1 Corinthians 4:14-21 Characteristics of a Good Christian Mentor

1 Corinthians 4:14-21 Characteristics of a Good Christian Mentor January 2, 2007

1 Corinthians 4:14-21 Characteristics of a Good Christian Mentor

The theme verse that describes Christian mentoring is in verse 15:

For though you might have ten thousand instructors in Christ, yet you do not have many fathers; for in Christ Jesus I have begotten you through the gospel.

(1 Corinthians 4:15 NKJV)

There are six characteristics of a good Christian mentor in these verses. These characteristics are necessary when a Christian takes the opportunity to disciple someone younger in the faith than themselves. I like to use the word MENTOR to describe this.

M – Matures the relationship with the spiritual child with trust.

I do not write these things to shame you, but as my beloved children I warn you.

(1 Corinthians 4:14 NKJV)

There are going to be times when you mentor another Christian, you will need to be able to say hard things so that they may grow.

So many people walk around making bad spiritual decisions and, amazingly, the other Christians around them all stand back and watch as mistakes are repeated again and again. We need someone who loves us enough to come to us with the hard truth – “That relationship is destructive,” “Your anger is inappropriate,” “You seem to be pulling back from your church family.”

Some people who do talk about what someone is doing wrong go about it in the wrong way. They may talk about the person in order to justify their own sins. They may talk the hard truth to others, but not to that person. Our desire cannot be to add shame to their name, but rather to see their behavior changed and their relationship with God redeemed.

Many times we say these hard things when we have not been allowed to say them. Let me explain what I mean.

Just because someone has the authority to say it does not mean that s/he has the right to say it. When you mentor someone, you can only correct them after you have built trust with them. Otherwise, it is just judgmental criticism that will do no good. I have seen Christians say hard things to one another. Perhaps they were right in saying it. But it went wrong because there was no trust. These things may need to be said, but the person never deserved to say these things.

So the first basic characteristic and rule in mentoring is trust. You can only mentor someone who will trust you. Trust is the first characteristic that is required. Why? Without trust, you are not allowed to say the hard things that need to be said.

If you as a spiritual child have given your trust to your mentor, then you give the mentor the rights to say the hard things that need to be said. If you are a Christian, and you want to disciple other Christians, you first need to build trust. Otherwise, what you say will come across as criticism, judgmentalism, and as fake Christianity. This is very unloving.

You can’t correct someone who doesn’t trust you. You can’t trust someone if you have not built up a relationship.

This leads us to a second characteristic of good Christian mentoring.

E – Encourages the spiritual child through love.

I do not write these things to shame you, but as my beloved children I warn you.

(1 Corinthians 4:14 NKJV)

You can build a relationship when you encourage the spiritual child through love. The best way you can start to mentor someone is to encourage them. Christian mentors should be the first to share and speak words of love, encouragement, and compassion to those they disciple.

N – Navigates the path of mentoring with experience.

Therefore I urge you, imitate me.

(1 Corinthians 4:16 NKJV)

What an amazing statement! Paul says to the Corinthian church, “Imitate me!” Yet a mentor has to be willing to set the example for the spiritual children that they mentor.

We must be able to say to those we mentor, “Don’t just do as I say; do as I do.”

“I am not going to just talk about prayer. I am going to show you how a man of God prays.”

“I am not going to just say you should forgive others, I am going to show you by forgiving others.”

“I am not going to just tell you to share Jesus with others. I am going to show you how I share Jesus with others.”

But navigating the path with experience is not just about setting the example. It is not just saying: “Do as I do and follow me in this.” It also includes letting the other person know that you screw up, you make mistakes, and you are learning too.

Too many Christians tell other people to “do as I say” but they never admit that they also are experiencing difficulties in their lives. How much that could other young Christians when you let other people know that you have made mistakes and that you have to grow in certain areas as well. There are no perfect Christians. A perfect Christian is a dead Christian. There are blameless Christians – Christians who have grown in character to the point where no one can really say anything bad about them. They have a good reputation with others. They live a life that others want to follow. But we are all growing.

Therefore, we cannot expect anyone we mentor to go to levels of maturity that we have not experienced ourselves. This is a good question for us to ask ourselves: if my spiritual child becomes as mature as me, how far along will they be toward being like Jesus?

T – Takes the initiative in helping the spiritual child develop and grow.

…I have sent Timothy to you, who is my beloved and faithful son in the Lord….

(1 Corinthians 4:17 NKJV)

Being a good Christian mentor means taking the initiative to see that the young Christian develops and grows. A baby cannot develop and grow all by themselves – they need initiative from the parents. So it is the same with young Christians in the faith. The mentor needs to introduce the young Christian to other influences that will help them grow.

It may be introducing the spiritual child to a relationship with another mature believer. It may be opening the door to a great book. In any case, a spiritual mentor is looking to expand his spiritual child’s world of influence.

O – Offers to share Biblical wisdom.

…who will remind you of my ways in Christ, as I teach everywhere in every church.

(1 Corinthians 4:17 NKJV)

There is no substitute for a solid grounding in the Word of God – the Bible. Mentoring is about developing a relationship and friendship, but it is not only about that. There must be a passion for spiritual maturity that comes from the Word.

This is why trust, and your own spiritual growth are important. Because many times a spiritual child will come to you and ask questions. For example: “Why does God say this in Genesis 6?” “Where did Cain get his wife?” “Can a Christian fall away?” “How do I get to know the love of God i

n Christ Jesus more?” These and many other questions need answers. They will require that you lead that person to look in the Word of God to find answers. You won’t know the answer to every question. As a matter of fact, some questions don’t need answering. By the way – Cain got his wife in the land of Nod, but that doesn’t matter because they all died before the flood.

As you grow, you will be able to help someone by offering Biblical wisdom – wisdom that you have learned.

R – Recognizes the need to use discipline when necessary.

Now some are puffed up, as though I were not coming to you. But I will come to you shortly, if the Lord wills, and I will know, not the word of those who are puffed up, but the power. For the kingdom of God is not in word but in power. What do you want? Shall I come to you with a rod, or in love and a spirit of gentleness?

(1 Corinthians 4:18-21 NKJV)

There is a time in which we have to practice the use of the four R’s in discipling other Christians that we mentor:





You don’t want to look at discipline as something that promotes bad responses. Instead, you want to encourage good responses. Paul talks about using a rod, but he would like to use love. He knows it is important to respond.

Sometimes, the spiritual child has gotten themselves in a situation where they have sinned. Or perhaps the spiritual child has fallen into a temptation. You have to help them out of the problem before you can correct the situation. Many Christians want to stand and judge someone when they have done something wrong. But they need to rescued first.

After they have been rescued, then it may be time to rehabilitate the spiritual child in Christ. This will require repentance from sins. This will require learning new habits. This will require that the spiritual child in Christ grows by changing some parts of their life.

But most important, discipline is ultimately about restoration. You want that spiritual child in Christ to learn and then get back to doing what God wants them to do. Jesus did it with Peter. He saw Peter deny Him three times. So Christ restored Peter three times. Jesus did respond, and He did rescue and He did rehabilitate Peter. But most importantly, Jesus restored the relationship with Peter. What was the question that Jesus asked Peter three times? “Do you love Me?”

When there are times of discipline, it need to be in words and acts of love, not with a rod and whip. Love restores best.

With whom are you willing to go through all of this? With whom are you willing to mentor? There is at least one person out there who needs you as a mentor. Look at the Christians around you whom you have started to build trust.

(Parts of this sermon was derived from a sermon on SermonCentral.com)


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