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Seven Common Mistakes We Make in Mentoring Others
Facts of the Matter © 2000 - 2009 R. Dwight Hill - - Unlimited permission to copy without altering text or profiteering is hereby granted subject to inclusion of this copyright notice.


3.       The tendency to select the wrong people:  In our zeal (and insecurity) to help others, we may be inclined to commit ourselves to the first people who show an interest in being mentored.  In your ministry you need to decide whether you are running a field hospital for the sick and wounded, or a combat center for training laborers for the harvest field.  Both are legitimate, but they must not be confused with each other.  Just be sure you know the difference. Keep in mind:  Counsel the weak; coach the strong.

Years ago while in college a woman discipler showed up on our campus looking for candidates.  Somehow she latched on to the most mal-adjusted, and emotionally needy girl at the school.  Suddenly, the relatively well adjusted, spiritually receptive young women were unavailable. Not everyone who is accessible is the right choice:  “During the time he was in Jerusalem…many people noticed the signs [Jesus] was displaying and, seeing they pointed straight to God, entrusted their lives to him. But Jesus didn't entrust his life to them. He knew them inside and out, knew how untrustworthy they were. He didn't need any help in seeing right through them.”  (Jn. 2:23-25 – Msg)

In the selection process, there needs to be a filtering mechanism. I understand, for example, that the New York Yankees baseball organization has four “farm clubs.”  When they need a top flight third baseman, they call down to the farm clubs and select the most qualified player available in that position. Christ ministered broadly over the first six months of his public ministry.  He then spent a night in prayer before selecting the twelve from the masses:  “One of those days Jesus went out to a mountainside to pray, and spent the night praying to God.  When morning came, he called his disciples to him and chose twelve of them, whom he also designated apostles.”  (Lk. 6:12, 13)

In our pride we can unwittingly select the gifted and attractive; people perhaps who cater to our own pride, but who do not have the basic character upon which to build a true disciple.  Israel made that mistake of choosing a hollow but physically attractive man to be their king.  When he withered under pressure, God instructed Samuel the priest to look for Saul’s replacement with this qualifier:  “Do not consider his appearance or his height,  for I have rejected him. The Lord does not look at the things man looks at. Man looks at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart."  (I Sam. 16:7)  

God’s selection criteria can be surprising:  “God deliberately chose men and women that the culture overlooks and exploits and abuses, chose these "nobodies" to expose the hollow pretensions of the "somebodies"?  (I Cor. 1:27,28 - Msg)  (See Ex. 18:21; Acts 6:3)  I remember a diminutive, rather unkempt student at one of our universities who possessed a great heart for God and his fellow-students.  His teeth were crooked, his grammar tortured, and his social demeanor awkward.  Most would classify him as a “nobody.”  Yet, because of his great love, scores of collegians sought him out for counseling, discipling, and leadership training.  He reminds me of the old adage, “God has the uncomfortable habit of putting his hands on the wrong person.”

You may want  to look for people the following qualities to mentor:

F – AITHFUL  -  Paul: “I have no one else like [Timothy], who takes a genuine interest in your welfare. For everyone looks out for his own interests, not those of Jesus Christ. But…Timothy has proved himself, because as a son with his father he has served with me in the work of the gospel. “ (Phil. 2:19-22 – selected)  (See Pro. 25:192 Tim. 2:10)

A – VAILABLE - "’Come, follow me,’ Jesus said, ‘and I will make you fishers of men.’  At once they left their nets and followed him. “  (Matt. 4:19, 20)  (See Matt. 4:22, 22; 9:9; Lk. 9:57-62)

A - BLE to teach othersAnd the things that you have heard from me among many witnesses, commit these to faithful men who will be able to teach others also.”  (2 Tim. 2:2 – NKJ)  (See 1 Tim. 3:2; 2 Tim. 2:24-27)

I – NTER-DEPENDENT – “Love one another fervently with a pure heart.” (I Pet. 1:22b) (See Rom. 12:10, 16; 1 Cor. 1:10; 16:20; Gal. 5:13; Eph. 4:2; 5:19; Col. 3:13, 16; 1 Thes. 5:11; Heb 3:13; Heb. 10:24; Jms. 4:11; 1 Pet. 3:8; 4:9)

T – EACHABLE - The Greek word for disciple is mathetes, which means a learner; a pupil.  “Come unto me…take my yoke upon you, and learn of me…”    (Matt. 11:28, 29 – selected)  (See Jn. 6:45; Phil. 4:9; 2 Tim. 3:14; Heb 5:8)

H – EART-My soul yearns, even faints, for the courts of the Lord; my heart and my flesh cry out for the living God.” (Psa. 84:2)  (See Psa. 27:8; 42:1,2; 63:1; 119:58; 81; 143:6)


4.  A failure to get to the core issues:  A false assumption in discipleship is that if we can just get people into the word of God they will grow to maturity.  That may have been true a generation or two ago, when people were (1) Raised with biblical truth as their foundation, (2) Not as damaged in the formative years (divorce, alcoholism, etc.)  It is very possible to process people through the “basics” (Bible study, etc), and yet the deep-seated, unresolved issues (woundedness, fear, bitterness, etc.) can remain deeply buried in the sub-conscious.  To help facilitate the healing process, we need to create an atmosphere of grace where they are  free to work through deep, personal issues, without the pressure to perform.  

