|Book: Creating a Secure Church: BOOK TWO|
Part 1 : Objectives & Obstacles
Part 2 : Secure in Relationships
Part 3 : Secure in Ministry
Part 4 : When Things go Wrong
Part 5 : Concluding Thoughts
Chapter 9: Secure in Change - Mentoring
“therefore encourage one another and build each other up”
(1 Thess 5:11)
So far we have been considering security in the church in respect of relationships, but now we move on to considering aspects of security as they affect the ministry of the church. In this chapter we'll be considering the mandate of the church to bring change and maturity to the individual members. In the next chapter we'll consider security as it is affected by preaching, then as it is affected by the use of spiritual gifts, and finally as it is affected by our call to be light to the world.
9.1 Change is Threatening
As we come to look at the ministry of the church we have to consider something that is so fundamental and basic that perhaps most of us either take if for granted, or we've never even thought about it. That is the teaching of the New Testament that Christians are to change and to mature. Let's check that with some verses:
2 Cor 3:16 And we, who with unveiled faces all reflect the Lord's glory, are being transformed into his likeness with ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit.
Note several things here:
2 Cor 10:15 Our hope is that, as your faith continues to grow, our area of activity among you will greatly expand
Eph 4:15,16 Instead, speaking the truth in love, we will in all things grow up into him who is the Head, that is, Christ. From him the whole body, joined and held together by every supporting ligament, grows and builds itself up in love, as each part does its work.
Eph 4:11-13 It was he who gave some to be apostles, some to be prophets, some to be evangelists, and some to be pastors and teachers, to prepare God's people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ.
This, he concludes, is maturity – when Christ is fully being expressed throughout the body, the church.
1 Pet 2:2 Like newborn babies, crave pure spiritual milk, so that by it you may grow up in your salvation
2 Pet 3:18 grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ
The writer to the Hebrews was even more explicit:
Heb 5:11-14 We have much to say about this, but it is hard to explain because you are slow to learn. 12 In fact, though by this time you ought to be teachers , you need someone to teach you the elementary truths of God's word all over again. You need milk, not solid food! 13 Anyone who lives on milk, being still an infant , is not acquainted with the teaching about righteousness. 14 But solid food is for the mature , who by constant use have trained themselves to distinguish good from evil
Before we conclude this first section of this chapter, we ought to notice the designation given to Jesus' followers throughout the Gospels – “disciples”. A disciple was a pupil of a teacher, so John the Baptist had disciples (Matt 9:14), the Pharisees had disciples (Mt 22:16), and Jesus of course had such followers (e.g. Matt 10:1; 11:1). Believers in general became called disciples (Acts 6:1-2, 7; 9:36) although they weren't called "Christians" until the founding of the church at Antioch (Acts 11:26).
It may be that you come from a part of the church, for which all of the above is common teaching, but if you are not, then I suggest that you go through the above verses again until you are quite clear in your mind that God's intention for you is to become a learner, one who is changing more and more into the likeness of Jesus, both in character and in service.
You're not quite sure about the service bit? Well consider the following:
Jn 14:12 I tell you the truth, anyone who has faith in me will do what I have been doing
Rom 12:4-6 Just as each of us has one body with many members, and these members do not all have the same function, so in Christ we who are many form one body, and each member belongs to all the others. We have different gifts, according to the grace given us.
Eph 2:10 For we are God's workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.
If you being an active member of Christ's body on earth is an alien or new concept to you, then read and reread these verses and realize that this is nothing strange or peculiar, but is simply the basic teaching of what life is supposed to be like for a Christian.
Preaching, teaching & mentoring
Growth as a Christian, we've said, means change and the change comes about with knowledge and with security. The Christian faith is a ‘content-full' faith, it is a faith that is built upon knowledge of what God has communicated – the Gospel. It is a faith that has a book which informs and guides. Teaching and preaching are two recognised ministry gifts in the church, and they are both about communicating.
Preaching and teaching however, tend to be ‘out front' ministries and there is much value in having someone who is close to you who is wiser and (probably) older and more experienced who can share with you on a personal level, and with whom you can share your life. This is a much more gentle way of bringing the teaching and guidance that we all need. This is what mentoring is all about.
In the latter part of the twentieth century, in certain progressive parts of the Church, much emphasis was placed on “discipling”, but that often came with overtones of “heavy shepherding” and so here I'd prefer to use the concept of mentoring instead, which has the same objective but goes about it in a more gentle and personal way.
Discipling was all about teaching new Christians what the Bible says about the Christian life, or as Jesus said, “teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you” (Mt 28:20). In other words it was helping the new Christian, or the new disciple, how to live out Jesus' teaching, so it is action, not merely words in the head. Mentoring has the same idea behind it.
