How to Find a Mentor, or Two

mentoring "We All Need a Few Good Mentors" read a headline in today's opinion pages of the Wall Street Journal. It's a sentiment I share, based on my own experience of having been poured into by older, wiser women, professors, and married couples over the past 27 years. In the article, Fay Vincent, formerly CEO of Columbia Pictures Industries, executive vice president of Coca-Cola, and commissioner of Major League Baseball from 1989-92, recalls the importance of mentors in his life. He describes them as "vital." Reminiscing on their role leads him to feel "enormous gratitude."

The imperative of mentoring Like Vincent, I have looked back on What My Mentors Taught Me and marveled at the debt of gratitude I owe them. If someone as gifted and successful as Vincent benefitted from mentors, how much more the rest of us? It's not just my experience or his affirmation, however, that leads me to vigorously promote mentoring. Someone further down the road helping you on your way is much older than the Wall Street Journal and corporate America. As I prepare to teach a Bible study on Titus 2 this fall, mentoring looms large. Titus, an ancient letter written by the apostle Paul in the first century A.D. to one of his protégés, writes:

You, however, must teach what is appropriate to sound doctrine. Teach the older men to be temperate, worthy of respect, self-controlled, and sound in faith, in love and in endurance.

Likewise, teach the older women to be reverent in the way they live, not to be slanderers or addicted to much wine, but to teach what is good. Then they can urge the younger women to love their husbands and children, to be self-controlled and pure, to be busy at home, to be kind, and to be subject to their husbands, so that no one will malign the word of God.

Similarly, encourage the young men to be self-controlled. In everything set them an example by doing what is good. In your teaching show integrity, seriousness and soundness of speech that cannot be condemned, so that those who oppose you may be ashamed because they have nothing bad to say about us. (Titus 2:1-8)

The older teaching the younger is of supreme importance in the church. Its purpose far surpasses obtaining an advanced degree or securing an enviable promotion. The purpose of mentoring is "so that in everything they may adorn the doctrine of God our Savior," or as the NIV puts it, "make the teaching about God our Savior attractive."

The Mechanics of Mentoring Vincent rightly notes "mentoring is an art and it requires both time and energy," time and energy that people aren't always able to give. How then can you go about seeking the input and counsel of an older believer? I hear this question a lot. I've answered it, and other related mentoring questions at over the years. Everything from How to Ask Someone to Mentor You, to How to Be Mentored once someone has said yes, to How to Find a Good Marriage Mentor. Here's a snippet from that last one:

The point of mentoring is to find someone with godly character in the area you're hoping to work on. If you're trying to make big decisions about education or career, you look for someone who has wisdom in those areas. And if you're hoping to find encouragement toward marriage, you need to look for someone who esteems it as well as models a healthy relationship with her own husband. ...

Being mentored means being vulnerable enough to allow someone to speak into your life. An essential precursor is trust — trust that the woman giving you feedback and advice is solid in her own faith and understanding of God's Word.

If you are intimidated by the idea of having a mentor, or the person you want to mentor you can't see themselves being a mentor, the article Mentoring Myths, may help you. Sometimes a person is mentoring you without really realizing it. My favorite college professor is a great example. I was telling a friend about him recently and realized as I was describing him that "he was my mentor." Though I never formally asked him to be my mentor, that's what he was doing in the course of those conversations about campus life and what to do after graduation. He had a lot of influence at that point in my life, steering me in a good direction. I didn't realize just how much till much later.

Look around at the people you go to for advice. Who's your favorite sounding board? They're likely mentoring you, even if neither of you calls it that. And because those people do have such a big influence, it's important to make sure they're a good influence. Are they living a life you admire, following Christ, bearing good fruit? If so, they're likely a source to keep seeking out. If not, look around you, especially in your church, for input that not only will help you in the day-to-day, but  will prove vital, eternally so.



How can I break up with an unbelieving boyfriend without turning him off to the faith?

Last week I received an email from a woman wondering about the best way to break up with her unbelieving boyfriend. She wrote,

I have decided to break up with my non-Christian boyfriend. Should I tell him that my main reason for doing so is his lack of faith and thereby risk turning him off to Christianity forever? Or should I withhold this information so that he won't associate my faith with the pain of being dumped?