Unless core issues are identified, addressed, and resolved, your protégée could well be a disaster waiting to happen.  Ray Miller, a dynamic and natural leader, affected scores of young adults for Christ over several decades.  But buried beneath the surface was a deep-seated cry for his father’s acceptance, which he never received.  In time the whole foundation of his life collapsed, resulting in a broken marriage, estrangement from those closest to him, and a diminished ministry.   

While in my 20’s I was in a wonderful atmosphere for spiritual growth, spending prolonged periods of time alone with God in prayer and bible meditation, etc.  Yet without realizing it I was living with unresolved issues dating back to childhood.  A wise and benevolent counselor helped me face those painful childhood years, and receive healing and liberation.  I am convinced that without his help, those unresolved issues in time would have been my undoing.

As a mentor, here are two steps you can take to get to core issues:

1)       Understand the power of observation:  Look for patterns of thought and behavior.  Ask what is said and what not said?  What do these patterns suggest?  

2)       Cultivate the art and discipline of listening:   Effective mentors, by their gentle, grace-based demeanor, create an environment where mentees, almost without realizing it, choose to share at the deepest level of their lives:  “The purposes of a man's heart are deep waters, but a man of understanding draws them out…”  (Prov. 20:5)  (See Prov 18:13; Jms. 1:19)

5.  A failure to maintain a healthy balance between structure and flexibility:

Mentoring, so called, can run the risk of resembling an auto assembly line.  You know, just run people through a curriculum, and slam bam, out comes a disciple!  Much that passes today for discipling is simply mass class indoctrination. Thus, we substitute the dissemination of information for the difficult and time-consuming work of building character, discipline and convictions.  The erroneous assumption seems to be that informing people of truth changes their lives.  In most cases it only increases their guilt.

In Irving Stone’s “The Agony and the Ecstasy”, Michelangelo purchases a large piece of marble, visualizes young King David entrapped therein and determines to chisel him out.  The marvelous result is the product of the artist’s agony and ecstasy.  As Jeremiah put it, “Precept upon precept, line upon line, line upon line, here a little, there a little." (Isa.. 28:10 NKJ)  As a conscientious parent you have imbedded in your mind values, skills, character, and perspectives that you intend to build into your children during their impressionable years.  The same is true in the discipling process.  Ask the question, “What are the non-negotiables that they must know, be, and do to become mature followers of Christ?  Once you have determined what they are, set about to build them into their lives.

I have put together an informal syllabus of what I want to develop in a protégée’s life (a deep walk with God, a biblically based marriage, a heart for the lost, trust in the sovereignty of God, humility, etc., etc.).  Before meeting with him, I may pray over the list to have a topic of discussion in mind.  But I will try to create an atmosphere during our time together where he feels free to bring up issues important to him.  Often I will defer to his immediate need, rather than follow my original game plan.   However, I am forever checking on how he is doing in the “basics.” (Quiet Time, Scripture Memory, Bible study, etc.)  These are necessary disciplines, empowered by the Holy Spirit that help fuel his ability to make life changes.


6.   A failure to understand the balance in the discipling process, between Jesus’ approach, one-on-one, and the role of the Body of Christ:

             The model of Jesus:  It was because Jesus, as the Son of God, possessed all the gifts that he alone was capable of single-handedly training the Twelve (Judas excluded) to become his mature followers.  He then commissioned them to continue his ministry of evangelism and discipleship to the world.  (Matt. 28:18-20; Mk. 16:15, 16; Lk. 24:47, 48; Jn. 17:20; 20:21)  A careful analysis of the Gospels and John 17 reveals numerous principles worthy of mastery for the serious mentor/discipler.   

The one-on-one model:  There is no Biblical command to meet with people one-on-one for the purpose of discipleship.  In some cultures people are more naturally influenced in group settings than with the intense one-on one approach.  Yet Paul met with people individually: “We dealt with you one by one” (1 Thes. 2:11 NEB) and instructed Timothy to pass on to faithful men what he had heard Paul teach to others. (2 Tim. 2:2) On a personal note, I know of no truly mature followers of Christ who did not have someone personally invest deeply into their life. The Scriptures do give us some worthy examples of men and women who profoundly influenced other individuals through an intense relationship of the same gender. For example:

·         David and Jonathan – I Samuel  20; 23:15-18; 2 Samuel 1:16

·         Ruth and Naomi – The Book of Ruth

·         Elijah. and Elisa– 2 Kings 2:1-18

·         Barnabas and Saul – Acts 13:8-15:39 (selected)

