Review by Stephen W. Hiemstra
Discipling believers remains the critical mission of the church. The Greek word for church (ἐκκλησία) literally means: the called out ones. We stand in the breach, praying for the generations that we touch (our call), but we also model what a godly lifestyle looks like (the out part). We succeed when our young people see a reason to believe (our call) and our old people do not confuse Christianity with other things (the out part). We fail when the Gospel stagnates in our own lives (our call) and remains un-contextualized for our changing world (the out part). The church cannot be a holy huddle; its mission is defined in terms of both internal and external components. We are blessed to bless others (Gen 12:3).
In her book Mentor for Life, Natasha Robinson briefly defines “mentoring as intentional discipleship” (19). The long definition is:
“Mentoring is a trusted partnership where people share wisdom that fosters spiritual growth and leads to transformation as mentors and mentee’s grow in their love of Christ, knowledge of self, and love of others.”(31/137)
In her purpose statement, she writes:
“I want you to catch this vision…What would happened if all believers understood and embraced their identity in Christ, and truly lived as transformed people under the power of the Holy Spirit? What would happen if we all mentored for life? (18)
This book focuses on application. Robinson proposes that readers: evaluate their spiritual condition, consider their commitment, and prioritize discipling (21). Part 1 of the book focuses on the question: why mentor? While part 2 cites six aspects of commitment to mentoring as: being present, cultivating disciples, understanding God’s kingdom mission, welcoming diverse relationships, mentoring as sacrificial love, and committing to safe and trusting mentoring relationships (19-20).
Robinson’s application plays out immediately in each chapter in the form of study questions and suggested tweets. Chapter 1, for example, ends with 5 questions and a suggested tweet: “Mentoring is about intentionally investing in the priorities of God’s kingdom and in the lives of others, #Mentor4Life @asistasjourney” (39). Searching for #Mentor4Life in Twitter, one finds an active discussion and an encouraging report that Mentor for Life has made the top 100 list on Amazon.com—a huge milestone for any author.
In part 1, Robinson makes a highly personal case for mentoring. For example, she mentions that she lost her mother at age 20 as a sophomore at the U.S. Naval Academy (27). Later, she writes:
“After endless Sunday mornings in church, countless prayers, and multiple baptisms (I was both sprinkled and immersed), I still could not answer that awful question, ‘If I died today, would I go to heaven? …no one in my first eighteen years of life had ever offered to intentially disciple me.” (41)
Much later she shares about her experiences as a track and field athlete (131-136). My suspicion is that Robinson—as a winning athlete and Naval cadet and an obvious leader among her peers—was indeed mentored—just not intentionally and not in the church. My suspicion is that her mom, Sallie, was her most important mentor (193-195).
In my own walk, I was un-intentially mentored by my pastor who found himself unexpectedly substituting as youth director. This new role ultimately meant about two years of pizza and discussions with my best friend and I on Wednesday afternoons. My pastor’s mentoring helped me to survive some tough years in college and to continue hearing God’s voice above the high-volume chatter of our broken culture.
In part 2, Robinson makes an important point about discipling:
“…making disciples is not a spiritual gift. It is not something unique that only certain people are called to do. All Christians are called to this important kingdom work.” (219)
The character of a mentor requires generosity, grace, and love (221). Spiritual gifting is about passion and performance (223).
Natasha Robinson founded a nonprofit corporation, Leadership LINKS, Inc. and blogs at: A Sista’s Journey. She graduated from Gordon Conwell Theological Seminary in Charlotte NC with a master’s degree in Christian leadership. Before that, she attended the U.S. Naval Academy majoring in English. She is also a member of the RedBud Writers’ Guild and the International Justice Mission. I know Natasha as a colleague in GCTS’s Pierce Fellowship which focuses on spiritual formation and discipling issues.
Natasha Robinson’s book, Mentor for Life, is a book that the church needs to take seriously. Women will relate to her experience in women’s ministry; men will connect to her athletic and military stories and metaphors; small groups may enjoy it as study. Robinson’s writing is lively and accessible.
“Now I rejoice in my sufferings for your sake, and in my flesh I am filling up what is lacking in Christ’s afflictions for the sake of his body, that is, the church” (Col 1:24 ESV).