A common question I often hear from people is “How can I develop myself in my spiritual walk or take myself to the next level”. In a world that has a wealth of resources that can be a daunting task. With so many apps, books, e-courses, training programs and bible reading plans it can be hard to know where to start. Spiritual development, unfortunately, is not a one-size-fits-all game. What will take one person to the next level of their walk with the Holy Spirit might not work for you and visa-versa. Spiritual development requires customized, specific and relational energy. This is why one of the top things that I usually suggest to people wanting to take the next steps in growth is to find a mentor/discipler. Here are a few things that I think are keys to that process:
1. Find someone that you want to be like – I have a mentor who is someone I’ve known for quite a while. His name is Bruce. I recently approached him to ask Him to mentor me in this season of my life. Bruce is older than me, a father/husband and grandparent. He is in a different season of life than I am. However, when I envision myself at his age…He is the type of person that I would strive to be. He operates both in the level of character, fear of the Lord and prophetic wisdom that I would like to have at that age. Sometimes picking a mentor is a compass reading for your life. I don’t know where this vessel of life will take me with the Lord…but when I get there in the future, I would like to look like that man/woman.
2. Pursuing a mentor is your job – We would all love for some anointed and talented person to show up one day and call us out of a crowd at a church service and say “Hey you…you’re so amazing that I want you, out of all these people, to be the person I mentor”. Unfortunately, this fantasy has more to do with our own insecurities and desires to be chosen than it does finding someone to develop under. Many people go without a mentor simply because…they’ve never asked one. I’ve had lots of people approach me to mentor me, but the ones that stick around are the ones that make it their job to connect with me. I usually tell them “Yeah, sounds awesome. Why don’t you schedule a time for us to meet”. You would be shocked how many people never follow up after that initial convo. Our mentors are amazing people with busy lives. The least we can do to say thanks for their investment and time is to be the ones initiate with them. Our initiation also adds value and ownership to what we want to get out of our learning and time with that person.
3. A mentor is there to help you, not control you – An unfortunate side effect of bad mentorship in the church is that lots of people have had negative and usually controlling discipleship experiences. If God Himself doesn’t control us in honoring our free will neither should a good mentor. Often the scaring from those controlling experiences can make us miss out on one of the strongest development tools that God has for us. Sometimes in church culture, people have been battered under the great concept of “submission” but in a way that was used to control or keep people in line. What if mentorship is less about having to submit to “someone” and more about having “someone” who always has your back? The best mentors I’ve had have watched me make decisions that they knew weren’t the best for me. They gave me wisdom but honored me to make my own choices. They often knew what I did not: That going after and experiencing the things that weren’t the best for me was the best lesson that I could learn myself, one of which I would have never experienced for myself if I was tightly wound to having to do exactly everything they said, exactly the way they said it. A good litmus test in my opinion for a non-controlling mentor is how transparent they can be with you. If their life is an open book, you know about their successes and their failures, they are relinquishing the power to know everything about you…but you know nothing about them. Relationships where a leader knows everything about your strengths and weaknesses but you know nothing about theirs unfortunately often will slide into a power dynamic. My best mentors have been open and humble about their lives and mistakes. They openly share them so I can learn from their experiences.
Whether you are married or dating, I think one of the absolute wisest things you can do is have another couple that you meet with, pray with and that you’re opening up your life to. Relationships are hard and they are often harder when you hit a roadblock. Often in a fight, both people have dug in their heels and are unwilling to budge. Having a mentorship couple that perhaps is a bit more experienced in their relationship to listen, pray and help you walk through your situation is 100% pure gold. Additionally, having an outside party that can tell you the hard truth when you’re being stubborn is sometimes easier to swallow than hearing it from your significant other.
God does not want to have to grow alone. In fact, is nearly impossible for you to do so. What if God wants us to shed all the fear and trepidation with having a spiritual coach, cheerleader, and friend? What if the thing that will help you enter into the next season of what God has for you is someone to help you along the way?
RNW Leadership Team
- Do you have a mentor/discipler in your life? Sit with the Holy Spirit and ask the hard question of “why not”. Is it because of a negative or controlling experience with a previous leader? Is it because you’re afraid you’re going to have to be a robot and do everything they say? Ask the Holy Spirit to tell show you a picture of what mentorship/discipleship looks like in your life.
- If you don’t have a mentor/discipler but want one take the followign steps: A) Pray and ask the Lord to give you a mentor and someone that can support you and help you grow B) Ask the Lord who a good person in this season would be for you. C) Approach that person and ask them prayerfully to consider being your mentor in this season. D) Set a manageable goal of when to meet or call, perhaps every 2 weeks.
- Maybe you are the mentor that someone else is looking for. Pray and ask the Lord to bring young brave men or women to you that you can invest in simultaneously while you are being mentored yourself.