The Case for Mentoring

By R.J. March on September 23, 2015

The story of Abigail and David in 1 Samuel 25 starts in a curious way: “Now Samuel died.” That’s it! The opening line to a story about Abigail, David, and the fool Nabal starts with the simple statement, “Now Samuel died.” We then get into the action: Nabal unjustly offends David and David reacts by strapping on his sword, arming himself and his army for revenge.

David would have wiped out Nabal and his whole household if a woman named Abigail hadn’t pleaded with him to exercise greater wisdom. Did you hear anything about Samuel? So why does the story starts with the death of Samuel?

Samuel was David’s mentor. Samuel continually helped David understand who God was calling him to be, showing him who God was against his misconceptions, listening to David, and offering David good advice.

The curious intro to this story shows us how David is quickly getting into trouble without a mentor in his life. David’s mentor Samuel is gone and now David is about to blow his chances of being the king by fighting his own battles in his own way.

When was the Last Time You Had a Mentor?

David is held up as one of the great heroes of Scripture, a man after God’s own heart (Acts 13:12, 1 Sam 13:14) – and when he was without the input of a godly mentor for even a short period of time, he was getting himself into some sticky situations.

A curious detail of the text hints that if David had killed Nabal and his family, he would have lost the patronage of the Calebites, who became vital patrons of David’s kingship.

Who in your life cares enough to stop you from blowing your career or relationships with the harmful patterns in your life? When is the last time someone knew you well enough to gently push back on your version of the story or humbly challenge how you are talking about your boss?

Do you have a friend that knows how to lovingly “wound” you—“Faithful are the wounds of a friend; profuse are the kisses of an enemy” (Prov 27:6)?  Too often we are caught up in an “acquaintance culture” —a thousand Facebook friends, but no one to really talk to. We are unknown at this important level of friendship. We need people who actually know us to affirm and challenge us. This is the real work of a mentoring friendship.

How Are You Going to Grow?

In a book called The Fabric of Faithfulness about how people grow into maturity with integrity, Steven Garber argues that mentoring is one of the three essentials. He writes, “Over several years I had been listening to people who were beyond ‘the valley of the diapers,’ and who hadn’t given up what they once had seen as ‘most important,’ but rather had deepened their reasons for being as they moved from adolescence to adulthood.” The mentoring relationship is essential for our maturity in life.

How are you going to grow? We need to see other followers of Jesus who are further along the road facing issues we may face and learning from how they deal with them. We need someone who like Paul will humbly say, “Follow my example, as I follow the example of Christ (1 Cor 11:1).

Possible Next Steps

Who is an older good friend in your life? Short on those? Then get help from your local church or a trusted ministry. A big next step for me was Serge Mentored Sonship. Serge connects you to a mentor and gives you a loose curriculum to work through called the Sonship Course – a crash course on the Christian basics of justification and adoption. But this is what Mentored Sonship really is: the work of a good friend who gets to know me well and is willing to tell me when I am being a jerk and help me to see my impact on people. Multiple times I came to see that I don’t really live what I say I believe. I learned that a living faith is different than my statement of faith.

It has now been a long time since I was in Mentored Sonship, but I learned from that experience what to look for in a mentor and furthermore, how to be a mentor to someone else. However you come by one, I hope you find a mentor and if we can learn anything from the curious opening line about Samuel in David’s story—find one soon.


>>> Want to grow as a mentor? Consider Serge’s Discipleship Lab.



R.J. March

About R.J. March

R.J. studied Philosophy at Furman University and focused his research on the ethics of globalization and minority perspective. He has integrated this research with service on Serge teams in Ireland, London, and Southeast Asia. R.J. is interested in how technology shapes community and has worked as the Digital Media Specialist for Serge and the Director of Communication for Global Counseling Network. You can find his other (digital) handiwork at R.J. holds an M.Div. from Covenant Seminary. R.J. and his wife Carolyn and their two children reside in Seattle where R.J. is the Assistant Pastor of All Souls Church of Seattle.