Mentoring is all about Relationship & Security
A preacher or teacher can be distant from you, but a mentor is someone who has a relationship with you. A preacher can be hard and fearful and you can still get much from their preaching, but a mentor has to create security if you or I can come to a place where we are willing to be vulnerable and open up our lives and receive into our lives on such a direct and personal level.
If we are to receive the gentle correction and help from someone at this level, then there needs to be a working at such a relationship by both sides, but from the mentor especially there needs to be working to ensure that that characteristic of accepting, loving, caring and compassion are FELT and experienced by the other person.
Some of us are like wounded animals, insecure and unsure of ourselves because of the hurts of life. We particularly, need the vital love and acceptance of a mentor who may be the one agent of God who can reach into our pain and bring healing.
Perhaps a distinction we might suggest between ‘discipling' as some knew it in the twentieth century, and ‘mentoring' as we are sharing it here, is that of law versus grace. Discipling tended to say, “This is what you ought to be” (Law). Mentoring says, “Can I share your life and show you how I've got on?” (Grace). This sort of mentoring (and the world might teach something different) comes with the gentleness and humility of Christ and loves and accepts you where you are.
A Christ-like mentor doesn't chide you but says, “I understand where you are. I accept that”. When we find that sort of love and acceptance it means we feel we can lower our defensive barriers and let our ‘friend' know who I really am, and when we voice who we really are, we are half way towards change. Speaking out to another what we're really like, allows us to release whole loads of things that have previously held us captive.
9.3 A Person's Heart
However, there is also another factor in the equation, one which I confess I find difficult to grasp – and that is the state of a person's heart. The Bible talks a lot about the heart and of course it doesn't just mean the muscle that pumps blood around the body. It refers to that central aspect of a person that involves their will and their feelings. Why does one person's will decree they are all-out for God and another person is half-hearted? Can that half heartedness be changed?
A Heart that Changes
Sometimes, yes. Sometimes truth does change a person. There are times when, because the sense of security created is very real in a mentoring context, truth can penetrate behind the apparent hardness that has been created by the hurts of life. Perhaps in such cases it's not so much hardness of heart as fear of heart, fear that prevents change, fear that prevents openness, fear that prevents healing.
It is in these cases that “perfect love drives out fear” (1 Jn 4:18), the love of Jesus through you, the mentor, that accepts that person completely as they are and loves them as they are. Sometimes that, and that alone, provides the means for the truth to be received. This love and acceptance, that we have been referring to from the beginning of this book, is the greatest dynamic for change in any person's life. We change when we are loved, or perhaps more accurately, when we realise we are really loved and accepted as we are, it opens the door for a whole series of changes to take place in us.
The Heart that doesn't Change
However, sometimes people hear and don't respond! Pharaoh was “hard hearted” and became more and more so, and so attempted correction sometimes simply confirms people in their way! We do need to be aware of that. In his case it seems to be that pride and arrogance was set in him so that nothing would change him. That is why God destined him for destruction (Rom 9:17,18)
How will we know the outcome? We won't. Our role is simply to listen to God and seek to catch His heart for this person. There will be those to whom God will join us in heart so that we bring His gentle accepting love. There will be others who we will come to see are really only performing on the outside but inwardly are set, and even our loving acceptance will not move them, but even they we have to approach in this same manner. If they turn away, we don't want them to be able to say it was because of our harshness of approach.
Each any every one of us is answerable to God for the way we responded to other people. If we have the opportunity of the privilege of being a mentor to someone else, we never want to put a stumbling block in their way. It's easy to write people off as hard hearted when they don't respond to us, but perhaps we were less than Christ to them.
There will be days when my grace level is low, but my effort must be to seek to ensure that such days are few and far between. If you sure not certain how Jesus did this, go back to Book One and see the early chapters of how Jesus responded to people, and especially to Peter.
You remember that Paul & Barnabus in Acts 15 (verses 36 on) had a dispute (we'll be considering that again in another chapter) over the question of John Mark. Paul was a “no messing” character who just wanted to get on with the job and if anyone couldn't keep up, then, tough! Barnabus, as his name signifies was an encourager, a people-person, a man who gave people second chances. If you are a Barnabus type of person, you could perhaps become a great mentor to someone. It just means you've got to start building relationships. Mentoring isn't imposed on people, it's offered in love (at least in God's kingdom it is!). There's a lot more we could write here, but this will suffice to start you thinking if you have never been this way yet.
9.4 And So?
As we come to the end of this preliminary chapter about the ministry of the church, some questions we might consider are:
These are just some of the questions that might help us become people who can help other people face up to who they really are, so that the love of Jesus may penetrate the possible hardness that may have formed through the knocks of life, and bring them to security.