Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Who dewya think you are tryin' to Mentor?

"Everyone in the church needs a Mentor."

Today I am Looney the Grouch. Where does the term "
Mentor" come from and why do we need it in the church? Mentor was a character from Greek mythology that transformed into our current usage by a French writer in "Les Aventures de Telemaque" in 1699. The modern usage comes from the book, but in the Greek mythology, Mentor was the goddess Athena in disguise. So why do we need to adapt Greek mythological terminology to help us raise young people in a Christian church? Doesn't Christianity have its own concepts?

The sad answer is that most of us leaders have blindly learned from others and are all too happy to blindly pass things along to the next generation. There really is a Christian paradigm for leadership, but the pagan derivatives are more enticing.

Going back to the Old Testament, we have Proverbs 27:17 - "As iron sharpens iron, so one man sharpens another." The first leadership concept we have is that we each need to help each other grow together, whereas Mentorship is more of a superiority thing. Matthew 28:19 says "Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you". This is a bit close, but disciple here means a follower and we are really teaching people to follow Jesus first. In this endeavor, there is no single mentor, but instead many teachers who have affected me throughout my life. At this point they are mostly a blur in my memory, but the Lord knows each one of them and will reward them for their service.

Jesus also gives us many warnings about teachers. In Matthew 23, we have "but you are not to be called 'Rabbi', for you have only one Master and you are all brothers. And do not call anyone on earth 'father', for you have one Father, and he is in heaven. Nor are you to be called 'teacher', for you have one Teacher, the Christ. The greatest among you will be your servant. For whoever exalts himself will be humbled, and whoever humbles himself will be exalted."

The Bible must, however, be taken as a whole and we do see that parents have a duty to raise their children and teach them obedience. When they have gone out from under the authority of their parents, however, the commands of Jesus are what we give attention to first.


Marf said...

"The sad answer is that most of us leaders have blindly learned from others and are all too happy to blindly pass things along to the next generation."

That pretty much sums up religion, and why it's still around.

Looney said...

Actually, it sums up atheism too!

Marf said...

Atheism was not passed down to me. I came to the conclusion much as I did with the tooth fairy, Easter bunny, and Santa. (my parents told me those existed as well)

Looney said...

Marf, there are likewise many who were taught Atheism and became Christians. I go to a Chinese church, and most of them learned Buddhism as children. Things are much more complex.

My post, however, was with regard for the need to be aware of our beliefs, where they came from, and why we are teaching them. That should be universally useful.

Livingsword said...

Hi Looney,

This is always an interesting question….

Mentoring and discipleship are very different just as you demonstrated.

It seems that often the Church emphasizes programs, rules, and self help. Mentoring often makes the mentor the center of transformation instead of Christ.

It seems that mentoring also fits better with our western model of hyper individuality which places it at odds with Scripture. Discipleship takes place in the community of believers.

Although the word and concept are from pagan background can we not attempt to redeem it?

Livingsword said...

Hi Marf;

You may want to read my present front page article on how I went from being an atheist to a Jesus follower….


Looney said...

LS, I visited my former church for a celebration of some of the childrens' successes, and the word "mentor" came up and reminded me of why I left. Thus, I may not be the best one to attempt to redeem the concept or show the way forward, but hopefully something useful can be accomplished by highlighting a potential problem.