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Mentoring and Accountability

Godly Accountability in Appropriate Perspective:

Unfortunately, accountability has almost become a bad word for some Christians. Like the word "discipleship",  it has been so misused that the word itself can easily bring up bad memories and bad feelings. This is a tragedy for the Christian community, which has suffered from either too much accountability or no real accountability at all. Because of much unbalance and abuse, even the validity of being exclusively accountable to one person or group has come into question. And this is a good question. With exclusive accountability comes exclusive groups, and it becomes too easy to say, "I am of Paul…and I am of Apollos…I am of Cephas" Some react to this nonsense by tossing out the whole idea of human accountability altogether. They say, "Well then, I am of Christ" (1 Corinth. 1:12)

There is a truth to being only "of Christ" and His above all else. Many Christians find it a necessary thing to state and live, especially because of today's insanity of exclusive groups with their claimed allegiance to favored human superstars.  Lord knows, we need a reprieve from that! Yet, there is a better way.

We may have to 'separate out' ourselves by ‘going it alone’ when it comes to peer groups who idolize their leaders, but there is a way to balance reactionary independence with some interdependence. It IS POSSIBLE to establish relationships with balanced and healthy accountability. If it were not so, large parts of the Bible would have to be wiped out -- parts such as where Jesus taught his disciples, David learned from Samuel, and Paul traveled with Barnabas.

The Bible says it is wisdom to seek out others with knowledge and wisdom:

"Where there is no guidance, the people fall, but in abundance of counselors there is victory". (Proverbs 11:14)

Notice, this Scripture mentions an "abundance of counselors," not just one. This gives the impression of a community of wise counsel. Pride, however, would have us remain in isolation and defeat. When we are realistic about our failings and the scope of our power and wisdom, we will find that solving our own problems our own way is miserably inadequate. We may have to sacrifice our ‘freedom’ to do as we please, in order to seek and be respectfully open to human guidance. We may have to not only receive ministry through the Body of Christ, but follow wise counsel, too! In doing so, we reap the benefits of wisdom, which is victory. This is not such a terrible option. Therefore, we need not be ashamed of our need for positive alliances with loving people who are similarly committed to us in the Lord. It is a strength, not weakness. We need not be fearful either, because we CAN treat human accountability wisely. Not only that, but it CAN be successful.

A relationship that includes some amount of discipling, pastoring, teaching, training, ‘coaching’, counseling, or mentoring also requires some amount of accountability. One should bear in mind, however, that a relationship with accountability is the not the exclusive province of the pastoral/teacher role, since all equippers are called to participate in the maturation of the Body (Eph. 4:11-15). Indeed, the entire Body under the Headship of Jesus causes growth into Him (Eph. 4:15-16). Also, ultimately all Christians are accountable to one another in regards to sin and error (Matt. 18: 15). You might call this kind of accountability mutual accountability, and this would be an accurate description of what the Bible describes as being the norm within the Christian Community. This is similar to the concept of mutual submission and mutual service, which the Bible also supports. Reciprocal accountability and service would be foreign ideas to many who have separated themselves from the overall accountability of the Body of Christ by either following someone who has elevated themselves beyond reach of the accountiblity of 'average' Christians, or by being someone who has accepted such an elevated role. In any case, it is vital to remember not to elevate a person, a ministry, or a group beyond what Christ intended.

Aside from this general principle of cooperative accountability among brothers and sisters in the Lord, reinforcing relationships with temporarily intense accountability is useful for certain agreed-upon goals. Accountability in these relationships is an especially helpful tool when our own resolve, willpower, knowledge, or self-encouragement is not enough. . The success of groups like Alcoholics Anonymous attests to the power of godly accountability and intense "discipleship". Of course, we don’t have to be an alcoholic to realize this type of humility and the success that comes with it. We don’t even have to have any life-debilitating problems or ‘hit bottom’, as they say.

Accountability is meant to help us free ourselves from the pull of the past or the deception of the flesh. It is our servant, and is not meant to enslave us to another person’s needs or ego. Indeed, we should feel free to be ‘accountable’ to anyone who has the ‘mind of Christ’, whether they have church or group status or not. Whenever they are or if ever they become anti-scriptural, we should feel free to disagree with them and NOT be accountable to them or what they teach. Again, this is whether they have church status or not. Ultimately, no human mentor should divide us from Christ, nor can they take the place of Christ as our Head of the Body.

