What separates Christianity from the religions of the world? Relationships: with God (vertical) and people (horizontal). Our faith is all about relationships. We need God and one another.
I believe that people (fearful and hesitant that they are) are eager for intimate, steady, whole, accountable, mutually supportive relationships today, yet are not sure how to find and cultivate them. I suggest that the 3-pronged mentoring model we use in Chi Alpha Christian Fellowship could be the answer. Church leaders have watched our missionaries in action and rediscovered it. Christian College leaders have been inspired to create mentor match ups between students and professors. Parents have seen their college age kids benefit from the relational structures established in our small groups. The culture of our time has recognized the vacuum of relationships that exist and the climate is right for learning through relationships.
History records two learning models. The Greeks leaned toward a “classroom model,” where the environment was academic, cerebral, and more information based. The teacher is up front and the students sit passively and listen to a lecture. It is the quickest way to disseminate information, but it is not the most effective way for someone to learn.
The Hebrews utilized a “coach model,” where the atmosphere was relational, experiential, and involved on-the-job training. The teacher invites the student(s) to travel with him/her and learning takes place through life-on-life. The coach/mentor uses verbal instruction, demonstrates the principle they want the student to embrace, lets them try their hand at it, and gives them feedback on their performance. The best way to learn is to experience something firsthand, discuss it with an experienced practitioner, all in a context of accountability and assessment.
Read Mark 3:13-15. Notice the “with Him” principle?
Jesus called the first disciples to be with him (relationship), and out of that context, he taught, modeled, and sent them out to learn and practice putting Kingdom habits into daily action. What a beautiful picture of the mentoring process. Many of us have seen a similar example from old movies where a toymaker, blacksmith, or shoemaker is involved in a shop on a cobblestone street. The camera shows purposeful activity – an old shoemaker at work making shoes, but with an apprentice next to him. The younger person is less experienced, but is observing and learning all he/she can. That is why they are there, attempting to practice and perfect what the “master” has shown, in order to one day produce goods and services for the community. As they work, the old person is also giving feedback and encouragement to the young learner.
It is a natural process of a developmental relationship. Today we often ask students, “What classes are you taking?” as opposed to “Who are you studying under?” I suggest the focus should be on the mentor, not so much the material.
Our Chi Alpha model suggests we all need a Paul, a Barnabus, and a Timothy. The framework for spiritual health involves having a mentor who is ahead of us, a peer or accountability partner beside us, and a mentoree who is following us. The three legs of this relational stool provide incentive, because we all need 1) someone to pour into us, 2) someone in a mutually supportive friendship (iron sharpens iron), and 3) someone we can pass on what we are learning, so they can imitate us (or better yet, Jesus). Live communally. Live like God because relationships matter.
Love is a verb,
©2013 by Mike Olejarz