For a while I had a hard time answering the question, “Why should I mentor?” I had lots of answers, but they never seemed satisfactory. I would answer by saying things like, “God calls us to mentor” or “It works” or “It’s a blessing.” Now, I don’t think these are necessarily bad answers. The fact that God calls us to mentor people should be motivation enough for us to begin mentoring. However, it always seemed like there was another answer that would be more satisfactory--an answer that gives a foundation for mentoring. A grace I had yet to understand.
Last summer I was preaching through the book of Titus and I found my answer. I only had three weeks to preach through the entire book. So, logically, I decided to preach through one chapter each week. At times it’s a struggle to preach on such a large section of scripture because you always feel like you’re leaving stuff out. On the other hand, preaching on an entire chapter can help us get the bigger picture of what the author is saying. That’s what happened for me last summer.
As I worked through chapter one of Titus, I noticed Paul was beginning to lay out a pattern of discipleship--that is, a pattern of the goal of mentoring. Paul was writing to Titus, instructing him to appoint elders in various towns. These elders needed to have certain gifts and meet certain qualifications. These gifts and qualifications are all pointing to the ability of an elder to disciple the flock of God. So, already we see a pattern of discipleship. Paul is discipling Titus; Titus is discipling elders; and the elders will be discipling the flock.
When we get to chapter two, those dynamics continue. We use the context of relationships to help the next generation to grow in their faith and in their walk. As we look at this pattern of coming alongside of our neighbor, I want you to look at the pattern of discipleship and the reason for discipleship. Why is Paul telling us to disciple?
It’s an interesting question isn’t it? Why is Paul discipling Titus and why should the older men and women be discipling the younger men and women? Paul doesn’t leave us to come up with this answer on our own. He gives us the answer.
When you read Titus, you will notice that Paul has a pattern to how he writes. Each chapter begins with various commands or instructions. Chapter one is talking about appointing elders. Chapter two is talking about mentoring relationships. Chapter three is talking about our relationships with one another. Then after giving these instructions/commands, Paul gives us the reason for those commands. Notice that each chapter hinges on the little word “for”. That’s the signal Paul gives us when he is going to answer the “Why?” question.
With that understanding, why are the older men and women to be discipling the younger men and women? Paul says,
“For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation for all people, training us to renounce ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright, and godly lives in the present age, waiting for our blessed hope, the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ, who gave himself for us to redeem us from all lawlessness and to purify for himself a people for his own possession who are zealous for good works” (Titus 2:11–14, ESV).
Reading that passage, I wondered, “How does that explain why we are supposed to mentor?” I sat in my desk and stared at this passage for quite a while asking that very question. We are supposed to mentor people because the grace of God has appeared? It didn’t quite make sense until I dug a little deeper, and had one of those “light bulb” moments.
By taking a closer look at one of the words in this passage, we will begin to understand what Paul is trying to say. It’s the word “training”. When we think training, we might think of athletes training for competition. However, the word Paul uses relates “to the upbringing of children, who need direction, teaching, instruction, and discipline" according to the Theological Dictionary of the New Testament.
Once I understood Paul meant more the raising of children more than athletic training, the light bulb went on in my mind. We are to be mentoring the younger men and women in our congregations because the grace of God has appeared and is mentoring, training, and disciplining us.
As we become Christians, God’s grace becomes our mentor. It walks with us through the good times and the bad times. It walks with us through our successes and our failures. God’s grace continues to point us to Christ as our only comfort in life and in death. In particular to this passage, God’s grace is mentoring us “to renounce ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright, and godly lives in the present age” and to wait “for our blessed hope, the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ.”
As God’s grace has entered into our lives and began mentoring us in our faith, he has called us to enter into the lives of those around us and mentor them in their faith. We don’t mentor solely because it works. We don’t even mentor solely because God has called us to mentor. We mentor because God is already mentoring us and we want ourselves and others to be more like Him.
Rev. Dr. Steven Koster
Rev. Travis Jamieson