"Can two walk together, except they be agreed?" (Amos 3:3 KJV)

Authority Issues and Close Alliances:

Because of the nature of close alliances, it is not wise to enter into an accountability relationship with anyone who has unresolved authority issues. Someone whose views of authority are unhealthy would interject them into amy relationship that has accountability as a factor. Their kind of accountability would be more enslavement (to them) instead of a service to you. If they have unresolved ego or esteem issues, they will expect you to have an unhealthy dependence on them or allegiance to them. They will often end up being abusive toward you. Even as ‘co-workers’ and not as ‘mentors’, their problems will be disruptive and divisive. There will eventually be ungodly rebellion or ungodly control, or both. Once you are free from their bondage and abuse, you will have to recover from whatever destruction they brought into your life.

Similarly, it is also not wise to accept a close relationship with someone who may need, desire, or ask, for ‘help’, counsel, teaching, encouragement, or mentoring who has unhealthy ideas of what that relationship should be. They may attempt to put you in an unhealthy role, and you will be in danger if you accept it. They may reject any accountability as being ‘too restrictive’, and refuse responsibility for their part in their problems. They may condemn or reject you for your ‘failures’ in ‘helping’ them. They may find ‘faults’ with you so that they can reject or dismiss you. When your counsel is not pleasing to them, they may attack in whatever way they can. Afterwards, you may feel a deep sense of discouragement or cynicism about ‘helping’ anyone. In the end, you will certainly know you can not rescue people from their self-will and rebellion to Christ or God’s word!

Since we meet people all the time who have unresolved issues and incorrect ideas, and since we ourselves are not perfect, it may sound like I am asking for the impossible: a perfect mentor or a perfect disciple. This is not what I am suggesting. However, I will remind you that the Scripture says we are not dependent on any man. We have the Holy Spirit abiding in us, to guide or ‘train’ us in all things. This same Holy Spirit would have us abide in Jesus (1 John 2:27). Jesus is the perfect Discipler, Pastor, Teacher, Prophet, or Apostle. Leaning on man takes away from Christ’s ministry, because we are no longer leaning on Christ. We do not need to replace His role with anything or anyone else. We also do not need to diminish Him by making ourselves more than we are to another person, thereby assuming we can be of equal status as Him. Jesus says, "My yoke is light", because He has ultimate status and the responsibility that goes with that. Also, when Jesus asked the disciples to go make disciples, He meant disciples of HIM, and not disciples of themselves.

Many have innocently been indoctrinated with teachings that support an elevated role of the human discipler. Since then, they have not examined the teachings fed to them. Once they notice the bad fruit these indocrinations produce in their lives and relationships, they then might become alerted to the error of these indoctrinations.  They may have a great deal of difficulty understanding something other than what they have been taught until they look into the Scriptures and the Holy Spirit shows them directly. Or, they may begin to understand only when they see and experience an example or teaching other than what they have thus far experienced and known.

Even so, after the scriptures are discussed, some people will nod their head and say, "Yeah sure, I understand all of that." Later you will be stunned to find that they have no true understanding. I have come up against this enough times to realize that this is because the problem is deeper then doctrinal or ‘head knowledge’. So, in spite of evidence to the contrary, they end up holding onto worldly ideas of authority and submission in some sort of death grip, and they will even expect you to think and act in similar ways! They may even go so far as to falsely accuse the human mentor (teacher, prophet, apostle) according to their perceptions alone, or refuse the mentor because the mentor will not abide by their perceptions of 'how it should be done'.   These reactions will be in the flesh and will neither be substantiated by Scripture or by the reality of events.

Relationships here on earth can reinforce our walk or be a stumbling block to it. When dealing with someone who has a lot of unhealthy ideas, you will eventually find yourself confronting those ideas. When they have unfinished business from a previous relationship, you can find yourself being the recipient of that unfinished business, if you allow it. If they are in unacknowledged or unrepentant sin, you cannot help them and must turn them over to God. People grappling directly with God is not a bad thing, since He is greater than we are. And if their issue is with Satan or their own flesh, then don’t allow yourself to become the ‘flesh and blood’ they wrestle with.