·         Paul and Timothy – 2 Cor. 1:1; Act.16:1-5; 17:14,15; 18:5; 19:22; 20:4; 21:8; Rom. 16:21; 1 Cor. 4:17; 16:8, 10; Phil. 1:1; 1:26; 2:19-24; Col. 1:1; 1 Thes. 1:1; 3:1-7; 2 Thes. 1:1; 1 Tim. 1:2,3; 2:1; 3:14; 2 Tim. 1:6; 3:15; 4:9, Phil. 1:1; 11; Heb. 13:23

The Body of Christ model:  I Corinthians 12 – 14, and Ephesians 4:11-16 outline God’s intended role for members of the body of Christ in the maturation process.  Here is my paraphrase of Ephesians 4:11-16:  “God has chosen certain gifted influencers within the body of Christ – His church, to furnish its members for the hard work of building up the rest of the body toward spiritual maturity, as evidenced by the unity of the faith, intimacy with Christ, stability, and expressing the truth by life and word through love. Thus the body will be united together, with all its parts properly functioning, and growing to full maturity as it  builds itself up in love.”

The point is that when spiritual leaders equip believers to do the ministry, the body grows spiritually, and reaches full maturity.  Think of an orchestra or a football team.  When each member is fully trained to play his or her part, the effect is beautiful music or a well functioning football team.

CONCLUSION:  As Christ’s disciplers it is important that we understand these different styles of ministry and balance our approach accordingly.



7.        A failure to use the right criteria to measure spiritual growth:  We wrongly assume that because our protégées are involved in Bible study, memorizing Scripture, having a Quiet Time, etc., they are growing.  The Pharisees also studied the Scriptures, prayed and witnessed, yet they were accused of hypocrisy by Jesus.  (Jn. 5:39, 49; Matt. 6:5; 23:15; 23)

May I suggest a more Biblical approach to accessing spiritual growth:  “These three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love.”  (I Cor. 13:13b)

Faith - Resting in the character of God.  When the Son of Man comes, will he find faith on the earth?  Without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who earnestly seek him.”  (Lk. 18:8b; Heb. 11:6)

·         Is your disciple choosing to believe and apply God’s word to his life without equivocation, whatever the cost or circumstances?  (Jos. 1:8; Deut. 5:29, 32,33; 6:1-3; Matt. 7:24; Jms. 1:22 – 25)

·         Is he claiming and applying God’s promises to his life?  (2 Cor. 1:20; Heb. 6:12; 10:36; 11:17, 33)

·         Do you see him developing healthy patterns of faith over greed, fear, lust, etc?  (Lk. 12:15; 2 Tim. 1:7; Phil. 4:6,7)

             Hope - Maintaining an eternal focus:  “We have this hope as an anchor for the soul, firm and   secure…Everyone who has this hope in him purifies himself, just as he is pure.”  (Heb. 6:19a; I Jn. 3:3) (See Rom. 15:13; 2 Cor. 1:9,10; 1 Tim. 4:10; 1 Pet. 1:21)

·         Determine the direction of his hope:  Is he squandering his life on the temporal, or investing it in the eternal? One way to make that determination is to observe how he utilizes his time, talent and resources.  “[Moses] chose to be mistreated along with the people of God rather than to enjoy the pleasures of sin for a short time. He regarded disgrace for the sake of Christ as of greater value than the treasures of Egypt, because he was looking ahead to his reward...Since, then, you have been raised with Christ, set your hearts on things above, where Christ is seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things. For you died, and your life is now hidden with Christ in God.”  (Heb. 11:25, 26; Col. 3:1-3)  (See Rom. 8:24, 25; 1 Cor. 3:10-15; 2 Cor. 5:7)

·         What  is the object of his passion?  His investments?  Golf? Or knowing God and accomplishing His mission for His glory? “Whatever was to my profit I now consider loss for the sake of Christ. What is more, I consider everything a loss compared to the surpassing greatness of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things. I consider them rubbish, that I may gain Christ…I consider my life worth nothing to me, if only I may finish the race and complete the task the Lord Jesus has given me--the task of testifying to the gospel of God's grace. ” (Phil. 3:7, 8; Act. 20:24)  (See Eph. 1;17, 18; 3:18, 19; Phil. 3:10; Col. 2:2,3; 2 Pet. 3:18; Jn. 4:34; I Cor. 9:24-27; 2 Tim. 4:6-8; Heb. 12:1-3)

     Love: - Loving people as Jesus loved:  "…Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another Greater love has no one than this, that he lay down his life for his friendsDo nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than yourselves. Each of you should look not only to your own interests, but also to the interests of others. ” (Jn. 13:34,35; 15:13) (See 1 Cor. 13; 2 Cor. 4:5; Gal. 5:13-15;  Eph. 5:3; Phil. 2:3, 4; 1 Thes. 3:12)     .

·         Is your disciple’s life increasingly characterized by loving service over selfish indulgence?

My prayer is that you are having a great week!

R. Dwight Hill

Facts of the Matter © 2000 - 2009 R. Dwight Hill - - Unlimited permission to copy without altering text or profiteering is hereby granted subject to inclusion of this copyright notice.

Creation date: Jan 21, 2009 3:29pm     Last modified date: Nov 2, 2009 4:25pm   Last visit date: Jan 16, 2021 3:55pm
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