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Friday, October 14, 2016

"Mentor For Life" (Natasha Sistrunk Robinson)

TITLE: Mentor for Life: Finding Purpose through Intentional Discipleship
AUTHOR: Natasha Sistrunk Robinson
PUBLISHER: Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2016, (272 pages).

Every transformed Christian has had some form of mentoring relationship. They are beneficiaries of mentoring. In fact, one of the biggest weaknesses of the Church is due to the lack of mentoring. One reason is the lack of knowhow. This book is written to address that. All mentoring is intentional. It includes those invitations that we accept or not accept. Mentoring is a trusted relationship. Many biblical examples exist. Mentoring is also closely connected with discipleship which is why Robinson has defined mentoring as "intentional discipleship." The key thesis in this book is that once we embark on such intentional discipleship (aka mentoring), our purpose in life will be gradually made clear. This is even more critical as many live muddled lives. They dichotomize evangelism from discipleship in an already pluralistic culture. They allow worldly culture to influence them instead of the other way round. They let short term gains take priority over long term investments. They might even let the distractions of life de-sensitive them from the reality of two kingdoms: Of God and of others. Forgetting this makes one vulnerable to evil influences.

The first part of the book deals with the purpose and priorities of the mentoring call. The chief reason why mentoring is not a priority is simply because people have lost the sense of mission. Thus, people gravitate toward self-driven endeavors that benefit the self more than others. The author argues that every mentoring relationship has a clear mission of making disciples. It is a joyful interplay of evangelism and discipleship. Instead of letting the outside world direct or tell us what to do, or to let social media prompts and technological rush distract us from the essentials, we cultivate an attentiveness toward God's Word that counters the world. By cultivating a mentoring relationship and a discipleship environment, one is better equipped to resist the ways of the world. We become more sensitive to the significance of the Kingdom of God and our responses as priesthood of believers.

The second part of the book is the principles and practices part. After discussing the whys of intentional discipleship and mentoring, the author jumps into the nitty-gritty of mentoring. Unlike books that talk about mentoring as a program or a time-limited curriculum, this book stretches the idea of mentoring toward a life-long application. The three pillars of mentoring are "knowing and loving God"; "Knowing your identity in Christ"; and "Loving your neighbour." Mentoring is essentially about six commitments.

  1. Commitment to Presence
    - Learning to show up to meet God; and to show up for the sake of others
  2. Commitment to a Disciplined Life
    - Being diligent and disciplined about our thought life, our active life, and right living, that we may also know about our authentic selves as we live and love people.
  3. Commitment to God's Mission
    - Learning to be sensitive and obedient to God's call and mission for the world. Our relationships with people are tied closely to this sense of mission.
  4. Commitment to Community
    - We learn about looking out not just for ourselves but for one another, and to build the community so that people will not feel alone or abandoned. This has implications for working toward building a family environment.
  5. Commitment to Relationships
    - Learning to embrace diversity is part of what it means to build relationships. This often means being willing to look beyond our petty preferences toward the bigger picture of God's love for all people.
  6. Commitment to Love
    - Learning to obey God and if needed, to submit to God's will regardless of our own preferences. More so if we defer to the important Kingdom priorities.
Mentoring is often talked about in theory but practicing it is another challenge altogether. The key to reading the book is the adopt the four Cs. Begin with the book in Christ. This is the starting point of all ministry. It is an acknowledgement that all change begins with God's help. Learn to let the Word convict us in our hearts. Take courage to practice what was taught. Proceed with confidence that this is in the will of God. I really like the six sets of commitments that build up from personal disciplines toward community living; from self-consciousness to others-awareness; and from living to loving. In this book, author Natasha Sistrunk Robinson combines spiritual disciplines, personal calling, and relationship building, and community living under the umbrella of mentoring for life. It is not a short term program but a long term endeavour. Written with clear explanations and practical directions, this book is a good mentoring primer for anyone interested in starting a mentoring program.

It has been said that the hardest part of any program is the beginning. Just like a cold engine starting up on a frigid morning, lots of encouragement are needed to get the whole mentoring system going. This book fits into the category of getting mentoring up and running as fast as possible. I am thankful for this book because it not only sharpens our understanding of what mentoring is, it smoothens our paths toward practicing it.

Natasha Sistrunk Robinson is a graduate of Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary and the US Naval Academy. She is a leadership consultant, a popular speaker, and a mentoring coach for many.

Rating: 4.75 stars of 5.


This book is provided to me courtesy of Zondervan Academic and NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. All opinions offered above are mine unless otherwise stated or implied.

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