Characteristics of the False Mentor

Certain roles make it easier to display certain behaviors. A role of teacher, "discipler" (which may be the evangelist role, since you listen to those who have evangelized you), pastor, counselor and prophet lends itself more easily to abuse because they are in 'power' positions. If you ever want to see what someone’s true character is, give them power in the relationship. Until then, you cannot truly know. Judas, a false disciple and a false friend--only revealed what he was capable of when given the opportunity.

In order to assist you in evaluating whether a relationship is helpful or harmful, healthy or unhealthy, I have listed below some ‘key’ characteristics of how the false mentor might relate to you. (You will find that the false or hypocritical ‘disciple’ or co-worker will also eventually display these same characteristics). It would be wise for you not to enter into a close accountability relationship at all with someone who displays any of these three general ‘symptoms’:

    1. Their general philosophy of mentoring or discipling is one that is hierarchical in nature.

    2. Jesus warned against authority which is more like the world than like Him (Matt. 20:25, for one) Unfortunately, the Church has been infiltrated with a number of half-baked teachings that support the ideas of worldly authority being wielded in their churches . The result is a hierarchy mindset in relationships.

      I have found a common thread with people who hold on to the hierarchy philosophy. That is, they constantly compare themselves to other people, and then relate to them according to their assessment. They measure you as being either: over or under them, more spiritual or less spiritual, with more revelation or less revelation, more gifted or less gifted, getting more public recognition or less, acceptable or unacceptable, worthy or unworthy, superior or inferior. This preoccupation with comparing and contrasting reveals issues of self-esteem, ego, and insecurity. This is not head knowledge, it is in the heart, emotions, and attitude. It may even be a stronghold from which Christ must set free.

      This "hierarchical discipleship philosophy" may not be readily apparent at first, but will become clear as the way they relate to you or others expresses itself in both words and actions:

      First of all, as disciplers or ministers, they approach you as though they are your superiors. Paul, a true apostle, did not approach in that way (1 Corinth. 2:1-5) Worse then that, these people will stay inthat superior position. In other words, you are ever the child and they are ever the parent and any reversal or change in these roles is not tolerated. They may try to force you into false humility or hypocrisy (pretending you know less or are less capable than you are) They do not rejoice with you if it is found that you have the same or greater knowledge, maturity, or anointing in Christ. Instead, there will be a competitive or demeaning reaction as they seek to re-establish their feeling of superiority and sooth their bruised egos. If you were once needy and now seem ‘whole’, they may attempt manipulation to convince you that you still ‘need’ them. They may seem jealous and unwilling to share their role with another. They may be overly ‘protective’ of your spiritual safety (as if you cannot discern or decide for yourself).

      If a person with this hierarchical mindset is someone who is seeking or receiving ministry, they may excessively flatter you and inflate your ‘ministry’ toward them (idolize you). Any admission on your part that you are human may offend them. Or, they may search for faults or weaknesses until they find one, because they are interested in assuring themselves that you are not ‘better’ than they are. They may be easily insulted and quickly offended beyond repair. They may criticize, judge, demean, or try to put you into an inferior category compared to them. They may accuse you of thinking of them as inferior all along. They will have nothing to back up their accusations up except their suspicions. (Footnote--No matter what your ‘failings’ as ‘minister’, you do not deserve to be in an abusive relationship. The best recourse for this would be to respectfully withdraw yourself as ‘minister’ before you are provoked sufficiently enough to react. You do not have to "return evil for evil" or reject in order to do this. Do not go beyond what you have grace for. It is not your job to convince anyone of your good motives or get past their abuse in order to bless them. It takes supernatural grace to love the unloving, and this love can only come from God. Even so, pride is an effective barrier to receiving ministry or wisdom.)

      Besides idolatry and its twin sister, despising (you may get one or the other, or both), another obvious sign of the hierarchy mindset is in how accountability is actually practiced. The false mentor does not answer to you, but you must answer to them. They may choose whom they will be accountable to, while you may not. This is the ‘trickle down’ theory of accountability. It’s like water under the law of gravity: it always goes down but never goes up! Although they may claim to be open to accountability themselves, their consistent rejection of responsibility for actions proves otherwise.

