If you’ve ever googled the word mentor, you may have stumbled across an obscure fellow from Greek mythology who went by that name. The story goes that Mentor was the trusted friend of Odysseus, a powerful king. Odysseus committed to Mentor the responsibility of educating and advising his son Telemachus, while he was busy fighting a war in some distant land.
Not a Myth:
Now, let me tell you about something that is not a myth. There are people all around you who need someone they can trust as a friend, an adviser, a teacher. They need someone who is willing to be more than just another sage on a stage, dispensing wisdom from a distance. They need someone who is willing to take the slow and humble path of walking alongside them while pointing them to that road less travelled, which we know as the straight and narrow way of Christ. In other words, they need a mentor.
But what does mentoring actually look like? One of the best descriptions I can think of comes from someone so familiar to us that we tend to overlook something very significant about his life. I’m talking about the apostle Paul. Now, I know that when you think of Paul, you probably think of things like missionary journeys, shipwrecks, church fights, prison cells, and deep, theologically-robust letters. But when did Paul ever say anything about mentoring? Well, in one sense, he didn’t – at least not so as you might quickly notice. Why? Because, for Paul, mentoring meant something very personal. Something down-to-earth. Something that was so interwoven into the fabric of ordinary things that it almost went without saying. Let’s look at one example of this.
For one year and six months of Paul’s life, mentoring meant moving to the city of Corinth where he ended up living with a Christian Jewish couple, Priscilla and Aquila, while also working with them in their tent making business (Acts 18:1-4; 11). Priscilla and Aquila had come to Corinth from Rome after Claudius had expelled all Jews from that city (Acts 18:2). In Corinth, they could start over, and prosper in plying their trade as tent makers. Then along comes Paul, who is also a Jew and of the same trade.
Now, we know that during this same time, Paul engaged in some very public forms of ministry—first in the local synagogue (18:4-5) and then in the home of Titius Justus, which was next door to the synagogue from which he had been expelled (18:6-7). But all of this notwithstanding, have you ever considered the exponential impact he had simply by sharing not only public ministry, but also daily life with this devout couple? Day after day, month after month, they worked together, ate together, talked, shared, and ministered together.
Furthermore, during their time in Corinth, we also know that Priscilla and Aquila also had a significant influence on the life and preaching ministry of an eloquent up-and-coming leader named Apollos (Acts 18:24-26). Apollos was an eloquent speaker, and quite knowledgeable of the scriptures. But in some particulars of doctrine, his understanding was still lacking. Now, how do you suppose that a couple of tent makers like Priscilla and Aquila would have the discernment even to pick up on this need in Apollos’s preaching? It’s possible that some of the other brethren in Corinth were quite impressed, and didn’t see any need! And what would have given them the clarity and confidence to approach him with gentleness and humility to offer their help? Perhaps those long hours spent with Paul had something to do with this. But then there is more. Priscilla and Aquila eventually were able to return to Rome where Paul continued to refer to them as his “fellow workers” (Romans 16:3). But Apollos went on to “water” the gospel seeds that Paul had “planted” in Corinth (1 Cor. 3:6) and became one of Paul’s valued colleagues in the ministry.
Now, what I have just described to you happened many times over throughout the course of Paul’s ministry. Of course, names like Luke or Timothy are so familiar that they hardly stand out to most of us. But what about Andonichus, Apphia, Archippus, Carpus, Demus, Epaphroditus, Erastus, Lucius, Lydia, Jason, Junia, Nymphus, Onesiphorus, Phebe, Tyrannus, Urbane, Gaius, Aristarchus, Sopater, Secundus, Tychicus, Trophimus, Mark, Demas, Epaphras, Onesimus, Philemon, Silas, Tertius, Titus, and Justus? Either Luke or Paul (or both) mentions each one of these names. Some of them appear several times in the New Testament.
And these names are not just a list of contributors scrolling by at the end of a great film. No, they are all significant characters in the story of the early church. And what do they all have in common? At some time, in some way or other, they all were influenced by Paul as his life intersected with theirs in very ordinary, yet God-ordained ways. Some for only a short time. Others for many long months or even years. He stayed in their homes. Ate meals at their tables. Walked beside them as they traveled from one town or province to another. Suffered with them during times of physical persecution, ship wreck, and other hardships. Some of them sat with him in prison and assisted him with writing his letters. But make no mistake about it. All of this was an inseparable part of the mentoring relationship between Paul and these developing leaders. When Priscilla and Aquila had spent many a long hour beside him making and selling tents and holding meetings in their home or the homes of others, they absorbed far more than just the theology of his epistles. They also absorbed the very heartbeat and passion of his life. And the result was unquestionable.
The Face of Mentoring:
So, that’s what mentoring looks like. The doing of it looks very humble. Very ordinary. Not all that impressive. But the long-term result of intentionally living with a mentoring mindset is what Jesus describes as fruit that abides because it flows out of a life of dependence upon him (John 15:1-16).
Who are the people with whom your daily life intersects the most? Have you considered that some of them may be the very ones who God has entrusted to you for the purpose of mentoring?
Dr. Hutchison ministers among the Filipinos. He is actively involved in the Shepherd’s College and other training institutes in the Philippines.