During one of my college classes this week, one of my fellow students posed the question during class, “what is the difference between discipleship and being mentored?” As the teacher explained the answer, I realized the differences between being discipleship and mentoring are more than I realized.
Table of Contents:
- Differences Behind Discipleship & Mentorship
- Similarities Between Discipleship and Mentorship
- Additional Questions
You may be thinking, “why does knowing the differences between discipleship and mentorship matter?” It matters because we can better serve the body of Christ when we understand the differences. When a new Christian comes to your church you can direct them to be mentored or discipled. They may need both. It will help you to understand two of the main ways Christians learn and grow.
Differences Behind Discipleship & Mentorship
While I was researching discipleship and mentorship I realized the purpose behind them was different. This helped me to understand how they are different as I knew what their purpose was. I hope this helps you too.
The Purpose Behind Discipleship
People talk a lot about discipleship in the church, but what’s the purpose behind it? The purpose behind discipleship is to help Christians live out their faith and then they can share the gospel with others and eventually disciple those people as well. The goal is to lead others to become more like Jesus.
1 Peter 2:21 reads, “To this, you were called, because Christ suffered for you, leaving you an example, that you should follow in his steps.” Peter tells us in this passage that, as Christians, we are called to live like Jesus. We cannot live without Jesus on our own. On our own, we sin and can easily fall away from God. We need to seek God and ask Him to help us become more like Jesus.
We are not supposed to keep our faith to ourselves. Jesus says in Matthew 28:19–20, “Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”
Jesus told his disciples to go and tell other people about the good news. Then, make them disciples. Discipleship should help the person fulfill Philippians 4:9, which reads, “The things you have learned and received and heard and seen in me, practice these things, and the God of peace will be with you.” Discipleship is the process of being like Jesus and learning how to live a life that honors and glorifies Him!
To be a disciple is to be committed to Jesus Christ as Savior and Lord and committed to following Him every day. To be a disciple is also to be disciplined in our bodies, minds, and souls.— Billy Graham
The Purpose Behind Mentorship
Mentoring is a Biblical tool used to help followers of Jesus through challenging situations or simply life in general. The purpose of being mentored is to have a wiser believer be able to help guide you in your life. They are a safe person you can confess sins to and be honest with about your struggles. They are a person who can speak truth from God to you and encourage you. Along with being a person to listen to you.
One example of mentoring in the Bible is Jesus’ twelve disciples. Throughout Jesus’ ministry time, He always took time to exemplify His parables to the twelve disciples and showed them how they should live in a way that honors God.
Jesus trained the disciples and spoke to them about the importance of the parables He taught. The Bible says that many times He talked to the disciples “in private.” Jesus would wait until they were away from the large crowds to give them instructions. He was mentoring the disciples and giving them instructions, advice, and loving them.
A mentor should be someone older than the mentee who is strong in their faith and is wise. The mentor needs to be able to listen to the mentee and truly listen to what they are saying. They should be a listening ear.
The mentor can help the mentee with any current relationship struggles or sin they are dealing with. By speaking about their issues, it will help them walk in the light and be honest about what they are dealing with.
Most importantly, the mentor should pray with the mentee. God should be put first during the meeting times and His name can be glorified through people learning and seeking to grow and live in the fruits of the spirit.
Being mentored is a wise choice to make. It helps to be kept accountability and gives them someone to help them walk in the light. The mentee can grow in their relationship with Christ as they open up to their mentor and seek wise counsel.
One of the greatest values of mentors is the ablility to see ahead what others cannot see and to help them nagivate a course to their destination.— John C. Maxwell
Directing vs. Listening
One of the differences between mentorship and discipleship is directing versus listening. With discipleship, either you are being directed or you are helping to disciple and direct a new believer. Whereas, a mentor is someone who listens to you. They most likely will not tell you directly what to do but they may help guide you in a Biblical way and listen to you and pray with you. They would call you out if you were acting in a sinful way and denying it.
Since the purpose of discipleship is to make disciples, they would need to direct people in how to live in a Christ-like way and how to make disciples. Both of these two main purposes of discipleship take direction.
With mentorship, you are listened to because its important to have someone who you can share your life with. They are there to hear about your life and be a listening ear. They may give you some suggestions, but they are not your parents and most likely won’t tell you directly how you should respond or what exactly to do. You are the adult and they will be there for you as you navigate through a hard situation and life in general.
Equipping vs. Assisting
Another difference is equipping versus assisting. One important aspect of discipleship is equipping the person to live their life for Christ and giving them the tools to fight against the devil. The reason you equip a person is so in the future they can disciple someone and equip them. The goal is for them to make disciples themselves.
With mentorship, they assist the person they are mentoring. They may provide insight or assistance as to how to handle a hard situation or overcoming a certain sin. Also, while mentoring does include some equipping, for example providing books as a resource, it has more of a focus on assisting the person being mentored.
Broad vs. Specific
Another important distinction between discipleship and mentorship is broad versus specific. Think of discipleship like an umbrella. It’s broad and covers a lot from the rain. Discipleship covers your walk with Christ as a whole. It helps you walk closer to God and understand how to live in relationship with Him. Along with the training you need to disciple other people.
