No one is perfect and neither are mentors. As role models, however, mentors should uphold certain qualities. Because of the impact we can have on other people’s lives, it is wise to uphold a few practical and godly conditions for mentoring.
1 Timothy 3: 2-4, 7 Now the overseer is to be above reproach, faithful to his wife, temperate, self-controlled, respectable, hospitable, able to teach, not given to drunkenness, not violent but gentle, not quarrelsome, not a lover of money. He must manage his own family well and see that his children obey him, and he must do so in a manner worthy of full respect. He must also have a good reputation with outsiders, so that he will not fall into disgrace and into the devil’s trap.
1. Opposite sex
Even with the purest of intentions, we should still avoid someone of the opposite sex for mentoring. Mentoring relationships require transparency and some vulnerability. This can make things awkward and at times, lead to unintended consequences.
2. Proud / seeks self-glory / self-focused
The ironic thing about pride is that people who are proud don’t realise they are proud. You can, however, spot some common traits of prideful people:
- seeks glory for themselves,
- tends to be authoritative and bossy,
- self-righteously points out the mistakes of other people,
- strives to appear perfect,
- tends to teach and tell, rather than guide, counsel and love,
- makes decisions based on how he or she will be perceived,
- dislikes being n a secondary position to someone else,
- unwilling to share his or her weaknesses and mistakes etc.,
- unwilling to heed Godly advice and counsel,
- tends to think they are right all the time etc.
An example of such people in the Bible is the Pharisees. They knew God’s laws very well but failed to recognise our Saviour because of their own pride. Avoid asking such people to be your mentor. Your mentoring relationship is likely to become more about them than about you or spiritual truths.
Proverbs 26:12 Do you see a person wise in their own eyes? There is more hope for a fool than for them.
3. Not grounded in God’s Word
God’s Word can be misquoted and misrepresented, so we should ideally seek a mentor who has a full breadth of understanding of biblical truths, both from the Old Testament and the New Testament. Someone who does not yet have a sound understanding of the Bible and who makes little effort to learn or seek the truth should not become a spiritual mentor.
Timothy 3:16-17 All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the servant of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work.
Deuteronomy 4:2 Do not add to what I command you and do not subtract from it, but keep the commands of the Lord your God that I give you.
4. Does not actively seek to apply God’s Word in all areas of life
There can be many influences in this world that may lead us to take God’s word for granted. For example, some Christians in Asia don’t see practising divination i.e. fortune tellers, horoscopes and ancestral worship, as a problem because it is part of “Asian culture” or family tradition, even though the Bible warns us sternly against this.
Deuteronomy 18:10-11 ESV There shall not be found among you anyone who burns his son or his daughter as an offering, anyone who practices divination or tells fortunes or interprets omens, or a sorcerer or a charmer or a medium or a necromancer or one who inquires of the dead,
Believers who are swayed by human traditions are not the best people to become spiritual mentors. The Bible says that as true followers of Christ, our ways are not to be of this world and that we must “carry our cross” and stand on God’s Word even against popular culture or peer pressure.
Colossians 2:8-10 See to it that no one takes you captive through hollow and deceptive philosophy, which depends on human tradition and the elemental spiritual forces of this world rather than on Christ.
Matthew 16:24 Then Jesus said to his disciples, “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me.
Matthew 10:22 You will be hated by everyone because of me, but the one who stands firm to the end will be saved.
5. Unable to persevere or follow through
If ever things become difficult for one reason or another, a good mentor will not tire of mentoring you, become inaccessible or give up on the follow-through. God actively pursues us in love, and similarly, mentors shouldn’t just give up on us when we most need admonishment, encouragement and love.
1 Corinthians 13:7 It (love) always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.
6. Manipulative, ulterior motives, petty
There are (hopefully rare) occasions where someone will become a mentor because of an ulterior motive, whether it is to turn a person’s opinions against a person or organisation, to use it as a ‘stepping’ stone to something else or to get close to a person to gain some sort of favour etc. The Bible warns us to simply have nothing to do with such people.
2 Timothy 3:1-5 But mark this: There will be terrible times in the last days. People will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boastful, proud, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy, without love, unforgiving, slanderous, without self-control, brutal, not lovers of the good, treacherous, rash, conceited, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God— having a form of godliness but denying its power. Have nothing to do with such people.
2 Timothy 2:24 And the Lord’s servant must not be quarrelsome but must be kind to everyone, able to teach, not resentful.
7. Does not keep things confidential
Gossip is not just about talking about others when it is no business of ours. Even if we “share” with “safe” people things that we have heard from others, it is still considered gossip.
People who repeat what others say in confidence, no matter how harmless it may sound, should not become spiritual mentors. This does not apply of course when couples mentor other people together and talk among themselves about issues regarding those they mentor together.
8. A new believer
Like a marathon, our journeys as Christians involves training, personal discipline, spiritual learning and transformation. Someone who has just started in the “race” is not likely to be a good “spiritual coach” or mentor.
1 Timothy 2:6 He must not be a recent convert, or he may become conceited and fall under the same judgment as the devil.
9. Under church discipline / unrepentant
Any person who has refused church counsel or is under church discipline should not take up any leadership roles, including mentoring.
Side note: If you feel convicted that any on the list from 2. to 7. describes you, you are encouraged to please seek a mentor or counsellor first. We all need help and encouragement as we seek to be moulded in the image of God. Don’t hesitate to take the very important step of asking someone who is more spiritually mature or is professionally equipped to help you and walk alongside you on a journey of spiritual growth and transformation in Christ. All things are possible through Christ!
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