Who Mentors the Missionary?

8462099922_bb5217bf7e_z“Be careful with people who are quick to mentor, but lack one themselves.”  

This cautionary proverb was written on a friends Facebook wall today, and I’ll have to admit, it got to me.  It got to me because I don’t think I have one.  A mentor that is.  At least not in the same sense that my friend meant.  


  • Am I accountable to various people within the body of Christ?  –  Yes, I believe I am.
  • Am I responsible for the spiritual formation of others by making disciples?  –  In part.
  • Am I teachable by those we interact with on the mission field?  –  I think so.
  • Do I have a mentor?  –  No, I don’t 

I suppose I would love to have a mentor.  Someone wiser, more experienced, more knowledgeable, more mature in the faith, etc., and I’m positive they are out there, but I am a missionary.  My wife and I laid down everything in our former everyday lives to answer a call that God issued and “distanced” ourselves from those who could mentor us.  We’re on the edges of culture where none have been before.  I’m not so sure that apprenticeship or mentoring is viable for missionary pioneers.

I can’t help but wonder what a mentor would look like to me or any other missionary that has done the same.  If someone’s going to “show me the ropes,” then I suppose it fair to assume that they have a familiarity with them.  Also, I believe that incarnational/missional living is proportionate to the sacrificial.  Who mentors the missionary in being more sacrificial without the intention to be more sacrificial themselves?   

I’m not feeling guilty for not having a mentor, but I suppose I’m sad.  I’m sad that there is not a pool of mentors at my disposal to choose from.  So, what do I do?  I draw encouragement, exhortation, and education from a broad spectrum of Christ’s body as they live out their callings in their own contexts.  As a missionary, what other choice do I have?

A few questions:

1.  Who’s suppose to mentor the missionary?

2.  Should I have a mentor?

3.  What are the character traits of someone who mentors a missionary?  


0 thoughts on “Who Mentors the Missionary?

  1. Chip Lamca says:

    1. There is far less excuse than there used to be for not having a mentor or maybe think of the mentor as someone whose voice you respect. You might have a voice you listen to more for some things than others. I am thinking an American for reasons of heart language – even with your skill in the language. You really should have someone in Ecuador who can speak to you and lovingly tell you when he thinks you need to think things over. Don’t confuse this with entering into a control relationship.
    2. Yeah.
    3. Love, willingness to correct gently or not as gently depending on the stiffness of your neck. Love

  2. Marshall says:

    one of the curious mysteries of God… the new children teach-disciple the “parent(s)” (evangelist, apostle/missionary…) Something physical parents become familiar; occurs in the Spirit, also. The joy to see adults learning-growing from the children they have helped to birth & wean.

  3. Katie Mather says:

    Yeah… we get that one too. A mentor supposedly is one who is out ahead of you and can point the way. But what if there is no one ahead of you and you are a pioneer blazing a trail for others. What we do have is a net work of close friends and at the top of that list is our children. They are all in their 30’s now and have walked with us in ministry their whole lives. They are now our “directors,” because they know us, they love us and they do not have an agenda to discredit us. They certainly do want to take our ministry from us so that we can stop doing EVERYTHING. And become more effective by delegating to them. But unlike “church people” we have put our lives into them for 30 years or more. They have vision of their own for this ministry. But most of all, they are concerned for our wellbeing. We can trust them implicitly. Many who would like to be “mentors” are not so trustworthy.

    So you can say that we mentored them so that they can now take care of us…

    I know that this is a rare thing, especially with one’s children, let alone within a friendship. But we can share the deep stuff of the heart that we cannot share even with close friends. Simply because we know that they cannot bear what we bear.

    The key is to have relationship with someone who is not impressed and does not have their own agenda to promote themselves but gives of themselves to serve another…

    Oh, gotta go. Tim needs me…

  4. David Woods says:

    There are two questions that have stuck in my craw, and which have been central in forming my beliefs about the false teachings of the church, and this is one of them, usually phrased (by me) this way; How is the missionary supposed to “get fed”? How paramount can being mentored, or “getting fed” or “refueling” (or however you wanna phrase it) possibly be if the Lord sends missionaries into parts of the world where this is impossible, and expects them to build fellowships? The same questions basically goes for Apostles (under the church planter definition).

    Now, I’m not saying it’s not important, of course, or that the weak minded won’t fall away without it, but at what point is one deemed “safe to send”, or even, just to let go. And who makes this decision? If not forsaking the assembly is an absolute, then like you said, who mentors the missionary?

    The answer, of course, lies in the fact that the question only comes about because the Lord is being left completely out of the equation in the first place. The Lord mentors the missionary, the Lord decides who gets sent, and when, and where to send them. The Lord is the answer to many of the theological questions that frequently get brought about by leaving the Lord out of the picture. This phenomenon is one of the most common that I’ve seen in the Christian world since my eyes have been opened.

    • David Woods says:

      Consequently, the second question concerns the question of the Lord speaking to us ONLY through Scripture. The question, of course, is: What about the persecuted Christians in Iran (or anywhere) who are jailed for their faith, and have no access to their Bibles? Are they left comfortless for years on end, with no access to the throne of grace, and no way to hear from the Lord? Who comforts them? (Same question, of course for the illiterate)

      The answer is the same. It’s the Lord. The Lord comforts them, the Lord speaks to them, The Lord, the Lord, the Lord. The answer is the Lord. He always has been the answer, from Genesis to Revelation and beyond. The answer, is the Lord.

  5. Marshall says:

    “mentoring” is a delimited, stripped-down version of what was “making disciples”; conceptually borrowed from mythology, and often practiced or promulgated toward subversion of disciple-making.
    Just one more thing the world began doing, so that the industrial church also began to take it up (at least until mentors are no longer in vogue).

  6. Jack says:

    I too have longed, even searched for a mentor and so far settled for 3 guys who are giants of humility and mentored in writings.

    Our mission agency’s #1 goal is caring for the sent ones. We assign a pastoral couple to each as they go who follows them regularly throughout their ministry. What a privilege

  7. Sheri says:

    I am a missionary who was called back to my homeland. Before being sent to the mission field I had a mentor. He is a little man from India who has a giant faith. For a series of years I sat at his feet and learned from him, I walked many paths with him. When I was in the mission field, his voice was in my head and his example was before me. He has been a blessing to my life.

    Once in the mission field, I relied on the Holy Spirit, who is always with me, and I committed to continue to learn. I built friendships with those in other places and through technology (Skype) we shared one another’s burdens and prayed together regularly. I also found a Christian conference that encouraged my soul. I made a commitment to attend annually.

    I know all of this was important to keep the faith in days of struggle and to guard my heart.

    I would say, the Holy Spirit is the missionaries mentor, but the missionary is NOT a lone ranger and needs to find and build a support network.

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