Thinking about Mentoring


One of the great blessings in ministry is the opportunity to walk alongside others in a relationship of discipleship. Often, deep friendship arises from such relationships—which is exactly the case for me with Chuck Lawless.

When I was dean of The Billy Graham School of Missions, Evangelism and Church Growth at Southern Seminary in Louisville, Kentucky, I had the privilege of being Chuck’s professor and doctoral supervisor. He demonstrated great academic skill and Great Commission passion.

Eventually, Chuck became a faculty member in the Graham School and then replaced me as dean when I accepted the call to become president of LifeWay Christian Resources. Now he’s serving the International Mission Board as vice president for global theological advance. I’m incredibly proud of him. 

Chuck would be the first to tell you that mentoring has changed his life. He’s been mentored and mentors others, which makes him more than qualified to speak about this important topic. As a result, he’s written a new study to help others pursue meaningful and effective mentoring relationships, called Mentor: How Along-the-Way Discipleship will Change Your Life.

Chuck has some helpful insights about mentoring. Let me share a few of my take-aways from reading his book:

  • Mentoring is about relationships. “It is a God-given relationship in which one growing Christian encourages and equips another believer to reach his/her potential as a disciple of Christ.”
  • Mentoring is rooted in Jesus’ Great Commission mandate to make disciples. “To be like Jesus is to be willing to reproduce ourselves in disciples, release them to do ministry, and support them as they invest in others—just as Jesus did.”
  • Mentoring is costly and risky. “We have to prioritize; spending time with others usually means deleting something else from the calendar. We have to put our egos aside; our own sins are magnified when others are watching. We often have to spend money; the costs of study resources, shared meals, and occasional travel expenses quickly add up. We may be misunderstood; mentors sometimes get accused of having favorites. And too often we experience disappointment; mentees often fail. Any mentor might wonder at times if mentoring is worth the effort."
  • Mentoring is unique to each relationship, not a “one size fits all” kind of pursuit.
  • Mentoring is about multiplication. “Mentoring is about reproduction. Multiplication. Growing influence. Making disciples. It’s about finding someone like Paul in your life, someone to learn from, so that you can turn around and teach a Timothy, someone who can learn from you."
  • Mentoring is easily derailed by unclear expectations. “One of the most common problems in mentoring relationships … is unmet expectations. In mentoring relationships, talking about expectations at the start can protect the relationship from hurt feelings and awkwardness later.” 

These highlights are just a glimpse of the practical wisdom and many rich lessons that Chuck offers in his book. Much more could be said, but let me encourage you to do this study for yourself and then get busy with the work of mentoring others. 

People are looking for deep, meaningful relationships and connections. The Great Commission compels us to "make disciples." Thank you, Chuck, for helping us understand how to fulfill that mandate with effective and purposeful mentoring.

Mentor by Chuck Lawless from Threads on Vimeo.


  • Jeremy Statnol says:

    Weren’t you and Dr. Lawless known as Batman and Robin while you were at Southern Seminary? Who was the Penguin?

  • Thom Rainer says:

    Yes to the former. No comment to the latter.

  • Kathy L. Godwin says:

    Dr. Rainer,
    I wish many could have seen the relationship between you and Dr. Lawless while you both were at Southern Seminary. In the sometimes elitist world of theological education, you two were a breath of fresh air. You were examples for all of us to follow. You were real. And you were really funny.

  • Thom Rainer says:

    Thank you for your kind words Kathy. In reference to your comment that we were funny, you had to be talking about Dr. Lawless. I am sure I was totally subdued the entire time I was there 🙂

  • Gary Rossmeyer says:

    I remember Dr. Lawless telling the story about the time you asked him to feed your bird while you were out of town. He asked you if you had an house alarm with a code, and you proceeded to give him a code with over 100 characters. Of course, you didn’t have a security system at all in your home.
    Is that story really true?

  • Thom Rainer says:

    Gary –
    Now why would you think that I would do something like that?

  • Travis Northcutt says:

    I am a product of Dr. Lawless mentoring ministry. He personally mentored my pastor who in turn mentored me. I had the privilage of sitting in several classes at Southern with Dr.Lawless and took away mountains of useful information and ministry tools. But the lesson that stands out most to me, is what he taught me while eating ice cream in Lanesville, In. He and Mrs. Pam took my wife and I out for supper.

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