Teachers versus Mentors

There is a difference between teachers and mentors. The first add information to the ignorant in hopes they will retain facts. But most facts are practically useless. We sense this by about the third grade. We say we’re never going to need most of this knowledge, and we’re usually right. Mentors are masters of subtraction. They distill knowledge into wisdom. Most teachers (like salesmen) tell you what to do, but mentors tell you what not to do. There is a fine distinction between useful and useless information. It takes a wise mentor to help us sort out all the things we could know (or memorize), but don’t need to. The most successful people know where to find the information, or at least who to call. They don’t clutter their minds. The Apostle Paul was a master at simplifying his life, both physical and spiritual. He tells the Philippians he had one thing. When you find a person who has mastered living with one thing in mind, and that one thing is Christ likeness, then you have found a useful person to have around. True mentors teach us how to preserve a pure and simple devotion to Christ in a complex world.

2 thoughts on “Teachers versus Mentors

  1. My favorite line of all times is from the Berenstein Bears “The Bike Lesson”…”let that be a lesson to you, this is what you should not do”. Thanks for this great encouragement. A new convert, who also happens to be a close friend to my unsaved daughter-in-law, wants to spend time with me to talk about her new faith. She is looking for a mentor and I questioned whether I was really qualified to be an encouragement to her. You have reminded me that, “that one thing” (which is on my heart daily) is truly what qualifies me. I pray she too will desire that “one thing”. Thank you again!!

  2. Hi Jon,

    Would you not consider yourself both teacher and mentor?

    It is true that we are not all at the same stage of spiritual maturity … or infancy. While some in our congregation of believers require the basic principles of Christian faith, others more mature in their walk can truly emulate Paul’s “one thing”, the single-minded simplicity of “forgetting those things which are behind and reaching forward to those things which are ahead”, the goal of Christ likeness.

    I would think that at times you would need to be a teacher and at others a mentor; to some extent it seems reasonable that the two must coexist but it must be difficult to distill Biblical facts for some into wisdom, all the while spoon feeding the founding principles of God’s redemptive plan to others, in the same sermon. I see a need for a clear distinction of the two terms, teacher, and mentor. Perhaps I am not correct in this assessment but it seem clear to me that the salient point of your message today is that we do not need to fully grasp every detail down to the most minute point in all of God’s revealed Word to mankind, however, we do need to know where to go in His Word to find direction and we need to call on the Lord guide us.

    Firmly resolved Christ likeness has been my life’s goal since the day I died and re-emerged a new creation, and although I have seen spiritual development in my life, I fear that while part of this world I will never be accused of being Christlike, although I hope that I am wrong about that. Perhaps like Paul I need to “press on, that I may lay hold of that for which Christ Jesus has also laid hold of me”. I do believe that with the Spirit, anything is possible but there is so much I need to learn, so many facts that await distillation to wisdom; I need to graduate from the third grade.

    Your friend in Christ,


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