Sunday, October 5, 2014

Ode to a Mentor

My mentor’s name is David. We met at a local pastor’s gathering where he took voluntary interest in me. I needed a mentor and he wanted to make disciples by caring for the next generation of pastors. For the next year and a half I knew him, David poured into me. He taught me the importance of sharing life stories together, hunting each other’s sin, and giving each other grace.

We shared life stories together.

One of the first things David and I did at our monthly meetings was share our life stories. David wanted to model life-on-life discipleship, and the best way to start this was by retelling our histories to each other. This meant we shared big events, little events, and even those embarrassing moments we didn’t want anyone to know about in a string of verbal consciousness that lasted between 90 minutes to two hours. The one who was tasked with listening was supposed to discuss three questions at the end: 

1. What did you hear as “David” told his story?
2. Is there any place where your story intersects with “David’s” story?
3. What would you like to tell “David” in light of his story? 

I remember David encouraging me that I’ve exhibited a pattern of shepherding leadership throughout my life. That meant a lot to me as I was just approaching pastoral ministry. I encouraged him that he has become a father to many men throughout his pastorate. It did not take long to become true for my life as well. Over the coming months we continued to talk about pastoral ministry, family, and God together. For as much as we shared life together, I wish we had shared even more.

We hunted each other’s sin.

Sharing our life stories with each other provided an opportunity to confess many of the ways we’ve failed. We were open about our sins so that we could hold each other accountable in our problem areas going forward. This included anything from asking each other the blunt questions to searching out each other’s motivations. The purpose was always to help bring healing.

As we were beginning this fight against sin together, David pulled Timothy Keller’s book The Meaning of Marriage off the shelf. He read a quote about granting each other a “hunting license” to hunt out sin in each other’s life. There were only a handful of people he’d given this license too, and now I was one of them. He, of course, claimed a hunting license in my life. 

David didn’t use his license often, and I only used mine once jokingly on him, but I was glad he had it. Instead of causing me to hide my sins when I was around him, it helped me open up so that he could shine some light on my darkness. This light was a mixture of first admonishment followed by grace.

We gave each other grace.

What I admire most about David’s discipleship of me was his continual reminder of my need for God’s grace. He helped me not only understand the gospel, but relish the grace within the gospel. I am a sinner and that’s just how it is for now. But my great savior Christ Jesus has come to save me because he absolutely loves me. He has gone so far as to trade his spotless record for mine, so that now God sees me as he sees his Son. Holy. Righteous. Clean. What better news is there than this?

David was especially good at making grace practical to my everyday. Instead of wallowing in my sin, he taught me to release my guilt as I prayed Psalm 51:10 “Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a right spirit within me.” (ESV) When I shared with him how I wanted to be more satisfied in Christ and joyful, he pointed me to the book Pure Pleasure by Gary Thomas. There I began to learn all the ways God has provided for his people to have joy. 

My mentor lived a life of grace. When he was diagnosed with stage four cancer, nothing about that grace-filled life changed. He went much quicker than expected, but I got to write him a letter before he passed. In that letter it was my turn to remind my mentor of his need for God’s grace. His wife shared through mass-email that she had been reading letters to David from all the men he had mentored throughout the years. He would just listen and say “my boy, that's my boy.” I don’t cry often, but I cried when I read this. Even at the end, my mentor loved his sons. 

My mentor’s legacy of discipleship lives on.

I’ve tried to take the model David gave me for mentoring, and use it as a framework for discipling others. Already I’ve experienced the blessings of sharing life stories, the responsibility of having a hunting license, and the joy of giving gospel grace. I’ve seen others grow in ways David must have seen me grow. I want to be the type of mentor David was to me. He loved me and was an enormous example of Jesus to me. He is now present with the Lord, but the impact of his discipleship lives on. Praise God for mentors.
Jonathan M. Romig (M.Div., Gordon-Conwell, 2013) is the associate pastor at Immanuel Church in Chelmsford Massachusetts. He recently self-published his first ebook How To Give A Christian Wedding Toast
Photo by: Jonathan Romig 

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