In an ideal world, all Christians would maintain three types of spiritual relationships as they walked through life. (Disclaimer: There have only been a couple times in my own life when I have had all three going at once, but this is still an ideal worth aiming for.)
- A spiritual mentor: It is wonderful to have a relationship with someone who is older and/or further along in his or her spiritual life who is guiding you into how to live as a disciple of Jesus.
- A spiritual buddy: Life is so much better when lived with at least one spiritual friend who walks alongside you, offers spiritual encouragement (or a spiritual kick in the hind side when needed), and receives the same back from you.
- A spiritual mentee: The ideal is that you pour your life into someone (or many “someones”) younger and/or spiritually younger than yourself, helping them learn how to live as disciples of Jesus their Lord.
Let me focus on the third category. No matter how far along you are in your spiritual life, there is always someone who is newer yet. You can spend time with this person talking together about spiritual issues, reading the Bible together, praying together, serving together, doing hospitality together, sharing the good news with unbelievers together. (If you do share with unbelievers together, you may end up with more people to spend intentional time with!) You can read books (spiritual, theological, practical) together, talk about issues such as singleness/marriage/parenting together, and share in one another’s suffering. The key is that you spend time together with the goal of growing in the Lord together.
In 2 Timothy 2:2, the Apostle Paul challenges his spiritual mentee and co-worker Timothy: “The things you have heard from me in the presence of many witnesses, these entrust to faithful men who will be able to teach others also.” There are four implied spiritual generations in this verse: Paul, Timothy, the people Timothy was to teach, and the people that those people were to teach.
When I was an elementary school boy, I used to lie on my bed and do doubling math in my head for as long as I was able: 1, 2, 4, 8, 16, 32, 64, 128, 256, 512, 1024, 2048, 4096, 8192…
Spiritual relationships of the mentoring variety can initially seem slow and without much fruit. But the fruit often turns out to be exponential, a bit like the doubling I used to do in my head as a kid. You may see little immediate fruit when you are spending time with two or three, but if those two or three truly learn to walk with the Lord and spend intentional God-honoring time with others, who knows how many others will be impacted? And if you do this as the pattern of your life, the impact might not only be in the dozens, but could in the long run be hundreds and thousands.