Biblical Mentoring

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Biblical Mentoring By Russell A. Primrose 3/11/2004


Biblical Basis for Mentoring.

Are we in God’s will to mentor? Is there a Biblical basis for our doing so? The Bible does not use the word "mentoring" so it can mean a diverse number of things to different people. I am going to use it to mean a form of teaching, on a one-on-one basis as a sort of shared journey.

Are we in God’s will to mentor? Mentoring is not helping someone across the street when they did not want to go in the first place. It is not like the old seaman in Coleridge’s’ “Rhyme of the Ancient Mariner” who stops and intimidates you to listen to his whole story when you probably did not want to listen to him in the first place. It is the pouring out of yourself into the life of a selected individual in an atmosphere of mutual consent and respect. Elisha accepted Elijah as his mentor ( #1Ki 19:19-21|) with the finality of cooking his oxen over the fire of the plow they were pulling. Mentoring is hunting with a rifle instead of a shotgun. It is fishing with a hook instead of a net. To mentor is defined as “to serve as a teacher or trusted counselor”. A counselor has been defined as a person who listens more than half of the time. Is there a Biblical basis for our doing so?

Lecturing and mentoring are both a form of teaching, the difference probably being in the execution. Lecturing can be the dispensing of knowledge on a subject, even when it a little like trying to get a small drink from a fire hose. Mentoring is much harder and slower but probably more effective, in that you pour your whole life into your effort over time. Both agree that teaching has not happened unless behavior has changed.

The Great Commission.

Christ gave us a command, not a suggestion. That is why we call it the great commission.

Matthew 28
19 "Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit,
20 "teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age." Amen.(NKJV)

Each of us is to 1). Go, 2). Teach or form disciples, 3). Baptize, and to 4).Teach or instruct, probably one-on-one which is mentoring.


“Go” is not a destination in geography but an attitude of the mind. It is a willingness to share with family, with neighbors, with the community, at work, even at worship. A “missionary” who cannot witness in his home community will probably not function well when on a foreign field.

When we look in 2 Peter 1:5-7:

2 Peter 1
5 But also for this very reason, giving all diligence, add to your faith virtue, to virtue knowledge,
6 to knowledge self-control, to self-control perseverance, to perseverance godliness,
7 to godliness brotherly kindness, and to brotherly kindness love.(NKJV)

we find a vector of personal development. We are to add to our faith virtue, etc. There are eight steps in the vector with the first four being mostly personal development. Step 5, perserverance, is pivotal between personal development and ministry to others. Only when we reach steps 6 to 8 or 'godliness', 'brotherly kindness' and 'agape love' can we reach out to others. I think that is what 'Go' means-to project beyond ourselves and reach out to others. 'Go' is an attitude and not just a dimension in geography.

Make Disciples

The first thing we are instructed to do after deciding to 'go' is to make deciples. If the works of Engel and of Primrose The Engel-Primrose Assessment of Spiritual Growth are combined a 24 step scale of personal development emerges with steps -7 to 1 from an initial awareness of the Gospel to a willingness to confess sins being those necessary to form disciples.

In Romans 10:9-13 being saved consists of two steps:

  1. Believing
  2. Confessing

which correspond with steps "0" and '1' of the scale.

Baptizing Them

Baptism is not an Old Testament teaching, but it is taught in the New Testament. Christ, himself, was baptized, and here in Matthew he commands his disciples to be baptized. It is a personal decision, a moment in time, in which a believer partakes in the death and resurrection of Christ by being baptized. It appears as point 2 on the combined Engel-Primrose scale where a person elects to partake of the sacraments.

Teaching Them

The third thing we are to do after deciding to 'go' is to teach. And what are we to teach? We are to teach 'to observe all things I have commanded you' which is to go, to make disciples, to baptize them, and and to teach them to go, to make disciples, etc...round and round and round in perpetual sequence. Steps 3 to 16 on the Engle-Primrose scale from when a person 'learns to pray' to 'anticipating heaven' or roughly corresponding with their personal development. Mentoring is essential in aiding a person in their personal development from baptism to all levels of their Christian walk.

Teaching / Mentoring.

Teaching is a ministry, or a calling for many, but is commanded in some form for all of us.

Teaching as a Calling

Eph 4:11 And he gave some, apostles; and some, prophets; and some, evangelists; and some, pastors and teachers;12 For the perfecting of the saints, for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ:(KJV)

This verse lists 5 functions that exist for 3 reasons.


  1. • Apostles
  2. • Prophets
  3. • Evangelists
  4. • Pastors
  5. • Teachers (although, maybe these last two are one since it is unclear if pastors and teachers are presented as the same function)

These functions exist for only 3 reasons

  1. • for the equipping of the saints
  2. • for the work of ministry
  3. • for the edifying of the body of Christ

But imparting instruction/mentoring is for all of us.

Teaching has a special reward or penalty and should be done before God very carefully.

