Mentoring and God's Call

  • Don Payne
  • Nov 1, 2004

When I go camping I carry with me one of those fold-up multi-function tools. It's almost like taking my workshop with me. Pliers, saw blade, can opener, knife, screwdriver, hole punch; you name it, quite likely I have it ... all in the space of about eight cubic inches! This small instrument provides me with exponential amounts of leverage over my environment. Its usefulness, however, depends on what I need to do. Unfortunately, the really vital issues in my life are inaccessible to this otherwise handy item. For those areas, I need a totally different type of resource.

As mentors we can sometimes serve those we mentor in a straightforward, problem-solving fashion. You know; "How do I do this?" "Here, let me show you." Neat, clean, and satisfying. Yet, any really meaningful mentoring relationship will take us into places where there seem to be no specific, easily accessible, problem-solving tools we can pull from our mentoring belts. One of those places is the discernment of God's call and direction. Within the Christian community we can find diverse opinions about the nature of God's call and how it is to be identified. Most agree, however, that there is something deeply personal, mysterious, and unavoidable about this matter. 

Church historian Justo L. Gonzalez draws upon the Biblical examples of Elijah with Elisha, Eli with Samuel, Mary with Elizabeth, then Paul, Peter, and John with a variety of people in order to point out, "These people whom God uses to help others clarify their call are usually called 'mentors.'" He contrasts the more straightforward or linear functions of mentoring such as helping people in their "climb along the organizational ladder" to helping them listen to what God is calling them to do (Mentors as Instruments of God's Call. Nashville, TN: United Methodist Church, 2003, 11-12.)

A calling is a journey that none of us ever finishes until we are home with our Lord. Even when we become passionately clear about who God has made us to be and what He is compelling us to do, we need continual encouragement, accountability, and reflection in order to move along that path. As you consider your own mentoring relationships, where is the other person in relationship to God's call? What role can you play in helping identify, refine, or pursue that call? Is it affirmation? Is it suggesting alternative and creative ideas for weaving gifting and passion? Is it giving feedback on specific ways in which God is using that person in others' lives? A boilerplate approach would be nice, but the Holy Spirit's counsel is better. Tools have their place. A patient, listening spirit can get to the heart at the right time. The result will be more than the satisfaction of a dilemma resolved. It will be a life, and ultimately a world, deeply touched by God's heart - with your mentoring hand in the middle.