How did Douglas MacArthur become Douglas MacArthur? During World War ii, this man was one of only five promoted to the rank of five-star general. He is one of the most recognizable names in American military history.
The answer has to do with another MacArthur: his father, Arthur MacArthur. He too was a well-respected general in the United States Army. And to his son, Douglas, he was a mentor.
One of Douglas’s classmates at West Point said that he “often wondered if he could ever become as great as his father.” And 30 years after the elder MacArthur died, his son said, “Whenever I perform a mission and I think I have done it well, I feel that I can [stand] up squarely to my dad and say, ‘Governor, how about it?’”
The connection and the benefit between these two Generals MacArthur is clear. But it encapsulates a responsibility that every Christian man should give serious thought to.
A man must awaken to his duty as a mentor.
What Is a Mentor?
A mentor is one who teaches or gives help and advice to a less experienced, often younger person. He is a trusted counselor or guide. Mentoring is a relationship—a partnership between one man with experience and another with a hunger to learn.
God can use you to change the course of a young man’s life.
First, though, you have to realize the importance and power of this responsibility. Recognize the dedication it takes to create this powerful connection. Then embrace it. Move beyond merely developing as a godly man—to help develop other godly men.
The need is great. There are dozens, hundreds of junior partners out there ready to learn but needing mentors. Think not just of your own children, but also of the fatherless and other youths, teenagers and young men who need direction and guidance.
Masculine mentoring is not a matter of just taking charge and teaching everyone who walks by what you think is right or what you think should be done. It comes with time and with maturity. It comes with your own conversion. It comes with submitting to God. It comes with God exerting influence on you, and you exerting that same influence on other young men.
Training young people takes time, energy, investment. Recognize that when a problem arises with your children or someone you are working with, it is not an imposition—but an opportunity. It is about helping someone through setbacks, learning from mistakes, shepherding someone toward greater maturity.
The Power in Sharing Knowledge
Biblical manhood mandates that you share your knowledge—that you teach, counsel and guide.
Regarding Abraham, God said, “For I know him, that he will command his children and his household after him, and they shall keep the way of the Lord, to do justice and judgment …” (Genesis 18:19). A big part of what impressed God so much about Abraham was that he would teach, guide, counsel, advise, instruct, mentor!
When God said this, Abraham had only one son. You don’t even have to have children for God to recognize this quality in you.
You see the results of Abraham’s mentoring in the way Isaac conducted himself (e.g. during the trial of Genesis 22). Compare the difference between Isaac, who had the benefit of Abraham’s direct influence, and Ishmael, who did not. You can even see the results of Abraham’s mentoring in his servants—for example, the servant who was full of faith when he sought out a bride for Isaac on Abraham’s behalf (Genesis 24).
God learns a lot about you from the way you treat children, especially those of your own household. He notices whether you help them grow in the right way, to do justice and judgment.
This relationship between mentor and student is extremely important to God. God is helping us all to grow, and He is using people like Abraham to do it. God wants us all to develop the mindset Abraham had in mentoring others. “The lips of the righteous feed many” (Proverbs 10:21). Again, it requires wisdom in knowing whom to feed and when—this is certainly not an invitation to proselytize or force unwanted advice on others. But the principles that guide God’s Work can apply on an individual level within our families and congregations. “Buy the truth, and sell it not”—give it away! (Proverbs 23:23). This is a wonderful, practical example of living the give way of life.
What a Godly Man Does
Gen. Wilbur Lyman Creech, commander of the U.S. Air Force Tactical Air Command from 1978 to 1984, said: “The first duty of a leader is to create more leaders.”
Moses mentored Joshua. Samuel mentored King David and students at three colleges. David mentored Solomon. Elijah mentored Elisha. Paul mentored Timothy and other elders. You see a pattern: Godly men have a mind to develop other godly men.
What did Jesus do when He was a human being? He spent a great deal of time setting an amazing example of mentorship. He was a teacher and guide—especially to His 12 disciples. He developed a close relationship with these men, training, counseling, instructing. He had a special and very close mentoring relationship with the Apostle John, preparing him for an important work. And what great leaders these men became: From Jerusalem to Turkey to Persia to North Africa to Europe to the British Isles, they set the world on fire with the true gospel!