      Scripture does not make such distinctions however. Although we should be careful of levying accusations against honorable elders (1 Tim. 5:17-19), there is no room for an ‘elder’ never to receive correction (1 Tim. 5:20), or for an ‘elder’ to somehow have shed his ‘Christian brother’ status! (Matt. 18: 15-17) Scripture does not suggest that wisdom from God is the special privilege of an elite elder or set of elders. A fool who rejects godly wisdom or reproof from anyone (regardless of political status or title), is still a fool. (Proverbs 1:7; 2:6; James 1:5; Proverbs 12:1, 15 27:5)

      Spiritual pride (and indeed, pride of any kind) is the fuel of any religious organization that expresses itself in hierarchy. The underlying attitude is sometimes subtle, yet it becomes clear soon enough. In these organizations, you will find people who have agreed with the organization's perception of itself and the leaders they choose.  Someone who is ‘anybody’ in these organizations are either the favored minister, or has been tutored or mentored by the favorite minister or ministry. If you are inside an organization or group that has been slowly convinced of it's own specialness, you will eventually see the infection of spiritual pride if you pray and ask for discernment. This may be painful though, because you may find out where you yourself have come to agree with their values, and will have to repent.

      If you are outside of such an organization or group, the people who have taken on this mentality will approach you (an outsider) with an assumption of your spiritual inferiority.  If you can say, "I am of  (insert name of popular minister or ministry, or favored title, here) …" your status will miraculously change. Suddenly you have been elevated a few notches on that invisible hierarchy ladder. And this miracle happened  by name-dropping and organization recognition! With your announced ‘credentials’, the assumption or inferiority takes an about face: "Oh then, you have arrived and you are someone to be listened to". You are suddenly preferred, and doors open.

      Sad to say, instead of this attitude making ministers uncomfortable, many have become poisoned by it and no longer notice their condition of spiritual pride. They are not aware of how utterly depraved the hierarchy system is. Furthermore, most of the church culture now feeds into it and supports it. So, ministers oblige by commending themselves and having letters of commendation. They also ‘watch out for the flock’ by getting letters of commendations before looking twice at a fellow minister. (II Corinth. 3:1) Just look at all the written comments under the minister’s name to convince the Christian public they are ‘okay’, and listen to the long-winded announcements made before someone steps up to the microphone! What do all the PhD’s, status titles, organization names, and man’s approval mean? They mean nothing very little, and may indeed be the 'dung' that Paul referred to in his former life as a Pharisee . In fact, these "letters of commendation" serve best to take the place of discernment in a system leavened with the leaven of pride (I Corinth. 5:6; II Corinth. 3:2)

    3. They are controlling.

    4. This is related to the hierarchy mindset, but needs to be treated separately because it is broader than a philosophy or teaching.

      Logically, a controlling person would be a poor choice for ‘mentor’. Not only do the controlling give foolish counsel (1 Kings 12:1-16), but they would be an especially dangerous choice for an accountability relationship of any kind. This is because their idea of accountability is not really a free service to a brother or sister, but is a bondage to them and their particular agendas and fancy. This would seem simple enough to spot, and sometimes it is that obvious.

      However, many times a controlling personality is so subtle that they may be hard to discern at first. By the time their control tactics are obvious, the bondage of control is in full-bloom.  At this point, it is more difficult to untangle from them or their deadly tactics. You need not wait until then. It is better to spot a deadly flower before it blooms, and to see a trap before it is sprung. By knowing the symptoms, you can be forewarned of control tactics and better prepared for them if and when they arise.

      I have found that the first area in which a person usually tries to establish unhealthy control in a relationship is in the communications arena of that relationship. It may seem that communications is only a byproduct and is of little importance, but I believe the Bible shows otherwise. Scripture shows that a ‘dance’ or relationship of sorts exists between the conduct of our communications and our actual conduct. Jesus establishes that we can tell the 'fruits' from the good tree or the bad tree by what comes out of a man's mouth, since this is also what is in his heart (Luke 6:45). In James, we see that much can be directed by such a small instrument, the tongue, too--which may defile our entire body (James 1:1-6).  And so, our communication is not only a symptom of what is already there, but may indeed change or direct what is already there!