I care a lot about him, and I definitely want him to find God on his own someday. I'm just afraid that I will do or say something to jeopardize his journey. Is there a way to do this kindly and honestly without damaging his view of God?

I love getting questions like this, especially when they're full of faith in the God who convicts us of sin and gives us strength to obey. I replied,

I'm so thankful you're willing to do what's painful in order to obey God's Word (1 Corinthians 7:39, 2 Corinthians 6:14). This is evidence of the Holy Spirit's conviction. You're right that how you do this is important for how he perceives God. I don't think you should tell him your main reason for ending your romantic relationship is his lack of faith, however. Instead, I think you should tell him it's yours. ...

It's not your boyfriend's fault that this is ending so much as it's your responsibility that it began. As the believer in the relationship, you are the one who knows what God requires. If you're trusting in Christ's atoning work on the cross, you have the Spirit of Christ within you to empower you to obey. Rather than telling him it's over because of a faith he doesn't have — and risk a false conversion or, as you fear, a reason for him to be bitter about Christianity — explain that you were wrong to date him once you knew he didn't believe the Gospel. Tell him you're sorry for misleading him about your faith.

You can read my full answer at

I Married an Unbeliever, Now What?

Last week advice columnist Starshine Roshell answered a question at from a self-described Christian woman married to an atheist man. She wrote,

I have been married for two years, and we just got pregnant. Neither of us was planning it and we were using birth control, but I guess we were the lucky 1 percent. I really love my husband... but he is a devout atheist and I am a devout Christian. I want to have the baby, and so does he, but we are having a hard time deciding how we will bring up our child. What do people do in this situation?

Albert Mohler talks about this question, and Starshine's response, on today's briefing with a strong word to Christians who are thinking about marrying an unbeliever (atheist or otherwise.). This is a cautionary tale: Scripture is clear that we are not to be "unequally yoked."

But what if you wrote the question (or could have)? What if you are already married to an unbeliever? Or what if you became a believer after you were married? This side of the altar, what are you supposed to do?

A few years ago I answered a question like that on Boundless.


Ten years ago, as a young girl raised with strong Christian parents and about to graduate from a Christian high school, I would have never believed that I would be where I am today. I feel sick to my stomach after reading these articles. The reason isn't because the articles are offensive, but rather because according to these articles, my life is terribly offensive to God.

I did "Missionary Date" my now-husband in college (well, actually I was in denial; his referring to himself as a Christian did not make him one), have been "unequally yoked" to him for five years now, and at the young age of 20 and 23 made "not having babies" our option. At 26, he had a surgery that made having babies not an option.

I've taken three wrong turns and I am lost. I am determined not to divorce and I'm reluctant to reverse our decision (and surgery) about not having children since the reason I decided not to still remains: I'm too afraid to raise a child without a Christian husband. Please advise me on the right way to live under these circumstances that I've created for myself.


Thank you for writing. I'm so glad you did because I want to assure you and encourage you that while those articles speak to where you are, they were not written to condemn you. The primary reason for the first article is to encourage not-yet-marrieds to make wise dating decisions. The purpose of the second is to exhort believers who don't yet have kids (whether married or not) to have a biblical worldview about bearing children.

In your case, the articles are descriptive. But as your email reveals, they don't go far enough to say what to do if you've already ignored such advice. You've admittedly made some mistakes. The Bible calls them sin. That's the hard truth. The good news, however, is that Christ died to cover your sins with His blood and there is forgiveness at the foot of the cross and the empty tomb.

Scripture goes on to tell believers in exactly your circumstance what you can do about it. Paul tells the believers in Corinth who are married to non-believers that,

If any brother has a wife who is not a believer and she is willing to live with him, he must not divorce her. And if a woman has a husband who is not a believer and he is willing to live with her, she must not divorce him. For the unbelieving husband has been sanctified through his wife, and the unbelieving wife has been sanctified through her believing husband. Otherwise your children would be unclean, but as it is, they are holy. But if the unbeliever leaves, let him do so. A believing man or woman is not bound in such circumstances; God has called us to live in peace (1 Corinthians 7:12-15).

Peter also addresses your situation, encouraging you that you can win your husband to Christ without even speaking a word.