Mt 5:19 Whosoever therefore shall break one of these least commandments, and shall teach men so, he shall be called the least in the kingdom of heaven: but whosoever shall do and teach them, the same shall be called great in the kingdom of heaven. (KJV)
Teaching is mandated in a number of situations.
  • You are to teach/instruct your family.
De 6:7Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up. (NIV)
  • Leaders were to teach/instruct all of Israel.
Le 10:11 and you must teach the Israelites all the decrees the LORD has given them through Moses." (NIV)
Eze 44:23 They are to teach my people the difference between the holy and the common and show them how to distinguish between the unclean and the clean. (NIV)
  • The older people were to instruct the younger individuals.
Tit 2:1 But speak thou the things which become sound doctrine: 2 That the aged men be sober, grave, temperate, sound in faith, in charity, in patience. 3 The aged women likewise, that they be in behaviour as becometh holiness, not false accusers, not given to much wine, teachers of good things; 4 That they may teach the young women to be sober, to love their husbands, to love their children, 5 To be discreet, chaste, keepers at home, good, obedient to their own husbands, that the word of God be not blasphemed.

Walking on the Bridge you are Building.

There is a form of mentoring which is the teaching of each other, or iron sharpening iron (#Pro 27:17|). In this format you take the next logical thought, proceed out on your “bridge” and put it carefully in place, and go back for the next one. This has been referred to as cantilevered thinking (supported firmly on only one end) or deductive reasoning. You have the sense of not knowing where you are going—but k now when you get there and looking back everything is so logical and obvious. In a sense you were walking on the “bridge” as you were building it. This is an example of self mentoring, or teaching each other. Often this happens in small groups and maybe is why there were only 12 apostles. This must be done in an atmosphere of openness, mutual trust, and an acceptance of one another.

I picture each of us with different knowledge and abilities depicted by long slim ovals, with different directional orientation on any single subject. As we superimpose our abilities on a single subject the model looks a lot like a porcupine, with the whole subject not well covered, and with many gaps between. As we interact, teach, and mentor with each other the gaps between start to fill in and the subject area is much more thoroughly covered.


Teaching has a special reward or penalty and should be done before God very carefully. . #Mt 5:1Ti 6:3,4 Re 2:14,15,20| Matthew 5

19. Whoever therefore breaks one of the least of these commandments, and teaches men so, shall be called least in the kingdom of heaven; but whoever does and teaches them, he shall be called great in the kingdom of heaven. (NKJV)

Examples of Mentoring.

Through the Bible there are many examples of successful, fruitful mentoring. A few are presented here for your consideration:

  • Elijah and Elisha -about 3 years
  • Eli and Samuel -from age 7 to probably age 12
  • Paul and Barnabas -about 3 years
  • Paul and Silas -probably 2 years
  • Paul and Timothy -probably 3 or more years
  • Barnabas and John Mark -about 2 years
  • Christ and the 12 - 3 1/2 years

It is apparent that mentoring is not a rapid process. Whereas a person can be brought quickly to the point of decision to follow Christ, the training of a person in their spiritual development takes much longer. In the Biblical examples given the average seems to be about 3 years.

Reasons for Mentoring.

There are a number of good reasons why a program of mentoring is important.

  • It was commanded by Christ—Mat. 28:19-20
  • It teaches us and helps us develop.
  • It prevents the “revolving door” aspect of today’s church.
  • It helps mature believers more rapidly and thoroughly.

The program and Tools:

Is a program of mentoring within our grasp?

Mt 18:19 "Again, I tell you that if two of you on earth agree about anything you ask for, it will be done for you by my Father in heaven.20 For where two or three come together in my name, there am I with them."(NIV)

If each of our older population (say 100 total) would take just three people with which to develop a one-on-one relationship over the next 6 months, we would then have 300 new, now more mature Christians, plus the original 100, for a total of 400 Christians. Lets say we challenge each of this new group to work with 3 new people over the nest 6 months. We would end that year with 1600 people added firmly to the kingdom of God. Peter admonishes us in this developmental sequence:

2Pe 1:5 For this very reason, make every effort to add to your faith goodness; and to goodness, knowledge;6 and to knowledge, self-control; and to self-control, perseverance; and to perseverance, godliness;7 and to godliness, brotherly kindness; and to brotherly kindness, love.(NIV)


Each of you should expect to be challenged and your capability stretched in your prayer life, in your willingness to minister, and in your compassion and ability to care and empathize.


There would be attrition and some would fall away. We think of Paul’s lament that Demos had forsaken him, loving this present world. Christ lost Judas. But there would be a positive effect in that others would be drawn to Christ through our effort for Christ. The results would be well worth it.


Mentoring seems to be a long, intensive process. Our example of 6 months is probably not realistic. Christ, Himself, devoted over 3 years to his disciples. Elijah devoted about the same amount of time to Elishia. But they must have felt it was the best, most efficient approach to training or they would have done something else.

What to Expect.

