How To Mentor Character Into Others

Teacher and Mentor, Dr. Howard Hendricks talked about the necessity for good mentors this way: “The greatest crisis today is the crisis in leadership. And the greatest crisis in leadership is the crisis of character. Character is the result of four things: 

  1. The choices you make;
  2. The values you embrace;
  3. The crises you experience;
  4. The mentor you choose. ” 1

Do you have a mentor, a mentoree? 

I can't forget the character impacting mentoring I've seen overseas. In an internet letter I read, “These are the times of tall men, and short character.” But not everywhere! I've seen tall character missionaries mentoring others. In Zambia, I traveled with a missionary driving to a village to witness; in the truck seat with him was a “new”" missionary. 

What an experience I had, listening, watching, seeing the modeling of the veteran as he introduced the new guy to a village chief, and modeled how to visit and greet people in each mud house. Later he explained customs affecting cultural values and character assessments the tribe made about accepting a non-tribal person. All week I watched primal mentoring. The air was thickened those days in the bush by questions and discussions on ministry, prayer, and sharing. In the USA I've seen the lasting fruit of pastors with their mentored teams of changed men living holy lives of character. 

What can influence positively and deeply a commitment to godly character in us and to encourage others to whom we minister? There are two things. First, we must get the Word of God into hearts, and secondly, we have to see it modeled, lived out in lives. John describes meeting the greatest mentor: “And the Word became flesh, and dwelt among us, and we beheld his glory. . . .” Then John hands us a five-word “Polaroid” photo of Jesus' character strengths: “. . . full of grace and truth”(John 1:14). The writer, John, vividly remembers in his old age the impact of seeing “Scripture with legs” — Jesus in action, teaching, caring, standing strong! Jesus tenting, dwelling among them. He writes with freshness and wonder: “From the very first day, we were there, taking it all in – we heard it with our own ears, saw it with our own eyes, verified it with our own hands. The Word of Life appeared right before our eyes; we saw it happen! And now we're telling you in most sober prose that what we witnessed was, incredibly, this: The infinite Life of God himself took shape before us ” (1 John 1:1-2, The Message). Nothing teaches Christ's character faster than seeing it lived out. When the Bible we are learning is fleshed out by parents and other mentors in daily life, it marks us — unforgettable. 

John summarizes two life qualities of Jesus that remained glued to his heart all those decades. Jesus was “full of grace and truth.” What a difficult combination! Jesus was wonderful to be with. He was always sensitive, loving, attentive, thoughtful, forgiving, focused on you. Full of grace. But Jesus was also full of truth. His “yes” was total. His “no” was resolute. His pronouncements were final and eternal. There was no blending error with truth. Truth is pure, demanding, convicting. Some people are gracious, but are flabby and too bending. Others are so legalistic, so iron-fisted and unbending, they hurt us. Grace and truth are hard to mix. “Speaking the truth, in love” is supernatural. These radically different character qualities John could not forget. They are living, combined, balanced perfectly in one man: Christ Jesus! 

Character is the fruit of “abiding in Him,” allowing Christ Jesus to live His life in you, through you. There are key Bible passages that, as they soak into our hearts, the Holy Spirit uses to bring growth and change into Christlikeness. We get convicted about our attitudes, our reactions, and our words. And character solidifies. Consider using these in a sermon series, in your Bible study group, with your family, and in training those whom you mentor. 

Seven Character-sharpening Tools

1. Proverbs. As a young couple with three children, Clemmie and I found Proverbs a fascinating book to use in child-rearing. Among the 50 different topical categories in Proverbs, we studied nine character areas with our kids. We discovered positive and negative qualities, and their consequences. Some of these contrasts are found in a single verse. We found other verses that give a thought which is double-complete — where the second line agrees or underscores the first line. There are many comparative proverbs in which “then” sometimes begins the second line. Using a large concordance, look up the references to each key word or topic, and then read these nuggets of gold cross references. Focus on one word-idea for a week. Discuss how to discover the “fool,” the “wise” in your life. Share ideas on how to apply a verse to our lives. Look up these words to start: “wise/wisdom” contrasted with the “fool;” the “heart;” the “tongue;” “honest/lying,” “friends/neighbors;” “give(ing)/wealth;” “home/parents;” “honor.” 