Wives, in the same way be submissive to your husbands so that, if any of them do not believe the word, they may be won over without words by the behavior of their wives, when they see the purity and reverence of your lives.

I admire your commitment to your wedding vows and your disdain of divorce. Both are evidence of the Holy Spirit at work in your heart and both are powerful testimonies to your husband of your faith. I would encourage you to keep praying daily for him both in your quiet time as well as in agreement with other mature believers (keeping in mind that prayer for him should not be confused with gossiping about him). God can save him and often does lead whole families to faith through the persistent prayers of a believing relative.

You can't change the past. But you can repent for your disobedience, and you can start acting from this point forward with biblical wisdom. How do you do that? By praying and asking God for wisdom (James 1:5); by studying God's Word so that you can know what it says and what it requires of you (Psalm 119, 2 Timothy 2:15, Micah 6:8); and by asking your pastor or the elders of your church for help and accountability. Have you asked for counsel and prayer from those in leadership? The body of Christ is a strong help to us when we're facing major challenges if we will walk with other believers in the context of a biblically faithful church.

Finally, even if your husband never comes to know Christ personally, you can trust God's sovereignty to ultimately redeem your situation; to bring beauty from ashes.

This is not the time to be downcast or discouraged, but the time to repent for your sins, walk by faith, and to put your hope and trust in the Lord's ability redeem your life and marriage in a way that demonstrates His faithfulness and miracle-working activity in the lives of those who trust Him.

Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus, because through Christ Jesus the law of the Spirit of life set me free from the law of sin and death. For what the law was powerless to do in that it was weakened by the sinful nature, God did by sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful man to be a sin offering. And so he condemned sin in sinful man (Romans 8:1-3).

There is great reward, joy and life to be had in the path of obedience. I pray God will equip you for what you must do. I pray He will give you a long and fruitful marriage that bears witness to His sovereignty in your life.


Loving your wife when you hate the "romantic industrial complex"

Men, as we enter the week of Valentine's Day, is there a part of you that feels a little anxious as sellers of romantic gifts and services peddle their wares and set expectations for how men should go about translating love for their wives? Are you tempted to just write it off as a Hallmark holiday and boycott the whole thing? If so, I think you'll enjoy something my colleagues Randy Stinson and Dan Dumas wrote about this that ran in the Southern Seminary Towers magazine:

Some men who suspect they should do more to express love to their wives are turned off by what we call the “romantic industrial complex”—the producers of cards, jewelry, flower arrangements, chick flicks, chocolates, candlelit dinners, stuffed bears, getaways and other romantic stuff — vendors who seem to be in a conspiracy to hyper-commercialize romance, they run men VD-gift-620x377through a gauntlet of unrealistic expectations and then extort them into paying to prove their affection. You know it’s gotten out of control when Evergreen Waste Services of Delaware runs an ad that says, “For Valentine’s Day, nothing says ‘I love you’ like affordable, reliable trash service” (Can you imagine the husband that banks his Valentine’s Day on that gesture?).

Because of this kind of craziness, a lot of men we know tend to check out and write it all off as beneath them. There’s a lot to hate about the business aspects of romance. But you have to make sure you don’t throw out your baby (your wife) with the “Romantic Raspberry” scented bath water. You don’t have to become a mindless consumer of the romantic industrial complex, but you do need to love your wife and live with her in an understanding way. What matters is being enough of a student of who your wife is — what delights and encourages her — that you can customize your romantic efforts to her and tune out all the mass marketed stuff that you know doesn’t communicate love to your wife.

This study of your one-of-a-kind wife may lead you to see that what blesses her most are things, like encouraging words, uninterrupted conversations, morning notes, back rubs and other priceless things while expensive gifts and dinners out register little with her if they aren’t given in a way that shows that you know her. Your ongoing effort to know your wife and bless her distinctly may, however, lead you to realize that you need to “get off your wallet” and stop being stingy with your investment in her. And that may mean venturing out into the so-called romantic industrial complex. But you can (and should) bring leadership to the process. Have a good laugh at the “love junk” that gets marketed, but go take dominion and bring something back that shows that you know and cherish your wife. In that spirit, you can buy flowers, chocolates, cards and other things as unto the Lord and all to the glory of God.

I hope this is helpful as you seek to bless your wife this week.