Mentoring: More Than Just Passing the Baton

The topic of mentoring has been on my mind a lot lately. I have read a couple of books on this subject, listened to many speakers riff on its importance and give their particular takes on it — heard some brilliant ideas, received and been a witness to some top-notch execution of mentoring, and facilitated some mentoring as well…

Yet there is one thing which i have not heard spoken of at all in the field of mentoring, and I will admit up-front that it is probably because it seems to be kind-of taken care of simply by mentoring. (Yet also, in the absence of mentoring, this thing can flourish.)

What am I speaking of?  What is this thing?

Polycarp knew of Marcion, the well-known heretic whose teachings aligned more towards Gnosticism, and he called him out on it. There is a comical encounter that is recorded between Marcion and Polycarp, where Marcion asks why Polycarp didn’t greet him as he went by. Marcion asked him after being ignored in the market square, “Don’t you know who I am?!”
Polycarp replied: “Yes I know you, you first-born of Satan!

Polycarp knew of Marcion’s love of his fame, his arrogance, his heresy, and his love to be preeminent in the church, and he had no regard for that attitude in a so-called leader in the church. Marcion’s error was so bad that a church which he had donated a large sum of money to returned it, not wanting him to be associated with the good work they were undertaking for the Lord.

The “Marcions” of the world often become that way because they separate themselves from solid men of God, and the Church, who are willing to teach and mentor; but sometimes, it is the men of God and the Church who fails to mentor, and so, may be partially responsible for the heretics by omission. The Lord knows the answer to that, I don’t. We can only do so much, by God’s grace, and by His Will! The Lord knows our hearts, and our works!

I just don’t think that we are speaking enough about heresy when we talk about the importance of mentoring.
We don’t give it audience and i think this is a dangerous oversight. As i mentioned above, I think we figure that warding-off heresy is kind-of taken care of in the mentoring process, as we actively teach good doctrine, and teach the mentee to study and pray for themselves.

Yet I think this is definitely worth mentioning when we talk about the importance of being a mentor to prospective mentors (and current mentors), because it adds an even greater sense of urgency about the noble work. To the point, if we only believe that we are passing along the wisdom God has given us, that is usually enough for a man of God to follow through and fulfill this extension of his calling in mentoring (and there is nothing wrong with this); but if he also considers that except for his intervention, that mentee may end up falling into error, doesn’t that then give an even greater clarity, purpose, and urgency to the work?

In other words, we should view, and we should teach “the mentor” as not simply a facilitator towards godly wisdom, but also a facilitator against folly; as a messenger from God with God’s word, but also an angel with a sword, warding off false doctrine / doctrines of devils.

I admit this is all a bit off-the-cuff in how I have presented it, but i would like to start a conversation about this.
What are your thoughts, pastors and leaders?

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