      This is reflected in the book of Ephesians too.  Much of this book addresses both Body function and spiritual warfare. Therefore, we should pay attention to the fact that a number of instructions are given regarding communications within the Christian community. Interestingly enough, these  instructions are given during discussion of particular sins or problems.  It appears there is a clear pattern that both the discernment (or 'symptom') AND the solution (the instruction to bring about change) are found in the arena of communication.  Please take note of the following Scriptures in the Bible as soon as you can (they are summarized for you, in paraphrase form):

      Ephesians 4:14-15 (Don’t be children tossed about by deceitful doctrine and trickery or men---Please speak the truth in love among yourselves and grow up)

      Ephesians 4:17-25 (Stop being hard of heart, sensual, greedy for the practice of every kind of impurity—Lay aside falsehood and deceit. Instead, speak truth to each other)

      Ephesians 4:25-32 (Don’t cheat and steal from one another, or be wrathful and bitter with slander—have godly righteous anger and confront immediately, reverse the sin of stealing with sharing instead, and be kind and gracious in speech as you forgive)

      Ephesians 5:3-7 (Give thanks instead of being involved with inappropriate silly or filthy speech and jesting----remember that the disobedient and immoral are full of empty words)

      Ephesians 5:5-8 (Don’t participate in shameful deeds of darkness----let them become visible---speak about them in the light instead)

      Ephesians 5:15-20 (Don’t be foolish, wasting your days, drunk with wine---Instead, find the will of God, be filled with the Holy Spirit and sing and give thanks to the Lord!)

      It’s not at all illogical to assume that a controlling person would want control over all areas of the relationship---communication included. Therefore, there will be a power-struggle phase over communications until control is established. During this power-struggle phase, there will likely be double mindedness and sudden reversals in communication. For instance, there may be friendliness and then a sudden silent treatment, kindness in communication and then cruelty, flattery or compliments and then insults, apparent openness and then secrecy.  These sudden reversals may seem to have no rhyme or reason at first, and you may feel confused or stunned by them. It is not uncommon for these reversals to flip-flop, as the other person goes back and forth in communication style, sometimes dramatically. When asked about their communication conduct, they may deny, be evasive, blame, or refuse to give an explanation by expressing anger or disappointment that you question them or what they say, or how they say it, or by telling you that you have no 'right' to question them because of their authority status. They may even ‘punish’ you or test you by switching their communication again to exactly what you have just objected to!

      After the power-struggle phase, there is the control phase. In this phase, you will find that the other party has succeeded in controlling the type, manner, timing, and content of communication. However, you might not notice it immediately because you have been shamed or manipulated into not objecting to the 'rules' of communication. However, if you will take note of these spoken or unspoken 'rules', you will find that they are very uneven.  In other words, they apply to you, but not to them. This gives the other person an unfair psychological upper hand. For instance, you are available while they remain aloof. You are accessible while they are less accessible. (You have to initiate communication and wait, while they do not have to be prompt in answering. However, they are sure to initiate communication when they want something from you, and they will expect an immediate answer.) You are expected to be open with your life, thoughts, feelings, or intentions while they remain closed with theirs. You are to keep their secrets, while they do not keep yours (if you have any). They may dismiss your reproof or concerns, while you may not dismiss theirs. You are to defer to them—for instance, getting prior approval for your communications--- while they do not have to defer to you.

