Book Review & Summary: The Mentoring Church

Phil Newton has written not only an incredibly academic work, but one that is highly practical and intensely pastoral.  In The Mentoring Church, he takes largely a case-study approach as he looks at not only biblical models, but modern models of mentoring in ministry.

After first laying a biblical foundation for why we, as churches, should be mentoring not only the upcoming generation to be faithful Christians, but to hone the pastoral skills of those called to ministry.  At the end of each case-study (chapter), Newton goes on to summarize it in a number of points. What you see below will be an outline and a summary of what Newton has written so.

Jesus on Mentoring

As Newton looks across the gospels, he emphasizes the “how” of what Jesus did to mentor those that were not only among the 12, but even beyond.  He summarizes it as follows (Newton, The Mentoring Church, 34-36):

  1. Jesus provided an example for mentors to follow.
  2. Jesus demonstrated the priority of relationships with his trainees.
  3. Jesus modeled love and service in leadership.
  4. Jesus mentored with the cross in view.
  5.  Jesus’s mentoring included correcting.

Paul as Mentor

Paul’s ministry took an emphasis toward more of a father-son relationship.  Newton summarizes Paul’s approach as follows (Newton, The Mentoring Church, 77-81):

  1. Father-son relationships.
  2. Affirmation, encouragement, and reminders.
  3. Setting an example to follow.
  4. Prayer and visits.
  5. Pastoral/ministry charges.
  6. Warnings.
  7. Gospel-centered focus.
  8. Personal requests and advice.

Magisterial Mentoring–16th Century

In examining the lives of Huldrych Zwingli and John Calvin, Newton presents a model of highly personal mentoring.  Zwingli’s approach rooted from that of a pastoral heart. Calvin “determined to train pastors who would, in turn, teach their congregations the Word of God” (Newton, The Mentoring Church, 87).  He summarizes Calvin’s process as follows (Newton, The Mentoring Church, 90-91):

  1. Establishment of a training academy.
  2. Instituted a Friday meeting in which intensive biblical instruction, followed by discussion, took place for those called to ministry.
  3. Saturday afternoon expositions required those preparing for ministry to preach before their peers, theological mentors, and various members of the congregation, with critiques following the sermon.
  4. Each month, students were to draw up a particular number of theses or positions that they held, in order to defend them before their peers and professors.
  5. After being sent to plant a church, they maintained contact with the “Company of Pastors.”

Modeling Ministry–17th & 18th Centuries

Through the Puritan era, Newton examines the ministries of Philip Jacob Spener and John Gano.  Though these men were lacking in what we would call a “model” for mentoring, they were still among the greatest influencers for future generations of ministers.  Newton summarizes their approach as follows (Newton, The Mentoring Church, 101-103):

  1. Relationships.
  2. Partnering in ministry.
  3. Example.
  4. Education.
  5. Networking.

Training Communities–19th & 20th Centuries

Moving in to the modern era, models begin to come on the scene and be the new “thing” for a pastor to market.  However, these “models” were simply a systemization of the “how” of implementing proper mentoring.  Through this study, Newton examines Charles Haddon Spurgeon and Dietrich Bonhoeffer.  Both being highly passionate and highly intellectual, their mark is not yet done being made on Christianity throughout the world.  Newton goes on to summarize their approach as follows (Newton, The Mentoring Church, 113-114):

  1. Both valued personal relationships with their trainees.
  2. Both recognized the effect of the Christian community in shaping their trainees.
  3. They modeled both a seriousness concerning the gospel and Christian ministry, while also showing joy and zest for life in Christ.
  4. Both mentored formally and informally.
  5. Both regularly, through their own theological bent, brought the men back to their need to depend on the Lord.