2. The 10 Commandments — Exodus 20:1-17. The first five commands deal with our relationship with God; the other five emphasize essential earthly relationships. Nine of these ten are commanded in the New Testament, too. We need to memorize these in order and review them regularly. They strike at the heart of the Law, and under gird the stability of any nation, culture, and home. 

3. The Sermon on the Mount — Matthew 5-7. One of the most humble millionaires I've met told about starting a company during the 1930's Depression. He had been encouraged to memorize the Sermon on the Mount. Quoting these verses daily changed his life and business. Mr. Taylor quoted the verses while seeking application to his life for over 30 years. Applying a single verse on dealing with an enemy (Luke 6:27, 28) revolutionized my life and application alertness. Verses on salt, light, and obedience that brought conviction to my life years ago are still alive and working in my heart today. 

4. The Upper Room Discourse — John 14-17. One of the richest passages in the Bible, this section of chapters reveals Christ's invasion into the life and work of every believer. One core theology which is found here: Jesus introduces to us the Holy Spirit. 

5. The Fruit of the Spirit Are Attitudes. Walk in the Spirit — Galatians 5:16-26. Attitude is everything with God, because our attitudes expose the real heart of us. Our works alone cannot reveal what our true motives and intentions are. Why you do what you do is more important than that you do it! 

6. Growth Steps to Fine-tune our Spiritual Life — 2 Peter 1:4-7. The essential building blocks for your spiritual house are unveiled in this text. Like swallowing a daily multi-vitamin to be healthy, use this passage in your devotions. Meditate on one word in this list each day for a week. Ask our Teacher, the Holy Spirit, to show you one truth to apply or one character deficiency. Pray the verse into your life and memorize it. Ask God to build that quality into your life and believe that He will! The power to apply Scripture comes through our surrender to be controlled by the Holy Spirit (Ephesians 5:18). 

7. Character-building Booklets. For children at three different grade levels, Character Builders is a terrific set of booklets. 2 Their 48 character traits have priceless definitions followed by stories that illustrate each trait. My wife loves these samples: 

   Attentiveness – Listening with the eyes, ears, and heart
   Meekness – Patience without anger

Character Revealed by Contrast

In light of the need to be specific and sensitive about our character growth, I've been encouraged and challenged to pray over a short list that reveals the character of Christ. Alongside each positive characteristic is a contrasting negative trait. 3

  • Accuracy vs. Carelessness
  • Alertness vs. Unawareness
  • Attentiveness vs. Resentment
  • Boldness vs. Fearfulness
  • Compassion vs. Indifference
  • Creativity vs. Underachievement
  • Decisiveness vs. Double-mindedness
  • Diligence vs. Slothfulness
  • Faith vs. Presumption
  • Forgiveness vs. Rejection
  • Joyfulness vs. Frustration
  • Self-control vs. Self-gratification
  • Truthfulness vs. Deception

God Gives Us Models and Mentors

Sometimes good mentors and character models are rare in our lives. There are available, however, 2900 names of different people in the Bible. God recorded the struggles and strengths of multiple persons — these biographies are meant for our observation and meditation. These model walking in truth, running from evil, or the terrible, tragic consequences of sin. Our entertainment culture rarely teaches the sure, terrible judgment that comes to us and to others as well from breaking God's laws. It is essential that we teach and testify to the consequences of our words and actions, as we train our children and mentor others. 

Some Bible biographies are summarized in a sentence. Others fill paragraphs or chapters. Begin your study with shorter biographies such as Hannah, Asa, Timothy and Barnabas. List any good you see that they did. Then list bad decisions they made. Meditate on “why.” Next relate their life actions and the consequences to God. What lessons did you specifically learn? Where will you change your life because of this study? Four Old Testament people flavor many verses in the New Testament: Abraham, Moses, David, and Elijah. They are the most important to study, but require a lengthier analysis. The “clay” of each of these lives will lead us closer to the heart of God and His character. 

1 Message at Xenos Discipleship Conference, Columbus, Ohio, July 17, 2003. 
2 Ron and Rebekah Coriell, Fleming H. Revel by Assoc. of Chr. Schools International, Box 4097, Whittier, CA 90607. 
3 Notes from Institute in Basic Youth Conflicts, Bill Gothard, Tampa, Florida, 1975. 

