What Moses Teaches Us About Mentoring

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Moses and Joshua
Moses (right) and Joshua

Are you involved in a mutually beneficial mentoring/student relationship? What is holding you back?

You don’t have to be perfect to be a mentor—just willing. The man who struck a rock when God had said, “Speak to it,” got disqualified from entering the Promised Land … but not from mentoring Joshua.

I can think of a number of unwise decisions I’ve made in leadership that might give me pause about ever qualifying as a mentor. I overspent on a building program once that almost sank a church. Another time, I landed in the hospital with chest pains that turned out to be stress from too many long days and not taking a day off.

Despite these and other flaws in my leadership, God put a desire in my heart to look for mentoring opportunities. Some of that desire was perhaps repayment for the people who have invested in my life.

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Just last Saturday at an event, I ran into my friend Mike. We immediately had a connection. It started with a season of mentoring four decades ago. I can’t take credit for the godly husband, loving father and successful entrepreneur Mike has become, but I can rejoice with him.

My definition of mentoring is this: simply sharing your life with someone who is willing to walk with you according to some mutually agreed-upon terms. What do I mean by “terms”? Something as informal as “We will meet for a couple of hours each month (or quarter) and will stay in contact as needed.”

A Biblical Example

The Moses/Joshua model is enlightening in a number of ways that get to the heart of mentoring. Let’s take a look:

1. The Lord directed Moses to put certain things in writing (Ex. 17:14)—“and make sure that Joshua hears it” (NIV). That way, there would be clarity that endures, even though people and circumstances might change. Verbal promises need to be recorded. I often share a story in mentoring situations about giving up a car once because there was no record in the board minutes that it had been a gift to me.

2. Moses took his young friend along to important meetings (Ex. 24:12-13). Up on the mountain, they met with God in dramatic fashion. One of my routines is to talk with those I mentor about my own call to the ministry and how I struggled with a secular job offer while in graduate school that obviously would have led me astray. But God’s voice is to be obeyed.

3. At least two times, Moses helped Joshua adjust his perspective. At the start of the golden-calf incident, Joshua mistakenly called the noise “the sound of war in the camp” (Ex. 32:17). He was thinking in context of being an army general. But Moses, who had been on the mountain with God and held the stone tablets in his hand, discerned something else (v. 18). No doubt this was a benchmark learning experience for Joshua.

When the Spirit came on two unlikely people, Joshua asked Moses to stop them from prophesying (Num. 11:28). Moses gave the broader picture and said, “I wish that all God’s people were prophets” (v. 29). Moses was clearly demonstrating permission-giving leadership. Can you imagine the look on Joshua’s face at that moment? He learned that day that God may surprise us by the people He uses.

4. Joshua wanted to hang around the place where God had shown up. I absolutely love the statement in Exodus 33:11 that tells how even after Moses finished his encounters with the Lord, “Joshua son of Nun did not leave the tent.”  As a mentor, do you have a special place where you meet with God?

When I worked in Teen Challenge in my early days, David Wilkerson would take us to the chapel each day. He taught us to meet with God in prayer. It was a special place. We would often linger after David left. We wanted to capture the vision and passion that we saw at work in our brother.

5. Finally, Moses laid his hands on Joshua and commissioned him to lead the nation (Num. 27:23; Deut. 34:9). He set Joshua on a course that would define his future in ministry.

When I left a certain position in 2006 not knowing the details of my future, an elderly pastor friend laid hands on me and prayed for God to use me in venues that might surprise me. I have returned twice in the past eight years to have pastor Ellen Blackwell lay hands on me. Sometimes you feel like you need a second and third dose. She just celebrated her 100th birthday and is talking about a vision for the next 20 years. Amazing! Wherever I minister, I feel the blessing of those 100-year-old hands.

May I be bold and ask for an army of leaders (especially those west of age 50) to pick up the mantle of being a mentor/father to anyone willing to meet with you? And may I invite all those who are younger and hungry to be nurtured to actively seek out a mentor/father? My prayer is that there may be an anointing in our hearts for mentoring until a number too large to count are being influenced by the Moses/Joshua principles.

Toward that end, here are some suggestions:

1. Invite younger ministers to audit board meetings.

2. If the two of you are not in driving proximity, set up a periodic phone meeting.

3. When appropriate, invite those you are mentoring to come to your home for a meal and conversation.

4. Tell your personal story in preaching so people get to know you.

5. If you are part of a ministry network, take advantage of any initiative they offer. (For example, the under-40 group in the Assemblies of God has a Facebook page and meets at national gatherings.)

6. Make it known that you are available to mentor.

7. When appropriate, include your spouse and the spouse of the person you are mentoring in meetings.

Bob Rhoden, a former pastor and district superintendent who is now an executive presbyter with the Assemblies of God, is the author of Four Faces of a Leader. He and his wife, Joan, live in Richmond, Va. You can follow him on Twitter @bob_rhoden.

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