If you can make this commitment we would expect:

  1. An increase in the size of the Church (at say double in two years). More people would be reached and less people would leave.
  2. A much higher level of Christian maturity and commitment is attained within the church.
  3. More ministries could be opened and offered to the community because there would be more dedicated people to do them. You would be able to reach out to the community in a new way.
  4. Finances should increase because more would be contributing, but more importantly giving levels (tithes) tend to follow maturity levels.
  5. Since we are following Christ’s commandment revival and renewal should be pervasive. Older Christians would themselves be developed and set on fire. More people than now should be reached. A much higher percentage than now should be matured.
  6. Every new convert and every first-time attendee would have someone in direct contact with them.
  7. At some time during the sequence every mentored person should be fed into a cell group and encouraged to keep attending church.

Why is there a reluctance to Minister

I am sure that Peter never considered one of his credentials to be his ability to walk on water. Yet he did so when he was obedient to the invitation of the Lord; at least until he got his eyes off of Christ. The power for a project comes from God.

Reluctance to Minister

In Hebrews 5, verses 12-14 Paul criticizes some of his fellow Christians that they are still on milk and not on more solid food. He says that they ought to be teachers by now. They had not yet stepped out into the ministry to which God had called them . It is apparent he thought this is a decision they should have made. They were probably feeling as inadequate as we feel about stepping out into ministry. We can think of numerous reasons why we should not step into what God has prepared us for. In verses 1-5 he points out that priests are taken from among men so that they can have compassion for sinful men who are ignorant and going astray, and can empathize with their plight. Above all we are there to offer sacrifices for ourselves first, then for them. We are just human beings that are saved by God’s grace. We will never feel adequate. The Priest/Leader with Dirty Garments We will fall, but we have learned how to contact God for his help. We acknowledge God’s appointment and calling and we rely upon Him for his strength.

Our Position before God

The following excerpt from an anonymous source sums up our situation.

When I say that 'I am a Christian' :

I am not shouting that 'I am clean living’. I'm whispering 'I was lost, but now I'm found and forgiven.'
I don't speak of this with pride. I'm confessing that I stumble and need Christ to be my guide.
I'm not trying to be strong. I'm professing that I'm weak and need His strength to carry on.
I'm not bragging of success. I'm admitting I have failed and need God to clean my mess.
I'm not claiming to be perfect. My flaws are far too visible, but God believes I am worth it.
I still feel the sting of pain. I have my share of heartaches, so I call upon His name.
I'm not holier than thou. I'm just a simple sinner who received God's good grace, somehow!

The Fallen Minister

Zechariah shows a grim, heartbreaking picture of the high priest, a leader and an influencer of many, standing before the Angel of the Lord in dirty garments being accused by Satan.

Zechariah 3: 1 Then he showed me Joshua the high priest standing before the Angel of the LORD, and Satan standing at his right hand to oppose him. 2 And the LORD said to Satan, "The LORD rebuke you, Satan! The LORD who has chosen Jerusalem rebuke you! Is this not a brand plucked from the fire?" 3 Now Joshua was clothed with filthy garments, and was standing before the Angel. 4 Then He answered and spoke to those who stood before Him, saying, "Take away the filthy garments from him." And to him He said, "See, I have removed your iniquity from you, and I will clothe you with rich robes." And I said, "Let them put a clean turban on his head." So they put a clean turban on his head, and they put the clothes on him. And the Angel of the LORD stood by. NKJV)

What a fearsome picture. We can just picture ourselves standing there in His presence one more time. His garments were soiled and he could not clean them, or he would have done so. After all this is the Angel of the Lord he was called before. And Satan is pointing this out, being very well aware of the higher standard to which the Lord holds all leaders. There are several observations that we can make about Joshua’s situation.

• This passage is a picture of each of us.
• Joshua could not clean his garments that had been soiled.
• But the Lord could correct the situation--in this case by replacing the apparel.
• Only God can appoint us into His service--but only on His terms.
• Only God can clean up our mess and bring restoration out of chaos.
• Only God can bring redemption to a ministry that is in shambles because we are sinners saved by grace.

Every one of us should empathize with this servant of God. Here we see ourselves standing once again before our God and Savior. We have failed so often and probably will again. But we have to be willing to stand before Him even when being accused, and to let Him do His work in our lives-one more time.

You will Never be Good Enough

We do not serve in ministry because we are good enough, pure enough, smart enough, or strong enough. We will never be good enough. But do not let that be a discouragement to you. We serve in ministry because we are obedient. We have transgressed, goofed up, shown pride, or otherwise fallen momentarily from God’s Grace. But God can and will forgive us, and we have an immediate audience with Him. We should seek only to glorify God. The work will only be successful by God’s strength. God has chosen our weakness to further glorify his strength. So when we feel ill prepared, inadequate, too weak, remember God has chosen the weak to confound the strong.

1 Corinthians 1
27 But God has chosen the foolish things of the world to put to shame the wise, and God has chosen the weak things of the world to put to shame the things which are mighty; (NKJV)


Mentoring in some form or other is Biblical, is commanded, and appears to be greatly benificial. Mentoring should certainly be a component in biblical leadership.

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