Turning the Model Around: Mentoring Evangelism

For about 5 years I have been teaching High School students how important it is to have a mentor and how to go about seeking someone to mentor them. We talk about setting goals, knowing what you would like to achieve, and about looking for a man or woman who has achieved those goals already who might be willing to serve as a mentor. We also talk a great deal about the character of the person sought as a mentor and how that character reflects that person’s commitment to Christ. And we also talk about how to approach such a candidate for mentoring purposes without making that person feel like they are tying themselves into a long-term relationship.

All of this is fine and good. We need mentors at every level—I seek out mentors myself. Of late, though, I have realized that I have concentrated primarily on the ascending relationship of finding mentors and that I have not focused much on looking downward (if you will allow me the analogy)—the looking for someone to mentor. And, to be more specific than that, as a Christian leader, I have been reflecting on the principle of looking for people to mentor for the express purpose of evangelism, not just to replicate the successes you have had in the lives of others.

Usually, as we walk though life, we are all pretty self-centered. Sorry to offend if I have stepped on toes, but all of us can be pretty-self serving if left to our own devices. We want people to mentor us so that we can get ahead in business or in other personal goals. We even want to mentor others so that we can replicate ourselves in them…sometimes even living vicariously through the person we have sought to mentor. We do it as Christians and we even do it in the Christian church. How often we attract people to the church by attracting them to the pastor (his messages, his vision, etc…). I am suggesting that the model needs to be rethought.

The Apostle Paul told the church that they should seek to imitate him, but he did not end there. Paul said that the church should imitate him so that they may imitate Christ as they see Christ in him (1 Corinthians 11:1; 1 Thessalonians 1:6). In addition, both Paul and the writer of Hebrews affirmed that we ought to watch believers who are more mature than we are to learn about Christ from them (Philippians 3:17; 1 Thessalonians 2:14; Hebrews 13:7). The principle is that we attract to ourselves with the purpose of turning to Christ.

So, what model am I proposing? To begin with, I propose a mentoring model that is driven from the top, not from the bottom. Highly motivated people will always seek out mentors above them; those who are Christians and leaders in the community ought to start aggressively looking for those they would like to mentor and then invest time and resources into that person. Take them out to lunch several times, learn their goals and aspirations, and build a relationship with that young man or young woman. Then, use that relationship as an opportunity to evangelize those who you are mentoring.

To take that and apply that to a church context, pastors ought not stop at attracting people to themselves, but should attract people to themselves for the purpose of pointing people not only to Christ but also to those in the congregation who are mature in their faith. Thus the pastor functions as one who creates mentoring opportunities between two others within his congregational context.

To a degree, churches that are building small groups are accomplishing something like this model—groups of people living life together. I am not knocking small groups, they are necessary for building community, but where the small group model can fall short is in two ways. First, small groups typically do not exist to spawn other small groups; the purpose of a small group is to live life-on-life together in a relationship that grows deep over a long period and is not necessarily focused on growing wide. The small group model essentially takes a group of people who are at roughly the same point in their spiritual walk and grows them together. Sometimes small groups will grow and spin off other small groups; this happens best as an organic division (a younger leader is rising up and is ready to “spread his wings”) and not as a programmed split (if you tell people that they will be part of this small group for two years and then split off, the relationships will never grow vulnerable, transparent, or deep).

Mentoring, though has a different goal in its sights. Mentoring’s purpose is to take someone and assist them in reaching a specific goal. There are markers and the relationship is designed to be temporary. My role as a mentor, typically, is to help identify untapped potential in you and to help you grow in your gifts to a certain end; either to accomplish a specific goal I have already achieved or to exceed the plateau that I have reached. Mentoring relationships are deep, but in a very limited respect in that the depth is focused not on life in general, but upon the specific goal and purpose that is in sight.

The second area in which the small group model sometimes falls short is that small groups can become disconnected from other small groups within the church body—especially when the church is larger. There may be unity within groups “x” and “y” respectively, but many times, not unity between those in groups “x” and “y.” Some of this “inter-group” unity can be achieved through group projects or if co-workers, family, or friends are spread between multiple small groups. Also, said connections can be found when people in various small groups serve in the larger church fellowship—fellow Sunday School teachers, on the music team, etc…

Yet, to use the analogy that Paul employs in 1 Corinthians 12, the body is not made up of a bunch of isolated parts or parts that only occasionally come together. In the body, all of the parts exist organically together and in harmony. We are accustomed to reflecting on this passage in terms of individuals, but the analogy also applies to small groups. The reality is that none of us are a hand or a foot or a kidney unto ourselves, but we are individual cells that are part of the hand, foot, or kidney. In a small group model, the groups as a whole are the body parts and need a means by which they can be bonded together. The “coming together” of the church body on Sunday is part of that equation, but body parts do not occasionally come together; they exist together in connection as a whole.

The model that I am suggesting pictures the church body as a giant, interconnected network—a giant constellation per say—where everyone is connected to one or two mentors and one or two people they are mentoring. This is not meant as a replacement for small groups, but an addition to. To continue with the body analogy, the network of mentoring relationships being like the network of nerves or capillaries that transport life-giving blood to every body part and provide an inter-connected network by which the small groups never become isolated from the whole. And that the mentoring process be used for the intentional purpose of evangelism and discipling (Great Commission) as well as be designed to grow intentionally outward into the community around us and not inward. In other words, while typically small groups exist to serve the church, the mentoring network not only connects the church parts internally, but connects the church externally to the community.