Building Leadership Through Mentoring - Part 1

“Mentoring is a brain to pick, a shoulder to cry on, and a kick in the pants.” Richard Tyre used this definition, describing mentoring through the eyes of a mentor. 1

A layman from the church which I pastored was helping me fix a broken water pump for our air conditioner. Jim turned on the electricity and water shot out, squirting all over me. His face showed shock.

What would I say or do? I began to laugh, wiping my face and shaking water off!

He then relaxed. Later Jim told me that that experience with the water was the first time he had felt close to me. We can't build leaders long-distance.

Jesus' private time with His disciples — away from the crowds (the pulpit and public times) — was the critical mentoring foundation for all that he did publicly. Pastors, too, need to get out of the pulpit to do mentoring. They must network into the life and fabric of the ones they mentor.

The term “mentor” is linked with a wise and trusted counselor or teacher. It was used about Odysseus's trusted counselor, in ancient Greek Mythology, where Athena became the guardian and teacher of Telemachus. Most major businesses, our armed forces officer's training, plus Christian groups and churches now use “mentor” to represent a special relational process.


  • “It is a dynamic relationship of trust in which one person enables another to maximize the grace of God in his/her life and service.” — John Mallison 2
  • “Mentoring is a relationship through which one person empowers another by sharing God-given resources.” — Robert Clinton 3
  • “An agreed-upon exchange between two men, a more experienced man and a less experienced man, developing the less experienced to his maximum potential in Christ and empowering him with abilities to meet a need, achieve a goal, or to grow through a situation.” — Murray and Owen. 4

The Bible is chock-full of excellent examples of mentoring relationships. See Moses learning from his father-in-law, Jethro ( Exodus 18 ). Follow Moses mentoring Joshua ( Deuteronomy 3:28 ). It's amazing to see spiritually hungry Elisha run past the other prophets to get to Elijah's side ( 2 Kings 2:1-16 ), passionate about being mentored. Follow David's growth as his mentor-peer, Jonathan, introduces him to political leadership. Other kings were mentored by their religious teachers.

In the New Testament our supreme model, Jesus Christ, mentored the Twelve and the Three. One of the three, Peter, in turn had some type of mentoring relationship with Barnabas ( Galatians 2:11-13 ). Barnabas then imitated the method that he'd benefited from, by mentoring Mark and Paul. Through Paul, God erected a chain of Spirit-filled, world-changing mentors and church planters.

Let's look at five important mentoring elements involved in building a spiritual leader from scratch. It will cost you some personal time. We shoot for biblical “koinonia.” The Greek word “koinonia,” translated fellowship, means “to share or to partner, to invest in.” Amazingly, in the heart of an apprentice your time, words, attitudes, and actions are etched on their memory. They will quote you for years! Little is much when God is in it.

We will use these ideas: Principles & Promises, Progress, Problems, Prayer, and Practical ministry. These five elements are present in most meeting times or weeks that I'm investing in an individual. But their order may vary. For instance, perhaps someone needs help with a problem, or is yearning to pray over a need. That would be my first (but perhaps not my only) priority for our time together. Other times the mentoree has a Bible question, and one goes from there. Let's take a more in-depth look at these five mentoring elements, and how they allow us “to share and invest in” others.

(Colossians 2:2b, 3; Colossians 3:16; 2 Peter 1:4)

Ultimately the mentor and mentoree must have a structured time together in God's Word. We need a base and a focal point of agreement. John communicates Jesus' coming in this way: “The Word became flesh and dwelt among us.” (John 1:14). Jesus perfectly lived out the Word. He fully revealed God's will through His life and words. Answers to questions, solutions to problems, standards for living — these all flow from Scripture. The foundation of any growing mentoring relationship will involve sharing and living the Word of God.

Joe was an appliance repairman for General Electric. I was leading a men's group at 6 a.m., teaching laymen how to feed their souls doing inductive Bible study. We invited Joe to join us. As Joe gingerly took “baby steps,” writing insights on 10 verses of Scripture, he grew to studying entire books of the New Testament. Joe's mind was stimulated, regulated to think, evaluate, and discern.

