During my freshman year of high school, my older brother kept trying to convince me to come to the Fellowship of Christian Athletes (FCA) with him. He was a senior and while I found it nice that he was actually inviting me to hang out with his friends, I had no desire to go to a big group meeting with him. Eventually, he persuaded me to come and slowly I became a regular attender at the meetings. Our FCA advisor was a young math teacher named Tracy. She was energetic and fun, as well as discerning and wise.
Both Tracy and her husband came to all of our weekly meetings and invested their time and energy into sharing the gospel with students. Over the next three years, I spent hours after school in her classroom planning events and working on Bible studies. We had ski retreats and beach retreats, as well as summer fellowship meetings.
By my senior year, I would often skip going off campus with my friends for lunch and just bring my sandwich up to her room for a chat. Her advice on dating, marriage, and raising children blessed me in countless ways and prepared me for life after high school. The greatest way she encouraged me through those years was by pointing me to God’s word in an effort to grow my faith.
Tracy was my first spiritual mentor. Neither she nor I would have called her that at the time. Our relationship was one that just happened as she chose to invest in the lives of students at the public high school where she taught. For me, she put shape to what it looks like to be a Christian woman. She challenged my ideas on what to wear, what to say and how to live a godly life. She put flesh on the gospel and lived it in front of me so that I could learn from her example.
Tracy greatly impacted my life as she was faithfully following Jesus in her own life. God called her to work in a large public school and she chose to invest well where He had placed her. She opened her classroom, her home and her heart to love students with the message of the gospel.
As we consider mentoring, it is important to realize that Christians have the power to greatly influence others simply by living faithful lives wherever God calls them. In fact, a large percentage of mentoring happens incidentally as we go about our days. Our places of employment, social gatherings, and neighborhoods offer opportunities in which we can faithfully mentor others without a regularly scheduled meeting or curriculum. By sharing Biblical truths and wisdom, we influence others by putting shape to what it means to live the Christian life. The advice we speak, the encouragement we share and the care we give are means by which God can work to spur on the faith of a younger believer.
Just before his death, Jesus spoke the following words to his disciples, saying:
Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit by itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in me. I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing. – John 15: 4 -5
If we want to live lives that informally mentor others, the most important thing we can do is to spend time with Jesus. One of Tracy’s most impactful statements to me was her continual reminder, “You can’t lead others to Jesus if you’re not meeting with Him yourself.” She taught me that the greatest strength of a mentor is not their personality, their insight or their boldness. The strength of a mentor is their connection to Jesus. Christ provides the nourishment, and we bear the fruit. The wisdom and insights gained as our minds are renewed by time in the word and prayer will be used to encourage others. The power of influence is Christ in us, overflowing to others.