Ecclesiology Boot Camp

Mark Dever is known for his wonderful contribution to the church through his 9 Marks ministry and his book, Nine Marks of a Healthy Church.  The commendable fact of Dever is that he does not want to hoard his knowledge and successes in ministry, but share them!  He wants all churches to flourish, so he emphasizes mentoring through his 9 Marks ministry, weekender events, and his highly intensive intern process.  After presenting the various aspects of Capitol Hill Baptist Church’s life, he summarizes the study as follows (Newton, The Mentoring Church, 149-150):

  1. This model calls for strong pastoral leadership and commitment to invest in training others.
  2. This model calls for strong church support.
  3. This model calls for a healthy congregation that seeks to apply the gospel in their lives and make the gospel known in their community.
  4. This model calls for concentration in ecclesiology.
  5. This model calls for observation and shadowing.
  6. This model calls for personal mentoring of trainees by pastor, staff, and elders.
  7. This model calls for maintaining an ongoing investment in those sent out by the church.

A Sending Church

J.D. Greear is a faithful brother who lives out the Great Commission with urgency and zeal.  The Summit Church, where Greear is the pastor, emphasizes a missional approach to ministry, as he summarizes in his book, Gaining by Losing.  It is simple, he sends out the best of his church staff and members to plant faithful churches for the furthering of the Kingdom!  Newton summarizes Greears approach as follows (Newton, The Mentoring Church, 158-159):

  1. This model has strong support by the congregation, including financial support during the church planting residency and with the new church plant.
  2. This model intentionally plans to launch a church plant with members from The Summit Church.
  3. This model intensively studies church planting and pastoral ministry with less attention to other areas of ministry.
  4. This model puts the pastor of church planting as the primary mentor for the trainees, rather than the senior pastor.
  5. This model gives trainees intentional assignments with various Summit ministries and assesses the trainees in order to mentor toward improvement in ministry.

Face-to-Face

Scott Patty at Grace Community Church in Nashville focuses on a face-to-face approach.  His approach can be summarized as follows (Newton, The Mentoring Church, 167-168):

  1. This model focuses intentional training on one or two trainees at a time, thus ensuring significant attention to pastoral development under the guidance of the senior pastor.
  2. This model has strong involvement by the church’s elders.
  3. This model places major emphasis on spiritual formation and pastoral ministry.
  4. This model expects trainees to be fully involved in the breadth of Grace’s ministries and community life.
  5. This model devotes intentional training to church planting, with the senior pastor as an experienced church planter directing the process.
  6. This model has strong congregational support during and after completing the internship and on into planting a new church.
  7. This model tailors the specific areas of study and discussion appropriate to each intern.

Church and Academy in Partnership

Robert Banks, pastor of Lakeview Baptist Church in Auburn, Alabama, believes seminary education is incomplete without church involvement.  Thus, he has created a mentoring ministry in which he partners with Southern Baptist Theological Seminary and by the time the students graduate from the internship, they also graduate from SBTS with a Master of Divinity.

Newton goes on to summarize this approach as follows (Newton, The Mentoring Church, 176):

  1. This model has a unique combination of academic and local church pastoral training.
  2. This model has the strength of the church staff’s longevity, brining depth to the layered mentoring relationships led by the church staff.
  3. This model’s interaction with seminary professors and immediate access to pastoral staff provides an increased level of training.
  4. This model insists on accountability to not only pastoral staff but also to church laymen.
  5. This model’s length–three years–exposes pastoral trainees to most congregational and pastoral issues during their tenure.
  6. This model provides the opportunity for developing community with the training cohort and congregation, thus deepening trainees’ understanding of gospel application in all of life.
  7. This model places strong emphasis on preaching, hence giving trainees solid preparation for their future preaching ministries.

Conclusion

As you see, Newton has been not only very practical in his case-study approach, but also very extensive.  He has look across the scope of history from Jesus to modern ministry and conducted case-studies to see the “how” of implementing effective mentoring in the ministry.  I encourage you to pick up a copy of this book and not only read it, but re-read it, highlight, write in the margins, and soak up the knowledge and wisdom offered through this dear brother’s work.

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