Everything improved in Joe's personal life. He was promoted at his job, then promoted again — and again! Calling me from a new executive position in New York, Joe, the ex-refrigerator repair guy, excitedly told me that when he learned to study the Bible for himself, everything began to change. It was the reason he'd been promoted to corporate leadership. Through Scripture memory, inductive Bible study, and meditation, anyone may jump from pew-sitting to “flight training.” He enters a new dimension, where he experiences God in every layer of his life. God's word applied had changed Joe's whole life!

I once asked a question of author-professor Dr. Howard Hendricks. “What is the first thing you try to do with the new convert?” Howard answered, “First thing I do, crack out of the box, is get a man into Bible study.” The Bible is a book of principles to live by, and promises to believe and claim. Through Scripture, God's fingers will touch every part of our lives. The mentor needs to model what he wants the mentoree to do and be. In the area of “Principles” we are to be pacesetters, leading the mentoree into Bible study.

When I meet for mentoring with a guy, I always want to know where he is in the Scriptures. Can he feed himself? Is he memorizing the Word? Does he know how to hear from God every day as he reads and studies the Bible? One characteristic that separates a baby from a teen-ager is the ability to feed oneself.

An easier method for an apprentice is to use a simple, question-answer type Bible study. Among the practical studies available is First Steps, which centers on John's Gospel. Then, you might move to the more demanding Living God's Word. 5 Another simple discipline involves teaching the mentee to take and review Sunday's sermon notes. In addition, when you pass on a few fun methods of Bible reading, it will push the mentee into new discovery and delight as he/she reads the Word. A good mentor helps plug his friend immediately into the Holy Spirit's master life-changer, the Scripture.

(Hebrews 3:13; Ecclesiastes 8:11)

People do what we inspect, rather than what we expect. All of us need to be accountable. There is no biblical “lone wolf” Christianity! Howard Hendricks cautions, “A person trying to make it on his own is an accident waiting to happen.” John Wesley said, “The Bible knows nothing of solitary religion — watch over one another in love.” 6 Do not attempt your Christian journey alone. “Find companions who see you as a pilgrim, even a straggler, and not as a guide. The Old Testament tells the story of the people of God. Jesus' parables unveil the kingdom; the epistles went primarily to communities of faith. We have little guidance on how to live as a follower alone, because God never intended it.” 7 We are to care enough to lovingly challenge the mentoree and help him be faithful to his commitment to the spiritual disciplines. One must show more patience, however, with a new convert. And with each person, I suggest lovingly, using much patience and encouragement.

When I met men early in the morning for an agreed-on Bible study, I asked each man, “Did you do the study?” Our rule was, those who hadn't written down the study couldn't comment on the passage. I recall the shocked faces of the men who had done nothing, surprised to be checked on their “homework” for the first time ever! Sadly, at church they had never before been held accountable for anything!

Some kind of discipline is at the root of all mentoring; that is, if the mentoring process has true disciple-building as it's goal. God commands us to “Exhort one another daily, while it is called Today, lest any of you be hardened from the deceitfulness of sin.” (Hebrews 3:13). To lovingly confront and ask for faithfulness in biblically-based and agreed-upon assignments — that lifts a sagging relationship, without focus, to one of strong growth-potential. On the other hand, a “no check-up” relationship blunts people from conviction and spiritual reproduction.

Other forms of mentoring, however, may require less focus, for short-time help. My goal is not only to help the person where he is. If he is open, I want to share ALL that I can that will challenge him to a greater love for Jesus, and a willingness to follow Christ anywhere. 


1 Richard Tyre. 
2 John Mallison, Mentoring to Develop Disciples and Leaders, Scripture Union, NSW, Australia, p. 34. 
3 Clinton, Robert, Connecting, NavPress. 
4 Murray and Owen. 
5 Moore, Waylon B., Living God's Word, LifeWay Publishers (Nashville, TN), 1998. First Steps and Living God's Word may both be ordered from Order page to come. Email: for more information.
6 Mallison, John, Mentoring to Develop Disciples and Leaders, p. 34. 
7 Philip Yancey, “My to-be list: What I Learned from a 50-Year Spiritual Check-Up,” Ministry, September, 2000, (Napa, CA: Pacific Press), p. 11.

