Finding the best mentor in the world

I have a friend in Germany who works at one of the best Bible schools in the world.  I say “best” because of what I believe to be the goal of a Bible School.  The purpose of investing time in Bible School is, primarily and overwhelmingly to grow in one’s relationship with Christ.  Arguments about the authorship of Genesis, the nuances of eschatology, and esoteric ethic discussions all have a certain values, but they are always entirely secondary to the dominant goal, which is to develop an relationship of intimacy with one’s creator.  If that’s the goal, then Bodenseehoff is a great place to be.  Steve works closely with the students there, as both leader and teacher.  I’m happy to offer his guest post about mentors, which challenges conventional thinking about what to look for in a mentor.  As always, I welcome your thoughts:

Until just recently, I have been looking for a mentor.

A number of years ago I had a taste of how valuable mentoring could be, and ever since then some part of me has been looking, hoping – wanting that again.

It was a great situation – an older guy with lots of experience who I really respected was willing to make a commitment to take time out of his schedule to meet with me once a week.  We would get together, make lots of coffee, have breakfast, and talk about life.  I would ask tons of questions…

How would you deal with this conflict?
What does real manhood look like in this area?
How would you lead people in this situation?
What would be the appropriate response as a Christ follower to this developing mess?
Is this a stupid time to get engaged?
Why do these Biblical principles not seem to work in my life?  Do they work in yours?  How?
What does this even mean, anyway?
What am I doing wrong here?

Our meetings were an incredible encouragement.  They were refreshing.  They provided a framework for significant growth.  I loved it!  But it only lasted 5 short months.

That was about 15 years ago, and I have never had anything like it since then.  I am surrounded with masses of great people to learn from, but their lives are full – and mine is too, for that matter.  Somehow, I never found a way to make it work like that again.

I have often been disappointed by this, in particular as I have encountered some of life’s challenges and questions.

How do I deal with the depression of this person I dearly love?
Should I really be doing what I am doing right now in life?  Is it time for something else?
How do I get out of this rut in life and faith?  Why do I feel numb?
How does the gospel relate to this area of my life?
How can I best handle these relational conflicts?
Is there something I need to change?

Oh, if only I had a mentor…!

Why oh why can’t I just have someone I can regularly meet with to talk about this stuff?!  Someone who has been there.  Someone who understands.  Someone who has a lot of wisdom and experience.  Someone who could give me some practical help, practical advice, practical leading.  Someone who…

Wait – I’m not looking for a mentor.  I’m looking for God!

I was out for a late night walk when it hit me.  I had been listening to a podcast as I walked, and it was as if the woman was speaking directly to me.  It was brilliant.  It was directly addressing what I had been thinking about that night.  And it was challenging – so much so that I had to stop listening and walk in silence to process what I had been hearing.

As I walked along it was as if God was saying, “Steve – isn’t this great?  Isn’t this fun?  Isn’t this what you need to hear right now?  And this is directly from me!  I am speaking into your life.  I am mentoring you!”

And I saw it was true: not just that night, but also for the last 15 years.  God himself – the maker of the stars – has been mentoring me.  With that in mind as I look back, I can see his loving fingerprints on innumerable encounters and experiences.

A coffee with a wise old businessman…
A book someone gave me…
A lunch with a visiting pastor…
A thought-provoking blog post…
An encouragement from a long lost friend…
A Bible passage that suddenly jumps out full color…
A spontaneous challenge from a co-worker in the hallway at work…
A box of handpicked reading material mailed to me at a critical moment…
A warning in my own conscience…
A time of prayer with my friends…
A word of wisdom from my wife…
An unplanned session of sharing and getting advice with my boss…

It’s been there all along!  The person of Christ, mentoring me by his Spirit – organizing people and circumstances to speak into my life.

I have the best mentor in the world.

As I think about that, I suspect it’s no accident that God has foiled 15 years of desire for one ultimate “go-to” person.  He wanted me to see that I already have one in him.

About Richard Dahlstrom

As Pastor of Bethany Community Church in Seattle, Richard teaches with vision of "making the invisible God visible" by calling people to acts of service and blessing. It's working, as a wilderness ministry, homeless shelter, and community meals that serve those living on the margins are all pieces of Bethany's life. "We're being the presence of Christ" he says, "and inviting everyone to join the adventure." Many have, making Bethany one of the fastest growing churches in America in 2009 according to Outreach Magazine.

  • Lucky Shultz

    I don’t know if I’ve ever had a formal, human mentor. But as I look back, God has put in my path a number of men and women who “mentored” me at a particular stage in life — just when I needed them. As a child, my grandfather quizzed me on deep theological issues that stretched me and required me to study in order to respond. As a teenager, Will took me under his wing and, with no coordination with my grandfather, continued my education by taking me fishing, came to my football games, and included me (as just a teenager) in the Thursday night “Men’s Bible Study.” Now, at age 65, I can look back and see many, many men and women who loved me enough to correct me and encourage me. I say “loved me” because it takes a special relationship to call someone to task when that someone (in this case — me) is going astray. I am convinced that God spoke to me through most of these people.

  • RobertusTheophilus

    It surely is and has been a great place of inspiration those last 25 years of visiting Bodenseehof. I have so often been inspired (and mentored) by all those very talented and also honest people like Steve, Andy, Heinz, Peter, the Brusher’s, the Countryman’s and all those many others, students, teachers (like yourself) … people who might sometimes wonder, like Steve, what they’re doing here, not (always) knowing that they are speaking Christ’s own words to our souls. Bless them, praise Him.

    That is one true lesson of any one Christian walking “the way”, one I just begin to learn myself. Having lost my father early on, then finding Christ as Redeemer and soul comforter, there still was for long years that yearning for the fatherly figure, the blood brother who would share, understand, give guidance … only to find that if we truly want to walk by faith, it is Christ who only really knows us. I wished I could touch him, talk to him like physically there, be flesh and bone … but I do know that He only knows me and can know me, for as Bonhoeffer says: “Unmittelbarkeit ist Trug!”.

    Funny thing, that life is! :)