Last week I shared with you one of the marks of a mentor that we all enjoy: affirming others with trust. But there’s another side of the coin that’s just as important. Good mentors also address weaknesses. For example:
Now a Jew named Apollos, an Alexandrian by birth, an eloquent man, came to Ephesus; and he was mighty in the Scriptures. This man had been instructed in the way of the Lord; and being fervent in spirit, he was speaking and teaching accurately the things concerning Jesus, being acquainted only with the baptism of John; and he began to speak out boldly in the synagogue. But when Priscilla and Aquila heard him, they took him aside and explained to him the way of God more accurately. (Acts 18:24–26)
When Aquilla and Priscilla heard Apollos preach, they detected some things lacking. There was nothing in Apollos’s words about the work of the Spirit. No mention of the body of Christ . . . the Spirit-filled life . . . how Christians can live as conquerors . . . nothing. They only heard about the baptism of John and the ministry of Jesus. That’s all Apollos knew. Accurate . . . but incomplete.
A discerning mentor addresses weaknesses that need to be strengthened and wrongs that need to be corrected. That’s one of the greatest benefits of good mentors. They won’t let us get away with staying like we are. They won’t let us keep making the same mistakes over and over again. They love us too much.
Mentors spot flaws and, like Aquilla and Priscilla, they don’t embarrass us publicly. They don’t nail us on the spot. But behind closed doors they say, “I need to mention something I notice that you do . . . or that you don’t do.” They care, because they’re discerning. They spot the area of need, and they put their finger on it like on a nerve.
The benefits? Reproof causes the one being mentored to remain teachable and accountable. Both are important. But it’s also vital that when we are the ones doing the reproving, we make sure we also are loving. Paul said it well:
Do not sharply rebuke an older man, but rather appeal to him as a father, to the younger men as brothers, the older women as mothers, and the younger women as sisters, in all purity. (1 Timothy 5:1–2)
I also admire Apollos’s response. He listened to them. One of the best things we can do when someone corrects us is to pay attention to their corrections. Do you do that? I hope that your biblical knowledge has made you more approachable and less untouchable. Mentors have nothing to gain by correcting us. We have everything to gain. We are better people if we take reproofs personally. (Sounds like a proverb, doesn’t it?) I could name some corrections my mentors gave that stung me to my core. And you know what? I knew they were right. I felt a little humiliated, but they turned it around into something positive: “Once you correct this, you’ll be even more effective.” It was true.
As mentors, we should be good at addressing weaknesses—at giving reproof. We should also be good at receiving it. It makes you a better pastor.
For that matter, it also makes you a better husband and father.