Conserving Evangelistic Results

“Follow-up is the greatest problem facing Southern Baptists,” said a president of the Southern Baptist Convention. “ We're getting more and more of less and less,” a denominational executive told me at a large gathering.

Around the world, the explosion of newly-born believers is without parallel in the past 16 centuries. The loss of these being won, to active growth through the local church, has also reached record proportions. About one convert in nine is conserved in Puerto Rico, one in five in Brazil, one in three in the U.S.A., reported missionaries. The need for radical reexamination of present methods, and a new commitment to New Testament basics, must become the burden of all who win new believers.

Why are we losing so many from the church and Christ's Great Commission? Certainly cults grab all they can; Satan works to destroy the ministry of God's Word. The vacuum of trained church leadership leaves thousands of small groups of believers without a needed model and shepherding care. Ignorance of Scripture, blindness on the part of sincere church leadership, unwillingness to pay the price of raising spiritual children, busyness and activity which are not geared to meeting the special needs of converts — all mean terrible losses to the future ranks of those evangelizing and growth of new churches and mission points, we see factors which return us again to the basics of follow-up from the New Testament.

Let us look at four of these which the Apostle Paul employed effectively in a totally negative environment.

Personal Follow-up

Follow-up begins only after effective evangelism. The most fertile soil for rich follow-up is an evangelistic environment to train new believers. With many varieties of good materials available (see *), follow-up is still best done by someONE rather than by someTHING. A summary of Acts and 1 Thessalonians reveals that all effective follow-up is personal.

Paul followed up by personal contact. His missionary journeys were two-fold; to evangelize and then to confirm new believers (See Acts 15:36 ). Fellowship was not a once-a-week experience. Daily times of sharing, praising, studying, and witnessing were common (See Acts 2:42-47; 20:20 ). The fellowship gap between Sundays was just not there in the 1st Century, as it is today. Paul spent days, even months, in nurturing converts. He knew a healthy birth was essential for consistent growth. He was willing to give more than the Gospel; his very life was available to love, feed, protect, and train new believers (see 1 Thessalonians 2:8 ).


“Decision is five percent; following up the decision is the 95 percent,” teaches Billy Graham, international evangelist. As a loving parent, Paul recognized that God has given each spiritual child to a spiritual parent. He called himself both a nursing mother and an exhorting father (see 1 Thessalonians 2:7, 11 ). Thus, the raising up of parent-hearted believers is a major goal for any pastor who would see his children's children. Paul was a living example, and so those he won, won others (see 1 Thessalonians 1:5-8 ). The “followers” of verse six became the “models” (molds, patterns) in verse seven, and the disciples multiplied (See v. 8-10 ).

Application Today: Personal Training

Assign a growing believer to visit and teach each person accepting Christ. Individual attention, encouragement, and spiritual help within 48 hours is worth more than days of contact (if you can find them) weeks later. A warm Sunday School class environment, continuous encouragement, and private teaching link the new baby with his spiritual family in the local church.

Paul followed up by personally training others. Satan kept Paul from returning to Thessalonica (see 1 Thessalonians 2:17, 18 ). God's secret weapon to thwart this vicious attack by the Enemy was a trained man, Timothy (see 1 Thessalonians 3:1-5 ). The lives of Titus, Timothy, Epaphras, and a host of others are woven in the texture of the Acts and the Epistles. When Paul could not go to Corinth, Titus was sent to encourage and teach. Timothy went to Thessalonica. Summarizing his training method in Philippians 2:19-24, Paul stresses that Timothy was “with him” in the ministry. It takes time to grow spiritual children into multiplying adults. The “with him” principle which Jesus used, spending three concentrated years, 14 to 16 hours a day with the disciples (see Mark 3:14 ), has been substituted by many for as large a group as we can find to listen one day a week. Soul winning is ultimately personal. Billy Graham illustrates the preaching of the Gospel as getting the soccer ball to the goal (the heart); the forward (counselor) directs it in for the score.

