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Book Review: John Mallison, Mentoring: to Develop Disciples and Leaders,
Scripture Union /Open Book, 1998.

John Mallison is well known and respected as one of the Australian
Uniting Church’s ‘Elder Statesmen’, and as a promoter of Christian
discipleship and growth through small groups. His ‘Growing Christians in
Small Groups’ has to be in the ‘Top 20 Essential Book for Pastors and
Church Leaders’ and now you can add this one.

Recently I was counseling a young tradesman, who had a small business as
a solo operator. His plea: ‘I wish I had an older guy to train me: I
have to solve problems on the job all day every day, and it gets lonely
and frustrating! In fact, I finish up most days pretty angry’. Exactly.
If there’s one thing that has come out of the Men’s Movement, it’s the
need for young men (and women) to have older role models. (John Mallison
says in Mentoring that women are natural mentors). The story of the boy
Jesus in the Temple is one those in every preindustrial culture would
understand. When the ‘elders of the tribe’ give their sole attention to
a boy of that age, he is not the same again. In my talks to men’s groups
I find that only one or two in 100 have spent more quality time with
their fathers (or a father-substitute) than with their mothers. As the
guru of the Men’s Movement, Robert Bly, says to men: ‘Have you older men
encouraged a young man today? If you haven’t, they’ll never understand
or enjoy what being a man is all about!’

Hence the strategic nature of John Mallison’s book. By the way, he does
what he preaches. He mentors young pastors. But unfortunately most young
pastors don’t have this privilege. John himself had mentors: he was

What is a mentor? John’s definition: ‘Christian mentoring is a dynamic,
intentional relationship of trust in which one person enables another to
maximize the grace of God in their life and service’ (p.8). Our key
model here of course is Jesus; chapter two has a marvelous exposition of
‘The Great Commission’ (Matthew 28:19,20). And of course there are many
other biblical precedents.

The heart of mentoring is to help in the development of a growing
relationship with God. It is dynamic, involving receiving, sharing, and
giving – and honesty, and accountability. And the discipline of
regularly meeting.

The basic qualities of a mentor? They ought to be Christ-centred,
passionate, relational, affirming, open and transparent, trusting and
trustworthy, available, able to facilitate learning, competent and
prayerful. (‘Who is sufficient for these things?’ I hear you asking –
another reason why each of us ought to be in both a giving, and a
receiving relationship of this kind).

That’s enough. The book has study guides and group work. Phone Open Book
or Scripture Union and get them to send you half a dozen for your
leaders. Pastors: if it’s not too late for planning 1999 – or even if it
is, scrap your other plans; take a journey with your key leaders through
this book. You, and your ministry, and your church will be the richer
for it.

Rowland Croucher


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