      If you realize the unfairness of these rules and challenge them, then the power-struggle phase will return again.  During this phase, you may be very surprised at the kind of reactions you can get from your very small, seemingly non-threatening, communications. Therefore, it is best to be as fully prepared as possible. These reactions can indeed  include various types of accusations, guilt-tripping, manipulation, rejection, and frank intimidation.  Be prepared for the worst!  If you are in a group of people where communication and information is tightly controlled by the group leader or leaders, you are in for a rough ride indeed.  In fact, I would personally recommend you have a support system OUTSIDE the group, if at all possible. Breaking the spoken or unspoken (and unscriptural) rules of communication may indeed turn the entire group against you.  Those who would support you, will not verbally do so publicly. They are often too controlled by the leader or peer pressure themselves. Rejoice, however, "for your reward in heaven is great, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you." (Matt. 5:12)

      Whether individual to individual, or group to individual, this power-struggle will continue until the controlling party is assured they have gained control back. That is,  if they can. Since, it is unpleasant and even painful to continue in a power-struggle phase or state of tension, you may be worn down and stop fighting—just for the sake of peace. However, this ‘peace’ has a high price: your communications and you yourself being controlled by the unhealthy ‘rules’ the controller has established. Picture the lion wearing down his prey until they are too tired to struggle, and you will understand how important it is to find a better alternative than this exhausting 'war' with the controlling personality!

      The power struggle is not really with the person, however. And, if you continue being trapped in a power struggle, you are fighting against flesh and blood.  The Scripture reminds us that our  power-struggle are not really with the people involved("We wrestle not against flesh and blood..." Eph. 6:12 KJV). So, it is wise to refuse to engage in power-struggles.  How do you drop the power struggle, though? This is indeed a difficult question and one that will take alot of prayer and wisdom.  This is why I suggest a support system (the wisdom of counselors), if possible and if you feel you do not violate your conscience while relating events to someone outside the group. Remember, insiders of a controlled group have often been told certain types of communication is not 'allowed', and are often coached in various ways to keep the secrets of the group or leader, and to refuse any questioning of the 'rules' in place.  Therefore, be careful for your sake and according to your situation. If you seek wise counsel or support from outside the exclusive group, it is not necessary to name the person you struggle with, as that may put you in danger from the group or leader.

      Power-struggles are all about control. So, you must take yourself out of the struggle for control. The controlling person gives you the option of letting yourself be controlled, or of continueing the struggle by trying to control them. You cannot participate in either option, and may have to physically remove yourself from the relationship in order to follow the path of righteousness.  This is because the controlling person does not understand either options, and will continue the struggle even though you are not interested in it.  Behavior from you that does not include sinful manipulation or intimidation on your part, simply does not compute in his world.  So, standing your ground by refusing to be controlling or be controlled may stir up a great deal of fear and controlling behavior on the part of the controlling person.  Part of this may be surprising, because you would think that yourself being noncontrolling would provoke less fear and anger, not more--but that's often not the case!  This is because it does not compute to them and worse, noncontrolling behavior on your part is unacceptable.  Before you become overwhelmed or provoked into sinful behavior, it is imperative that you disengage politely and come back on YOUR terms, if you wish. God can give wisdom on how this is to be accomplished.

      A healthy relationship is not about power-struggles and control. However, a person with control issues seems incapable of maintaining a relationship without initiating power-struggles and control issues.  The question for them (and for you, if you are not careful) is not, "Is this healthy?", but  "Who’s in control?" This is a question born out of fear, not security. Fear leads to power-struggles, which leads to an establishment of who’s in control. By being in control or by knowing who is in control, they hope to assuage their fears and know a sense of security. An uneven relationship is all they understand. So, someone must be in control. An uneven amount of ‘power’ must  be given to either themselves or the other party. Therfore, uneven ‘rules’ in a relationship is a reflection of the need for that uneven power.

      A person who is in fear and has control issues settles for an illusion of control, since this gives the illusion of not being afraid or insecure, to themselves and others. However, this resolution of anxiety is only temporary. There will soon be something else to be fearful over, and something or someone else to control. I am of course not talking about the Spirit with the fruit of self-control (Gal. 5:23). Ironically, I find that those who are controlling do not practice much of this, especially in the realm of being quick to anger with its various expressions (Proverbs 16:32). Perhaps it is because they are too busy attempting external control (outside themselves and toward the world around them), to be able to focus on internal impulse control. In fact, I find that the more ungodly and demonic ‘external’ control is practiced by the person, the more they themselves lose proper control over their inner man (Proverbs 25:28). Wherever one does not give the Spirit reign, another spirit reigns by default. If our ‘house’ (soul) is left empty of the Spirit, other spirits fills it (Luke 11:24-26). Also, in the absence of walking in the Spirit, we are left with walking in the flesh (Gal. 6:25).