The Sharpening Process

“Iron sharpeneth iron, so a man sharpeneth the countenance of his friend” (Proverbs 27:17). This sharpening process of life-investment with others over a period of time is today called “discipling;” but it was one of Paul's most important follow-up methods. In a three-year summary of evangelism and follow-up, Acts 20:16-36 records the astounding, varied methods of life-exposure Paul was led to employ with these new believers: “with you at all seasons,” “showed you and taught you publicly, and from house to house,” “neither count I my life dear unto myself,” “by the space of three years I ceased not to warn every one night and day with tears,” “I have showed you all things,” etcetera. Marking future generations with the Gospel starts with our daily life-modeling before new believers, now.

Aristotle said, “The true nature of anything is in what it can become.” Our vision for individuals and their potential for becoming “laborers for the harvest” is in proportion to the time we are nowinvesting in them. In Egypt 66 years ago, a missionary named Oswald Chambers said about our tendancy to be blind to the potential of a man, “The great paralysis of the heart is unbelief. Immediately I view anything as inevitable about any human being. I am an unbeliever.”

Application Today: Effective Follow-up

Effective follow-up is best done by those who have experienced a loving, caring relationship with another stronger believer. Anytime you have trained someone to do what you can, and they do it, you've doubled your ministry potential. Counsel immediately all who make decisions. Then introduce the convert to habits of Quiet Time, Scripture Memory, Bible Study, and the application of Scripture to the life. The convert blooms. Taking one or two new believers with a trained pastor or soulwinner into a number of witnessing ministries is far better training than all the sermons we share on the “need for Christians to visit.” We do with others what's been done with us that works!

Paul followed up also by personal correspondence. The New Testament is a series of follow-up letters by Paul, Peter and John. These letters encouraged, taught, shared problem solutions, and gave lifting koinonia to lonely new believers.

Application Today: Being Personal & Belief For Growth

The pastor can prepare a basic, encouraging letter to go to all new members; it should instruct, as well as welcome. Enclosing a tract or portion of Scripture has been used of God. By loaning new members a cassette recorder, with tapes of selected sermons by the pastor on assurance, prayer, Bible study, and victory over sin, growth between Sundays can be solidified.

Paul followed up by personal intercession. He begins every letter with a prayer (except the letter to Galatia). In Romans 16, Paul lists 28 families and individuals: his prayer list for the church at Rome? Is each new convert in your church assigned to a stronger believer for prayer? In Ephesians 3:14, Paul confesses, “for this cause I bow my knees.” Why is Paul on his knees? “That ye faint not” is his burden for believers. Is this why so many drop out in the race, no one is praying, believing God for their growth?

Application Today: Instructing to Pray — ALWAYS

Carry a list of your membership, pray for them, dividing the names throughout the week. Memorize the prayers of Paul. God has preserved them for us, as examples of what He desires in our lives. Pray these individualized prayers for members of your family, a wife or child. Teach your membership to pray one of these prayers for new believers. The following references may help: Ephesians 1:16-20, 3:16-20; Philippiians 1:8-11; Colossians 1:9-12; 1 Thessalonians 3:12, 13; 2 Thessalonians 1:11, 12. Note Pauls's requests that others pray for him. Ephesians 6:18, 19; Colossians 4:2-4; 2 Thessalonians 3:1-3. Members should be led to pray verses for their pastor, Sunday School teacher, deacons. Lead older Christians to be praying one of Paul's example prayers as someone is baptised. List new members in church communications as “For Prayer,” and their names. Praying daily for each convert will dramatically increase conservation results. Specific prayer is possible only by being with the convert to know their needs and temptations. “The greatest test of faith is trusting God for people,” said Dawson Trotman. The warfare of intercession begins when the Christian's armor is in place. Growing believers is the fruit as we “pray always” ( Ephesians 6:13-19 ).

And so, follow-up is best done immediately, by someone personally, modeling Christ, over a period of weeks, using the Scriptures in a loving, warm evangelistic environment, with bold crying to God!

* MATERIALS, available for ordering: 

Multiplying Disciples: the New Testament Method for Church Growth, Waylon B. Moore, published in English, Chinese, Korean, Portuguese, Spanish. 

New Testament Follow-up, (Out of Print) Waylon B. Moore, published in English, Portuguese (Integracao), Chinese, Korean.