Whereas, mentorship is like a pair of custom rain boots: they are made for one person. Mentorship is personal. It’s made to fit the individual. Each mentor session will look different depending on what your needs are or what you are struggling with at the time.
Discipleship is a broad topic and once you have a discipleship method, it will not change very much from person to person, but mentorship, on the other hand, is specific and can be adapted from person to person.
Spiritual Growth vs. Life Advice
Another difference is spiritual growth vs. life advice. Discipleship is focused on a person’s spiritual growth. The point of being a disciple is to realize the sacrifice you are making to follow Jesus and embrace it and then go and make disciples yourself.
In contrast, mentorship has more of a focus on life advice. Mentorship is for you being able to express your life worries or struggles and working through them with a strong Christian.
Please note, there is some overlap in this example as you will grow spiritually as you are being mentored. There is more of a focus on spiritual growth with discipleship and less on giving life advice.
Even though mentorship and discipleship are different in many ways both are important in the life of a Christian. Without discipleship, our faith can easily stay in the same place and we will not push ourselves to grow and share the Gospel to others. Without mentorship, we can be struggling with sin or be in a hard situation and not have someone to walk us through it and be a safe place to speak about hard topics. Both discipleship and mentorship are valuable to the body of Christ.
Similarities Between Discipleship and Mentorship
Now that you know the differences between mentorship and discipleship, let’s look at a few areas where they are similar.
Understanding Areas You Need to Grow In
Both discipleship and mentorship provide understanding as to what areas the person can grow it. Discipleship shows the person where they need to grow spiritually and mentorship shows a variety of growth: spiritually, emotionally, relationally, and so on.
Discipleship brings clarity to areas in your own heart and faith where you need to grow in. You could have trouble trusting God with your past or feel unworthy to be loved by Him. Being discipled will challenge you to look at the root of the issues you are having and figure out where the breakdown is. It will push you to grow spiritually and grow more confident in your relationship with Jesus.
Likewise, mentoring will help you see areas you struggle in and the places you need to grow. Through mentoring, you can talk about the struggles you have and work through them with a spiritual leader. They can also keep you accountable by following up with you. This leads us to the next area in which discipleship and mentorship are similar: accountability.
Both mentorship and discipleship will help to keep a person accountable. Discipleship will keep you accountable because the person who is discipled will be looking for fruit from your life. Mentorship keeps you accountable to grow in difficult areas of your life because someone is checking in on you and following up with where you are at in the growth process.
Discipleship holds you to the Biblical standards of following Christ. You are expected to be growing in your faith and to share the love of Christ with others and once you are ready to disciple others. You cannot simply stay in the same place with your faith, discipleship pushes you to grow further. It holds you accountable and helps you walk closer to God and complete His will for your life.
Mentorship holds you accountable in whatever area you struggle in. It places a wise, Chrisitan leader in your life to keep you accountable in the areas you need to be pushed in. Without a mentor, it can be easy to get stuck in sin and see no way out. A mentor can help you walk through the steps to healing and growing in the areas you struggle in. You just have to be open enough to speak to the areas you need help in and to not be afraid but to be honest with a mentor.
Value to the Christian Life
Both mentorship and discipleship have a role in Christians life. Without discipleship, we could easily just keep our faith to ourselves. Discipleship pushes up to grow and be bold in sharing our faith and making disciples of others. We need discipleship in order to live a life that reflects Christ and obeys Him.
Mentorship allows Christians to have a safe person to speak openly and honestly about past hurts or a difficult season of life they are in. In order for mentorship to be effective, the person being mentored has to be open to their mentor. Mentorship is an amazing way to grow many areas of your life and have someone to keep you accountable.
Then he said to them all: ‘Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross daily and follow me. For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me will save it. What good is it for someone to gain the whole world, and yet lose or forfeit their very self?’Luke 9:23-25
Here are a few related questions on the topic of discipleship and mentorship.
What’s the Difference Between a Mentor and Mentee?
In regards to Christian mentoring, a mentor is a person who is mentoring and the mentee is the person who is being mentored. The mentor provides guidance and listens to the mentee. The mentee is the one who shares about their life and seeks guidance or simply someone to listen to them.
What Does Mentoring Mean?
In a Christian context, mentoring is when one person trains, guides, and equips another person. The goal of mentoring is to build a relationship with the mentee and be a person they can come to and seek advice and share their struggles to. A mentor should be a wise spiritual leader who is able to guide people closer to Jesus and listen well.
What is the Leader of a Church Called?
According to Ephesians 2:19-22, the head of the church is “then you are no longer strangers and aliens, but you are fellow citizens with the saints, and are of God’s household, having been built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Christ Jesus Himself being the cornerstone, in whom the whole building, being fitted together, is growing into a holy temple in the Lord.” Simply put, Jesus is the head of the church.
As far as leadership within the church, there are many different roles. The person in charge of the church is called the pastor. They are responsible for the church and for taking care of their congregation.
Depending on the church, they may have a worship pastor, children’s pastor, youth pastor, or campus pastors if the church has multiple campuses.
Elders of the church are people who are in leadership but are not the pastor. Although, the elders typically meet with the pastor to discuss important church decisions. They can meet with members of the church and are trusted members of the church.
Then, there are many different administrative jobs. A church typically has someone who oversees the office area and the administrative work and plans the events.