Is Mentoring the same as Discipleship?

Is mentoring the same as discipleship? That question could keep a group of Christians occupied for hours. By straight definition, according to Merriam Webster's Dictionary, to be a mentor means to be a trusted guide and a disciple is one who accepts and assists in spreading the doctrines of another person. So basically, a mentor is someone who guides or counsels, meaning that mentorship is the process of guiding and/or counseling. Discipleship, then, is the process of teaching someone the doctrines you want spread and then having them spread by your pupil.

That's a pretty technical way to say that, mentoring is like discipleship, but not the same. The church is currently fascinated with the idea of discipleship. A search on the internet will show that there are entire curriculum programs for discipleship in various church settings. However, mentoring curriculum does not exist in the same way that discipleship curriculum exists. Sites exist that will tell you how to establish a mentoring program, but not a specific curriculum. I have trouble accepting mentoring programs, by the way, and I'll discuss that in a later post.

The fact is that I don't think discipleship and mentoring are the same thing. Discipleship, at least in the modern church context, is essentially a method of teaching church doctrine to a person's followers. Mentoring is a bit more than that. For example, right now I mentor a handful of younger believers on the Navy base I work on. My work with them consists less of teaching them church doctrine or theology and more about how to run a Bible study on a ship, how to be good husbands, and the like. In the end, that’s the difference between mentoring and discipleship.

4 comments:

boilt frog said...

"For example, right now I mentor a handful of younger believers on the Navy base I work on. My work with them consists less of teaching them church doctrine or theology and more about how to run a Bible study on a ship, how to be good husbands, and the like. In the end, that’s the difference between mentoring and discipleship." I do not see the difference. Doctrine cannot be divorce from practice. If we follow the pattern of the Pauline letters, we find that doctrine informs practice.

We need a biblical definition of discipleship/mentoring. You have not provided one. Let's play school, seminarian. It is time to work on your term paper on discipleship vis-vis mentoring. It can be any length. Due date any time except birthday of K3.

Here is some help. The Westminster Shorter Catechism question one ask: What is the chief end of man? Consider your answer (then look up the Catechism's.)

Blessings,

BF

Dan Smith said...

Doctrine most certainly can be divorced from practice. All one has to do is attend any seminary class on theology. You are right to say that, "If we follow..." because my belief is that most don't follow the Pauline letters. If they did, there would be true discipleship, which I will grant is practically mentorship. What I will argue is that the majority of Christians don't practice this form of discipleship. In many circles, my church included, the idea of mentoring/discipleship is through small groups. This is a less-than-acceptable alternative to what we find in the Pauline letters and even Christ's example.

I am currently working on a paper of this magnitude that I hope to turn into an e-book. It includes notes from a short study of II Timothy 1:1-8.

Having already known the answer to your questions regarding the Westminster Shorter Catechism, it was difficult to come up with my own answer. I'm honestly not sure how this relates to mentoring, but I'm willing to learn more. Please advise.

boilt frog said...

I agree that doctrine can be divorced (note necessary d) from life. I meant that doctrine are an integrated pair. to separate them is wrong.

The Catechism question relates to ends, both of mentoring and discipleship. You did not object to the Catechism's answer, so use it to direct your efforts. Does this effort effect the end of glorifying God and enjoying him forever?

I am looking forward to the paper. Please post pericopes. I will have to take a look at 2Tim. 1:1-8.

Blessings,

BF

Dan Smith said...

I see your point on the Catechism. I do hope that this will help me glorify God and enjoy Him. My hope is that I can help others do the same through this work.

It is so very, very wrong to separate doctrine from practice, and I wrote about it in my manifesto, if I may be so bold to call it that.

Let me know your thoughts on II Tim 1.