Early on in my Christian walk, I sought out those who were ahead of me in the Lord and made myself an apprentice, learning all I could from them.
In total, I’ve had about five spiritual mentors in my life.
In this post, I want to talk about two of them.
To keep their identities anonymous, we’ll call the first one David and the second one John.
The Story of David
David was one of the most gifted people I’ve ever met. He was a talented writer, speaker, and he had a keen mind littered with uncommon spiritual insight.
At one time, David was utterly sold out to his Lord and God used him mightily.
His ministry was powerful and those who received from him grew close to Jesus.
However, he had an inflated ego that never went to the cross, but only increased with his age. So much so, that he was threatened by anyone who was more or equally gifted as he was.
This created jealousy on his part toward others.
His insecurity and enormous ego prevented him from having peers who could speak into his life. Every attempted co-worker he had eventually broke ranks with him after they got a good look at his character. (All of them tried to talk to him about his character patterns, but their words weren’t heeded.)
To protect his self-image, David was deceptive and dishonest. And he would quickly trash anyone of whom he was jealous.
Sometimes he’d cloak the trashing under the guise of humor. Other times he was outright mean-spirited, yet he’d justify himself as being concerned for the person.
For this reason, David was never interested in my life. I couldn’t talk to him about my struggles and when I would ask him questions, he resented it.
Especially questions that challenged his presuppositions.
He was often short with me and others on the phone, having better things to do.
David was only interested in one thing: David and David’s ministry.
That said, he would use whomever was in his life — including their gifts and talents — to further his own ministry and bolster his legacy (something with which he was obsessed.)
At one time, David’s ministry was well known and looked upon favorably by the general body of Christ. Today, however — many years after I first met him — his ministry has dwindled to the point where few people even know who he is.
In addition, virtually every person who followed his ministry at one time has removed themselves from it.
Worse still, the anointing of God that was once upon David’s life left. I remember the year that “the glory departed” from him, after he was urged by the Lord in various ways to repent.
Regrettably, he refused to change.
Not long after, I ended my relationship with him.
When the anointing left him, he could repeat the same words, but the unction behind them was gone.
I wrote about the dilemma of mentors turning on their mentees here. What I wrote there can be applied to this situation as well as many others, I’m sure.
Enter now my other mentor . . . John.
The Story of John
John is a hidden vessel whom I met in my youth. He is the most knowledgeable man I’ve ever met. He’s a walking library.
But more, his spiritual insight and wisdom is without peer.
John has never written a book. He’s never spoken in a large conference and he has no online presence.
If I mentioned his real name, no one reading this would know who he is.
Yet John taught me a great deal about the Lord, the Scriptures, theology, and church history.
In fact, his knowledge and insight exceeds that of most seminary professors and those in the “guild” of New Testament scholars, even though John himself has never been to seminary.
For this reason, every seminary professor and theologian who has ever met him walked away astonished.
I’m grateful to have John in my life. He’s one of my closest friends till this day.
Unlike David, John is deeply humble. Even though I regard him as my mentor, he has always treated me as if we were co-equals and co-laborers.
In addition, John has always been genuinely interested in my life, my struggles, and my questions.
I could talk to him freely about anything without fear.
Sometimes when we talk, we will spend hours on the phone. And whenever we talk, he wants me to update him on my life and ministry.
He’s genuinely interested and supportive . . . as I am toward him.
John has helped me spiritually in tough times. And I’m privileged to know him.
If you will mentor others, be sure the Lord has taken your ego, your insecurity, and your proclivity to be jealous of others to the cross. If not, you will harm the people you mentor.
On the flip side, if you’re looking for someone to mentor you, never select someone who attacks others, who elevates themselves and tears other people down. Instead, follow those who are broken, who are interested in you as a person, and who refuse to attack those who attack them.
The reason? You will eventually become like the person who is mentoring you.
See also 5 Reasons to Have a Mentor