Dear Praying Friends:
Jesus said, “As you go, make disciples of all nations” (Matthew 28:19). He further defined making disciples as “baptizing” (helping people come to full faith and commitment) and “teaching” (helping them grow in Christian maturity).
“Disciple-making” takes many forms, including public teaching, both oral and written, and more private work, such as mentoring, coaching, and encouraging.
Virtually all the people in our organization, even the younger ones, engage in these activities. Since I know more about my own situation, I shall use it as an example (for better or for worse!).
Mentoring involves life-on-life sharing by someone with more experience with someone else who wants to learn. It resembles, apprenticeship, and always involves more than instruction, though that is essential.
Example plays a huge role in mentoring, and example includes not just technical skill (as in apprenticeship), but one’s whole life. For Christians, that includes sharing your relationship with God, your home, your family life (as appropriate), your daily “walk,” and of course your way of being a witness of Christ in the church and in the world.
You can only do this with a few people at any one time. At present, I am in something like a mentoring relationship with two or three men, and to a lesser degree with about four others. Dori is involved this way with three women.
Coaching requires less frequent contact, can be done at a distance, and implies that you are helping another person to realize his full potential with just a bit of advice and moral support. To be sure, you can’t be a good coach unless you have at least some experience in what the person you are coaching is trying to do better, and unless you have earned the right to offer your opinions.
Christian coaching always assumes the presence of the Holy Spirit in the life of the other, and only seeks to cooperate with the Lord in what He is doing in their lives. (Of course, this is true of all Christian ministries).
Good coaching can have tremendous impact. Acceptance, respect, affirmation, well-placed questions, and a few suggestions can help someone to blossom and to overcome setbacks.
By telephone, Skype, email, and in person, I try to serve as a coach to the younger members of our team, to a number of men in Charlottesville and elsewhere, perhaps a dozen or more, and a few women. They all have proven capacity as servants of God, and I merely try to enhance that inherent ability.
In particular, I have frequent opportunities to share the results of my experience as a witness of Christ and as a scholar with others who are at an earlier stage of serving God.
We can all be encouragers, as we listen to each other, pray for each other, rejoice with those who rejoice, and weep with those who weep. Usually, what people need most is a listening ear, though of course there are times when we should “stir one another up to love and good works” through words of exhortation or even gentle correction (Hebrews 10:24).
Dori and I make it a practice to share our own struggles, frailties, and faults with almost all the believers with whom we interact, since we are fellow children of God and members of the Body of Christ together.
You don’t have to be older or more experienced to bring needed refreshment to another believer, so we often benefit from kind words of affirmation or reminders of God’s power and grace offered to me by students who are young enough to be our grandchildren.
Both Dori and I try to be available to Chinese Christians and Westerners who work among them, and we are always ourselves encouraged when we can offer, metaphorically, a “cup of cool water” to a thirsty fellow-pilgrim. We are blessed to be in that sort of relationship with perhaps several dozen people, both here and overseas.
When we arrived in Taiwan in 1976, the Director of OMF there said, “The greatest contribution you can make to the Chinese is to share with them your experience of the grace of God.” “Grace” assumes failure and even sin, which we have in abundance! But it also entails God’s mercy, forgiveness, and love.
Yours in His abundant guidance and encouragement,