      This vicious cycle of fear and ungodly control, with the byproduct of loss of godly self-control, actually has its roots in insecurity over God’s love. The Bible says in 1 John 4:16-18, that those who fear are not perfected in love. That simple fact is very important, yet more is revealed if one looks closer. In verse 17, the Apostle John states "love is perfected in us," by coming to know and believe the love which God has for us (verse 16). Therefore, someone with fear and control issues can only resolve this with a deep assurance of God’s love for them—an assurance that only God can give.

      Man has free will and may disregard, resist, and disobey God. He may refuse to believe God loves him, and instead end up being very insecure of God’s ultimate control over their lives. These are the people who do not fully surrender to God or yield to His ways, because they do not trust Him. How can they trust Someone who does not LOVE THEM? So for them, it seems actually safer to resist Him! God simply cannot be trusted to be in ultimate control. It does not compute for them. So, when the question arises: "Who’s in control?" the answer for them can not be "God—whose ways are higher than mine—He is the one I can trust with ultimate control." At the core of their being, this is not a reassuring thought to them at all. Therefore, they may decide to be the one in control, or to be controlled themselves by someone "they can really trust (at last)" (this is still not fully trusting God, but another person instead of God).

      So, if the answer cannot be "God is in control", then someone ‘more trustworthy’ has to play God. If you are in control, then you are playing God. If someone else is in control, then they are playing God. Whoever is attempting to take God’s place in this way must repent of it (Ex. 20:3). Barring that, others need to refuse to agree to or lend them this illegitimate God-like power and authority. (*NOTE: I understand that an abused child finds himself powerless to effect change in a world of unrighteous adults, but this discussion is about adults to adults).

      A controlling person cannot have their needs for security and love met by illegitimate means. Nothing and no one can serve as an avenue or fulfillment for that missing piece of their soul. Only God can give the assurance of His love to them, and so only God can fulfil their need for love completely. Only He can solve a controlling person’s inner insecurity, fear, and control issues, and only they can choose to surrender and yield every part to Him. I must stress that control issues have nothing to do with the people or situations the controller wishes to manipulate. These people or situations just happen to be in their path. These issues, however, have everything to do with their relationship with God. There is therefore no reason to feel guilty for not being able to satisfy, heal, or trust the controller.

      In all things, no relationship can withstand unhealthy and uneven ‘rules’ and have a semblance of being healthy. Either the ‘rules’ must be re-established to healthy ones, or the relationship itself will remain unhealthy. A sick relationship with sick rules is a bondage (to the sick rules). Eventually, there can be a bondage to the person who makes and enforces the sick rules. However, even after the person is no longer controlling your life, the bondage of sick rules can remain.

      Indeed, we may not even realize there are, or have been, ‘warped’ communication ‘rules’ in place until we compare them with Scripture. We need to examine the Scripture and compare these rules with what type of ‘rules’ we have unwittingly agreed to. Once we have this knowledge, we then can take appropriate action and change our own rules of conduct. A healthy plant cannot bloom in unhealthy soil, so it is time to change the soil. The power of Christ breaks the powers of darkness, and transforms. We must start somewhere, and it seems that according to Scripture, communications is a good place to start!

      Going back to the Scriptural content on the matter of communication, we can look at this as an example:  Secret sin is done in darkness and the communication ‘fruit’ of that kind of darkness is discussing it in secret only or not discussing it at all—which is covering the sin up and concealing it. We are commanded as Christians, however, to expose to the light (Eph. 5:8-13). This is not just for the sinner himself, but for everyone involved. Ungodly ‘rules’ of secrecy serve only to cloak secret sin and conceal its effects. What else is such secrecy good for? The most wonderful thing, however, is that even victims of secret sin can ‘come alive’ and know the Life and Light of Christ by choosing to abide by scriptural intent and break these ‘rules’ (Eph. 5:14). This can take a great deal of courage and it must be their choice, since controlling abusers often instill terror in their victims (the message being "Don’t talk"). The choice that was forced upon them once (often as children) can be reversed. They can now agree with the conduct of darkness or agree with the conduct of light, and experience life again.

