YodaThis is the fourth post highlighting the primary ways that God grows a person spiritually.  The first post examined the importance of your relationship with God.  The next post looked at the circumstances of life that draw us closer to God.  Our last post emphasized the importance of personal responsibility in your spiritual growth.  This post is a case study in the life of Barnabas as we examine the vital role of mentoring in your spiritual growth.

The word mentor comes from the figure in the Odyssey, an epic poem by the Greek poet Homer. Mentor is the guardian and tutor of Odysseus’ son Telemachus. As Odysseus is away fighting at Troy, Mentor raises Telemachus into manhood. As one reads the Odyssey, Mentor fulfills the following roles: father-figure, teacher, trainer, tutor, guide, counselor, and coach.

The Bible gives us a picture of a mentor in the person of Barnabas.  We are first introduced to Barnabas in the book of Acts,

Now Joseph, a Levite of Cyprian birth, who was also called Barnabas by the apostles (which translated means Son of Encouragement), and who owned a tract of land, sold it and brought the money and laid it at the apostles’ feet. (Acts 4:36-37)

We see that Barnabas was an encourager and that he was generous.  He was also willing to be a sponsor for others.  When Paul, originally known as Saul, tried to associate with the disciples they were afraid of him, not believing that he was a true disciple.

But Barnabas took hold of him and brought him to the apostles and described to them how he had seen the Lord on the road, and that He had talked to him, and how at Damascus he had spoken out boldly in the name of Jesus. (Acts 9:27)

As we continue our study of the life of Barnabas we gain insight into his character,

The news about them reached the ears of the church at Jerusalem, and they sent Barnabas off to Antioch.  Then when he arrived and witnessed the grace of God, he rejoiced and began to encourage them all with resolute heart to remain true to the Lord; for he was a good man, and full of the Holy Spirit and of faith.  And considerable numbers were brought to the Lord.  And he left for Tarsus to look for Saul; and when he had found him, he brought him to Antioch.  And for an entire year they met with the church and taught considerable numbers; and the disciples were first called Christians in Antioch.  (Acts 11:22-26)

Barnabas was willing to be sent out, he was a good man, full of the Holy Spirit and of faith.  Barnabas was also willing to give a disciple a second chance,

After some days Paul said to Barnabas, “Let us return and visit the brethren in every city in which we proclaimed the word of the Lord, and see how they are.  Barnabas wanted to take John, called Mark, along with them also.  But Paul kept insisting that they should not take him along who had deserted them in Pamphylia and had not gone with them to the work.  And there occurred such a sharp disagreement that they separated from one another, and Barnabas took Mark with him and sailed away to Cyprus. (Acts 15:36-39)

Mentors play such an important role in our lives that at times we can put them on a pedestal.  We see that Barnabas was a person like us who could fail at times,

And the rest of the Jews joined him in hypocrisy, with the result that even Barnabas was carried away by their hypocrisy.  (Galatians 2:13)

If you do not have mentors in your life, you are missing a key component in your spiritual growth.  Bobby Clinton and Paul Stanley have written Connecting:  The Mentoring Relationships You Need to Succeed to help you in finding a mentor .  They view mentoring as an umbrella term and differentiate the various types of mentoring depending upon your need:

Discipler – Habits

Spiritual Guide – Evaluation

Coach – Skills

Counselor – Advice

Teacher -Knowledge

Sponsor – Protection

Contemporary – Values

Historical – Inspiration

Divine Contact – Guidance

If you are looking for a mentor, I recommend the following steps to assist you:

1. Identify your needs
2. Pray
3. Initiate the relationship
4. Clarify expectations
5. Establish time parameters

May God bless you as you grow and assist others in their spiritual growth.

The things which you have heard from me in the presence of many witnesses, entrust these to faithful men who will be able to teach others also.  (2 Timothy 2:2)

RickAssociate Pastor – Discipleship.  The Church at LifePark

Professor of Discipleship, Columbia International University

Follow me on twitter:  rickhiggins5