Now I am not much of a puzzle maker… but have enjoyed doing them with my grandkids from time to time (they are much more in my competency level of puzzles after all), but all too often we come to the end of that puzzle and there is a piece missing. It spoils the whole thing because you can’t complete it… and so no matter what piece it is… it becomes an important piece that is missing. This week I want to look with you at the possibility of an important piece that might be missing from our discipleship efforts.
So let me start here again this week….
“The discipleship we’re called to, as Jesus modeled, is “intentional, relational, and transparent. Yes, discipleship involves teaching. But it’s much more. It’s about you inviting (or being invited) to share your life. It means you teaching someone what Scripture says about loving his or her spouse, then inviting the person into your home to show them what it looks like.”5
(From Putman – RDN)
When I read through this again another word that pops into my mind that seems key to discipleship is the idea of mentoring. Something that again I think can be very misunderstood. The relationship of mentoring (which I prefer to call mentoring partners) if not done well can have someone leaning into another person so heavy that they will really struggle with being able to discover in their life how they take their own next steps.
Here are a few things David Stoddard says about what being a mentor means… in his book The Heart of Mentoring:
“mentors need to embrace the role of serving and exalting their mentor partners.”
“The key, I believe, is the mentor’s willingness to come down from the mountain – to leave the lofty perch of success and authority – and simply walk alongside the mentoring partner. This is a way of showing that you don’t feel above the other person; you are just further along in the process.”
Why is this so important, opposed to having a relationship that has someone simply sharing all their “further along the road knowledge” and pouring that into the other person? Is there a missing important ingredient in that process?
Another term that I gained from Putman and Harrington in their book DiscipleShift that can be inserted here is that of “spiritual parenting”. However, here we may come up against the many ways that our society thinks about how parenting goes. Let’s admit it right off the bat on this one… we are talking about adults being spiritually parented… how do you think that goes? But remember now in Stoddard’s key ingredient in being a mentoring partner I am pretty sure he said it was important for that mentor to come down from their mountain, that is leave that lofty perch.
Paul in 1Corinthians 4 (in a chapter that talks about the true nature of apostleship) warns against this lofty perch when he says…
For who makes you different from anyone else? What do you have that you did not receive? And if you did receive it, why do you boast as though you did not?
Clearly early on in the parent/child relationship some lines of understanding need to be there about who are the parent’s and who is the child. But have you not as a parent found it to be a pretty humbling role. But don’t we also hear it often that each child is different and trying to apply a formula across the board that works for each child can be an act of frustration. Not only that, but it can be very detrimental to the maturing of a child. Are we as parents trying to mold them into little robots of who we are… or into our vision for them? Or are we encouraging them to be who God has made them to be? And then how does that look? Then apply similar questions to mentoring relationship…
Paul says this later on in that same 1 Corinthians 4 passage…
20 For the kingdom of God is not a matter of talk but of power. 21 What do you prefer? Shall I come to you with a rod of discipline, or shall I come in love and with a gentle spirit?
What he is saying here is that what is more important than our words is how we live our lives out in front of our children as parents or how we live our lives out in front of our mentoring partner. If we live that out in such a way that has us “come in love and with a gentle spirit” isn’t that how we would want them to be a parent… a spiritual parent (or mentoring partner)? This is the ingredient that we want passed along through our discipleship efforts!!
There is, however, a production line suggested in all of these!! But it is much better to look at it as being a line of reproduction. A reproduction not of who we are, but of who God is in us…
In 1 Corinthians 11 right at the front end of the chapter we hear Paul saying this…
1 Follow my example, as I follow the example of Christ.
Now if someone would only focus on the first part of this statement from Paul, this could obviously seem like he is working from that lofty perch. However, there is that second part… following the example of Christ!!
And then there is this from that Philippians 2 passage in which we are instructed as to what that imitation involves that is to follow the humility of Christ…
Therefore if you have any encouragement from being united with Christ, if any comfort from his love, if any common sharing in the Spirit, if any tenderness and compassion, 2 then make my joy complete by being like-minded, having the same love, being one in spirit and of one mind. 3 Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, 4 not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others.
In your relationships with one another, have the same mindset as Christ Jesus:
6 Who, being in very nature[a] God,
did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage;
7 rather, he made himself nothing
by taking the very nature of a servant,
being made in human likeness.
8 And being found in appearance as a man,
he humbled himself
by becoming obedient to death—
even death on a cross!
Have this always in front of you as you consider having anyone “imitate” you through a relationship. If this would inhabit more and more of those mentoring/discipling relationships think about that reproduction line!! But how is it going?
(Stick with me on this as next week I will bring in an opportunity that I have been having to do this and the challenges related to doing this well… what does seeing another person really look like?)