relationship
Christian Leaders encourages recruiting mentors! Mentors know the student, graduate, and future minister.
I have been a minister since 1987, but I still need mentors. Christian Leaders is entering a new phase of existence. The founding phase is ending. Now we enter into creating an organization that will last a long time. I am going to need mentors to teach me what I do not know and support me in what I do know.
What Does A Christian Mentor Do?
Christian mentors are self-aware of their calling to build local Christian culture. In fact, they intuitively look for opportunities to help people fit in or make an impact. These mentors know that God is calling them to invest in the lives of potential difference-makers. Barnabas was a mentor. If you look at him in relation to Paul and Mark, you see that his calling was to mentor potential leaders. Let's look at Barnabas, the father of mentors.
I am going to list all the passages that mention the life and work of Barnabas; each of them illustrates how he was an early church mentor. From his life, we are going to come up with a portrait of a Biblical mentor.
- Mentors Are Seen To Be Encouraging:
Mentors are recognized as leaders who notice those who need encouragement. Barnabas was seen that way. In fact, when he is first mentioned in the Bible by name in Acts 4:36, we see that the apostles had already changed his name from Joseph to Barnabas, which actually means Son of Encouragement:
Joseph, a Levite from Cyprus, whom the apostles called Barnabas (which means Son of Encouragement)... (Acts 4:36)
Something interesting to note is that they gave him standing in his title. Early church titles were very important. We have the title for Jesus, "Son of God.” The title for Barnabas is "Son of Encouragement." A mentor is recognized to be an encourager.
If you are a student at CLI, we encourage you to find a mentor. I encourage you to find that "Barnabas" who is someone who will help you. Call your mentor, "Barnabas.”
- Mentors Are Generous With Resources:
Mentors are not stingy. They take their resources of time and money and bring them to the feet of Jesus. Barnabas was generous with his resources. The second thing we read about him in the Bible is that he sold a field to help others in need:
[Barnabas] sold a field he owned and brought the money and put it at the apostles' feet. (Acts 4:37)
Here was a man who was already acknowledged for how he used his time to encourage others. Then on top of that, he put his money where his mouth was. There was a need beyond what his encouragement brought. What did he do? Cashed in an asset to help.
This characteristic of a mentor is so important because the new potential leader needs that model of generosity.
- Mentors Will Make Connections:
Mentors will introduce students to opportunities. They leverage who they know to help new leaders get opportunities for ministry. Barnabas did this to the point of taking a risk. We read in Acts 9 that Saul is blinded on the road to Damascus. He is called by God to be the chosen instrument to bring the gospel to the Gentiles. But Saul was known as the Christian persecutor who might be trying to play a trick on the church.
It was Barnabas who had the standing to make the introduction of Saul, later to be named Paul, to the apostles:
When he came to Jerusalem, he tried to join the disciples, but they were all afraid of him, not believing that he really was a disciple. But Barnabas took him and brought him to the apostles. (Acts 9:26-27)
Let us be clear, a mentor does not just connect anyone and everyone. The disciple must have demonstrated that he/she is called and genuine. Barnabas saw in Saul the calling of God. It was this truth that compelled him to introduce Saul to the apostles.
Mentors see their role with those whom God has brought to them as an opportunity to connect potential leaders with opportunities for ministry. A mentor might help with ordination requirements at a local church or denomination. A mentor may help connect a student with a funding opportunity.
- Mentors Are Promoters:
Mentors speak well of those they are mentoring. Barnabas was one who spoke well of Saul. Barnabas saw in Saul his calling and character. I am sure he could have found a lot of negative to say about Saul. We all have that negative in us. Instead, Barnabas spoke well of the apostle and saw the positive:
He told them how Saul on his journey had seen the Lord and that the Lord had spoken to him, and how in Damascus he had preached fearlessly in the name of Jesus. (Acts 9:27b)
Mentors appropriately and publicly build up the potential leader. Mentors will promote new leaders. Mentors tell positive stories about potential leaders. These potential leaders do not threaten their mentors; their mentors want them to succeed.