The Bible is loaded with admonitions about and examples of this teaching dynamic. Most of them revolve around teaching our children God’s truth (e.g. Deuteronomy 4:9; 6:7; 11:19; Psalm 78:1-8). Ephesians 6:4 exhorts fathers to bring up our children in the nurture and admonition of the Lord. Titus 2 instructs older women to work with not just their own daughters but younger women in general—and not really in spiritual, but in physical matters. The principle certainly applies to older men mentoring younger men. It is a duty and a privilege.
The Mentor’s Mindset
Becoming a mentor starts with thinking like a mentor. This has two components: 1) recognizing someone’s potential; and 2) recognizing your capacity to help him achieve it.
Neither of these attributes comes to us naturally. They are contrary to our selfish nature. Both require maturity and big-mindedness. They require seeing people the way God does and then caring enough to actually help them!
This takes effort, concentration and prayer. It also takes sacrifice and time—time you may not want to give, frustration you may wish to do without, sacrifice you would prefer not to make. But that is thinking selfishly. Think like God.
Realize that besides benefiting your student, mentoring also benefits you.You need opportunities to think beyond yourself. You need opportunities to think unselfishly, like God. This is the way of the God Family: the way of sacrifice in order to teach others.
This is a revolutionary concept at the very heart of God’s plan for you: Your life isn’t just about bettering yourself. It’s about bettering yourself through bettering others! It’s about growing by helping others to grow.
Once you have the mindset to see someone’s potential and to recognize your own power to teach, then you will see these opportunities all around you.
Two Components of Mentoring
The act of mentoring includes two components: 1) providing guidance; and 2) providing opportunities.
Mentoring means giving counsel, offering advice and delivering instruction. It also means arranging opportunities, opening doors and providing challenges—giving assignments that will help your students’ growth.
Young men crave mentors. They want guidance from older men. They desire focused attention. They may even have an inkling of how much their lives could change with the right guidance and experience.
If you have a son, start with him. Double the amount of time you spend with him. Look for every chance to do things together. Think of every little thing you can teach him to prepare him for manhood. Look for opportunities and challenges to give him.
Once you make headway there, look at other people you can help: people who work for you, your students, other boys and young men in your congregation. Pay attention to them. Show interest. Develop a rapport. Think about whether you can include them in your work or in your plans. Look for opportunities to teach and pass along something of value.
A mentor asks himself these questions: What do I know that can profit others? Who can benefit from this knowledge? What can I learn that will be useful knowledge to teach others? What do I wish someone had taught me? What opportunities can I provide?
Young people have so many things they need to learn: how to stay focused on a task; how to tie a tie; how to build a fire; how to treat a wound; how to change a car’s oil; how to fix a leak; how to hunt; how to have meaningful conversation; how to treat a woman; how to date; how to be a man of your word—and so on. What knowledge do you have that you could pass along? Do you know of any young people who could use some helpful instruction from someone with experience and skills?
“I have set before thee an open door,” the ultimate Mentor wrote in Revelation 3, “and no man can shut it: for thou hast a little strength, and hast kept my word, and hast not denied my name” (verse 8) These are God’s words to His people, and note that He not only provides us with instruction, but He opens doors—He supplies opportunities to help us grow.
Building the God Family
Take on this godly attitude toward others, especially those who are younger than you. Recognize their potential. See them as the future men and women—the future God beings—that they are! That is what God does.
Then, recognize your duty. God gives you the capacity, the experience and the spiritual maturity to make a difference in the lives of young people. Don’t squander it.
Take this especially seriously in regards to your office as a father and your relationship with your son. God has placed real power in the office you hold in your son’s life! Remember hard-core, tough-as-nails five-star general Douglas MacArthur, who held life and death in his hands for thousands of men, and remember who he thought of at the end of a mission: his dad.
You have the same manly duty that Arthur MacArthur had. This responsibility in many ways determines your real effectiveness as a leader and the legacy you leave long after you are gone.
So wake up to your critical duty of biblical manhood: Be a mentor!