    5. Most of all, they are blind hypocrites.

      In Matthew chapter 23, Jesus launches into a most unflattering description of the scribes and Pharisees, calling them "hypocrites" over and over again. He gives the results of the Pharisees discipling techniques in verse 15: "Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites, because you travel about on sea and land to make one proselyte; and when he becomes one, you make him twice as much a son of hell as yourselves".  So, if you want to become a ‘child of hell’, let a hypocrite make you into an image of himself. If you want to fall into a pit, follow a ‘blind guide’! (Matt. 15:14). A blind guide mistakes the worldly and the material for the spiritual, giving prominence to the one while not ‘seeing’ the other (Matt. 23:16-21). They also are good at noticing, and straining for, the tiny and inconsequential, without noticing the huge and important (Matt. 23:24; Matt. 7:3-5).
Jesus makes it easy for us to discern the hypocrite by describing them so well. Below, in simplified terms, are the qualities of the hypocrite in this chapter of Matthew, in order.

The hypocrite:

I believe that Matthew chapter 23 gives the step by step succession of the blind hypocrite, starting with "seating themselves in the chair of Moses," (vs. 2) or exalting himself or herself in a place God does not have for them.  We need to pay attention to this first step, since we are discussing mentoring.  This 'posturing'  can be in a variety, yet predictable, ways:
      1. Setting personal or subjective experience above the Word of God, and/or requiring people to submit to them and their interpretation of the Word of God
      2. Taking on a role of ‘Shepherd’, ‘Pastor’, ‘Leader’, ‘Rabbi’, ‘Father’, or whatever title as being the same as the Heavenly Father, the True Shepherd (Jesus), or the Holy Spirit Leader and Teacher
      3. Wielding authority inappropriately, not to be questioned or disagreed with.
All of this is ‘posturing’, or placing themselves into the seat of Moses, a chair God did not lend them, with much of the honor and respect from men. This is why 'letters of commendation', titles, or the frank idolatry or honor of men, is not necessary or desirable in our communications or conduct. JESUS ABOVE ALL

A false mentor is not the one you want to lend such power into your life. You don’t need him or her as your example or your guide in spiritual matters (or any other matter). Discerning and avoiding such a one is important, and so I have outlined what I consider to be the core telltale signs, all related to pride, insecurity, fear, control, and hypocrisy. These signs will not only help you to discern the false "discipler," but the false "disciple" too. After all a poor disciple of Jesus cannot disciple anyone else.

Yet even a true mentor will not be utterly perfect, and can not and should not take the place of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. A wise and humble mentor will know this is true. They will know that no human mentor has a complete understanding of the Bible or a complete revelation of the truth. Therefore, they cannot be our ultimate authority, only Scripture is.  A human mentor does not know our hearts, nor can they judge the motives of our hearts. They do not know the will of God in all things, and only know in part. They do not give us God’s approval. We cannot abide in them and nor can we bear fruit because of them. They cannot rescue us from the grip of sin nor give us the power to transform. They cannot love us nearly as much as God can. All these attributes belong to the Holy Spirit, Jesus, and God. These are our ultimate mentors.

However, an appropriate human mentor, placed in our lives by the Holy Spirit, can be an immense blessing for us. They offer us godly wisdom, give us feed-back, and function in a variety of ministries. If we are wise, we do not reject this gift from God (Eph. 4:11) We give them their proper place in our lives and in the Body as a whole. If they are wise, they understand accountability and growth is brother to brother, and intense ‘discipleship’ is only for a short season until one no longer has weak knees (Hebrews 12:10-12, Galatians 6:1).

"For all who are being led by the Spirit of God, these are sons of God. For you have not received a spirit of slavery leading to fear again, but you have received a spirit of adoption as sons by which we cry out, "Abba! Father!" The Spirit Himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God, and if children, heirs also, heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ, if indeed we suffer with Him in order that we may also be glorified with Him." (Romans 8:14-17)

© Copyright 1997-1998 by Teri Lee Earl All Rights Reserved
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by Teri Lee Earl, Copyright 1998, HarvestNETwork

Note: If you are dependent upon or believe you must have a personal 'shepherd', read also
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