- Mentors Stay Connected through life.
Mentors follow the ministry training progress of students and, even after they graduate, they delight in their progress and partner with them in further ministry. Barnabas was mentoring Saul when he was being prepared, he introduced him to the apostles and, even later, Barnabas went looking for Saul and then partnered in ministry with Saul for a whole year. It was at this time that the followers of Jesus were first called Christians:
So Barnabas went to Tarsus to look for Saul, and when he had found him, he brought him to Antioch. For a whole year, they met with the church and taught a great many people. And in Antioch, the disciples were first called Christians. (Acts 11:25-26)
Ministry capital is ultimately about leaders partnering together and building a culture that honors Christ. Those who have gone before the students, later work alongside those very students. Mentors really stay connected with their potential leaders even after they have finished the preparation stage and are ministering. Saul and Barnabas made such a team that the church at Antioch sent them on a mission together:
While they were worshiping the Lord and fasting, the Holy Spirit said, "Set apart for me Barnabas and Saul for the work to which I have called them.” (Acts 13:2)
- Mentors Who become Less:
There will be times when the one in training will be called to a special work by God. The mentored one will succeed beyond his mentor. Saul's name is changed to Paul and he is now the team leader. In Chapter 13 of Acts, Barnabas is still mentioned first, "the Holy Spirit said, 'Set apart for me Barnabas and Saul for the work to which I have called them'." But Chapter 14 mentions Paul first:
Paul and Barnabas appointed elders for them in each church and, with prayer and fasting, committed them to the Lord, in whom they had put their trust. (Acts 14:23)
Effective mentors are looking for people who will exceed them in impact. They will invest and encourage leaders to be their best for God. Paul and Barnabas were planting churches and appointing leaders together everywhere they went.
- Mentors And Mentored Not Afraid Of Doing Their Own Thing:
The relationship of the mentor and the mentored can change even as circumstances change. Paul and Barnabas parted company over a disagreement. I am glad this stayed in the Bible. Sometimes a mentor and the one who is sponsored disagree about something. Barnabas and Paul disagreed about what to do with Mark to the extent that they parted company.
Barnabas appeared to want to give Mark another opportunity to prove himself in ministry. Paul felt that it was risky to take someone who had buckled under pressure. When reading about their disagreement, I am impressed that they both went their own way and God's kingdom was advanced in their disagreement:
Sometime later Paul said to Barnabas, "Let us go back and visit the brothers in all the towns where we preached the word of the Lord and see how they are doing." Barnabas wanted to take John, also called Mark, with them, but Paul did not think it wise to take him because he had deserted them in Pamphylia and had not continued with them in the work. They had such a sharp disagreement that they parted company. Barnabas took Mark and sailed for Cyprus, but Paul chose Silas and left, commended by the brothers to the grace of the Lord. (Acts 15:36-40)
Sometimes the mentor and the mentored one have disagreements, even sharp ones. I have seen a sponsored student sense the call to plant a new church. The sponsor disagrees. Eventually, the mentor and the mentored one go their separate ways. At first, they are uncomfortable about the split; however, after a while, they see that the kingdom of God is advanced through it all.
At Christian Leaders, a mentor is a huge asset for the student. When mentors give students opportunities to lead, the student greatly benefits.
Mentors Bring Ministry Opportunities
The mentors in a local people group are important in the training process. These mentors will help students interface with their local group. These mentors will make sure that there is a path of ordination for the students when they complete their training. The mentors will help students plugin and help them in their ordination at a local church or in a church-planting situation. CLI can bring excellent ministry training to the students; the mentor can bring excellent ministry opportunities to the students.
Most impactful Christian leaders of the past have benefited from excellent mentors. This is why we require that every new applicant to CLI put down a mentor because revival leaders have mentors. Where would Dwight Moody be without his mentors? Where would you be without your mentors?