I was sitting in a booth at a Hardee's restaurant when it hit me. What I’m doing now will impact the future of our church, the future of our community, and most definitely the future of this young man before me. Willy and I had been meeting for regular bible studies for the past few months. Nothing special or flashy, simply getting together to study the bible one chapter at a time. Most often we were able to get through a chapter, but many times we just sat there and talked about life and faith. Eventually we worked our way through the whole book of Romans. That was three years ago, and it helped me see why mentoring matters.
Those weeks we spent going through Romans turned into much more than a bible study. We still meet regularly to study God’s Word. Actually, he is now a volunteer leader in our youth ministry, he preaches two or three times a year, and he is having his own Bible studies with other teenagers and young adults. In all reality, I didn’t invest much time and effort into this young man, only an hour every other week. Yet, God used that time in powerful ways. He used that time to lead Willy deeper into his faith. He used that time to show me an important aspect of ministry. And as Willy continues to lead other Bibles studies, God multiplies my time investment thirty, sixty, even a hundredfold.
The book of Matthew ends with a command from Jesus to his apostles. It’s commonly known as The Great Commission. Jesus tells them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.” Throughout the ages, the church has looked to these verses as their mission statement. We are commanded to make disciples of all nations. This is the mission of the church. This is our mandate from the Lord Jesus Christ.
Have you ever stopped to think about what Jesus means by commanding to “make disciples”? What does it look like for us to make disciples? How do we do it? Here’s an easy answer. First, remember that Jesus is speaking to his disciples when he gives this command. So, Jesus is commanding his disciples to make disciples. Do you see what I’m getting at? Jesus is telling his disciples to begin living like him, creating disciples in the same way, with the same methods. If we understand The Great Commission to be calling us to make disciples the way Jesus made disciples, we will be doing many things that look a lot like mentoring. That’s because discipleship and mentoring are one and the same. If we want to make disciples, we will be mentoring people. That is the bottom line.
If we want to see the effects of disconnecting mentoring from discipleship, look at the church in the United States. An article in Christianity Today quotes two studies saying, “According to Rainer Research, approximately 70 percent of American youth drop out of church between the age of 18 and 22. The Barna Group estimates that 80 percent of those reared in the church will be ‘disengaged’ by the time they are 29.” These statistics have many in the church frantically trying to come up with answers on how to keep our young people in the church. Many of the answers I hear are quick fixes, hoping to solve the problem in a night. I think that’s a mistake.
If we want to see our young people stay in the church, we need to take discipleship seriously. We need to see older men discipling younger men. We need to see older women mentoring younger women. We need to see people investing their time and energies in the lives of a younger generation. It’s not always easy and it may take a long time before we stem the tide of this exodus, but this is Christ’s mandate for the church. This is Christ’s method for reaching the world.
So, why does mentoring matter? Mentoring matters because discipleship matters. Discipleship matters because The Great Commission matters. The Great Commission matters because the future of the church and the glory of God matter.
Rev. Joel Vande Werken
Rev. Joel Vande Werken