If this model is done well, you will even find mentoring relationships between local church bodies. This is not for the purpose of stealing people from one local fellowship to another,  but to build up the kingdom. Remember, Christ has one body (now we are applying this to inter-Church relationships), there needs to be an interconnectivity between Bible believing churches that runs deeper than the local pastors’ association. Surely we would all agree that any one of our towns or cities are large enough that no one church is big enough to effectively be salt and light for the whole. Getting on mission means getting out and being that witness in our community, but it also means that those who are not against us are for us (Mark 9:40; Luke 9:50).

In this context, part of the role of the pastor is to know existing members well enough that new people to the church can be introduced not only to small groups, but to members that will reach out to them and provide them with mentoring. Also, it is his job to know the community well enough that he can connect mature Christians in his church to those who could use mentoring (and evangelization) in the community…kind of like a spiritual match-making service (though I detest the analogy).

It should be noted that this model is almost impossible to monitor. In a church that is large enough to support a connectional pastor, perhaps he can facilitate such relationships, but for most of us who pastor either single or small-staff churches, it is not realistically feasible to know who is mentoring whom throughout your church network. At the same time, that is the organic nature of the church. We are not simply a mechanical organization with rules and guidelines that can be easily charted, but we are a living and breathing entity—structured indeed, we are not a blob from outer-space—and just as a medical doctor does not always know everything that is going on within you, but will have a good sense of your overall health, so too the pastor and leadership of the church will have a sense of what is going on, but may not be able to map out the ever changing network of mentoring relationships.

Yet, is this not the relationship we find in the Bible and in the early church (one where having large buildings and facilities was not possible ala Roman law). Barnabas saw what God was doing in Paul and facilitated Paul’s connection with the Apostles in Jerusalem. Paul identified Timothy for the purpose of mentoring him. Timothy was instructed to find others to mentor who would hold fast to the faith handed down from person to person, generation to generation. We are part of that giant mentoring network through history and mentoring happens within our churches in ways that none of us are aware. But where I believe our churches need to go is to the next step where we become intentional about creating the network of mentoring relationships inside and outside of our church body with a specific aim of evangelizing those whom we have sought out to mentor.

2 Comments

  1. Stephen

    Preacherwin,
    It’s me again. I’ve been reading your posts. I don’t have a comment today, but I was wondering if you could help me. I think I am going to take your suggestion of publishing with Lulu. I want to start a Bible study going through my book. I thought I would take one small book at a time, that way they don’t have to pay as much. Anyway, I have some questions about what I have to do to submit it. Okay I go to the main site where it says “submit and publish”. My question is, do I have to have it all ready as they want it when I submit it? Will they tell me along the way what formate they want it in? What about page size? Right now it is 9 by 6 and I think that is one of their sizes. But I’m not sure what size margine they want. Do I submit it in pdf or just a regular word document? Do they want one of the margins bigger to allow for binding? If you have answers for these questions and you have the time I would really appriciate your help. If you remember how you did it. Thanks

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    1. preacherwin

      Stephen,

      It is good to hear from you and I am glad to hear that you are going to give Lulu a try; I have been pleased with their product and interface.

      Let me aim at answering your questions; if I miss one or if there are more, feel free to ask. Also, feel free to email me directly if that is useful for you, too: preacherwin@embarqmail.com

      1) Yes, you need to have the total book ready. Lulu is essentially a self-serve printer. You need to have the inside as well as the cover ready (though they do have free software with which you can design a cover). Don’t forget to put the barcode on the back and the ISBN number (both are assigned by Lulu during the creation process) in the inside cover of your book. What I do is get everything else ready, set up the book (which gives me the ISBN) and then insert the ISBN on my inside cover page and the bar code on the back cover of my book. If you want to use their free service, Bookland has a free barcode generator that produces a sharper image than the one Lulu generates: http://www.tux.org/~milgram/bookland/

      2) Formatting is up to you. 6×9 is a standard size that Lulu uses, so I would keep it in that format. In terms of margins, probably .75 inches is good. Less than that looks squished on the page and more than 1″ looks like you are not using the page (in my opinion). Sometimes people make the inside margin slightly wider than the outside margin because of the way the book will be bound.

      3) You can submit either PDF or Word documents, but Lulu sometimes does goofy things to non-standard fonts when being sent by Word. Thus I always use PDF.

      4) Essentially what I do is write the book in Word (I am a Mac guy, so am playing with Pages at the moment) and then import it into Adobe InDesign. InDesign allows me to control all of the formatting and similar kinds of stuff so that when I export it in PDF format it comes out like I want it to. Then I export to PDF and upload the PDF, which preserves all of my fonts (I use lots of Greek and Hebrew fonts in my books). This has worked out very nicely, I have felt.

      5) a final note; I know that you want to keep prices low, but know that the costs for a very thin book are higher per page than the costs for a thicker book, so you probably won’t see too much difference, for example, in a 70 page book and a 150 page book. Obviously your costs as the creator will be cheaper than people buying the book on Amazon. To get it listed on Amazon, though, you will need to have an ISBN number assigned and then “purchase” a distribution package (the one to get it on Amazon is free). It takes 4-8 weeks for Amazon to add it to their database. In the meantime, people can still buy the book from Lulu (and you make more money per book selling from Lulu’s platform than from Amazon’s.

      Blessings, hope this is helpful. If you have more questions, feel free to ask. If you poke around on the help section, Lulu also has some pretty good documents you can download about the formatting of the books. They may prove useful.

      in Christ,

      win

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