Content that creates conversation
Every month, thousands of struggling individuals from around the world send in messages through ministry websites (e.g. Issues I Face) asking to journey with an online mentor. The Internet allows them to remain anonymous, so it's not uncommon for people to reveal their most painful issue in their very first message to us. This often leads straight into vulnerable and honest spiritual conversations. It can take years to achieve this level of depth in face-to-face relationships with people who do not yet follow Jesus.
This image depicts The Spiritual Journey.
It helps us keep track of a mentee’s and mentor’s progress in TMM.io. It also helps us understand that most people come to Christ in a gradual way and have differing needs depending on where they are at in their journey. Discerning their spiritual state helps us better respond to those needs.
Meeting a Christian
As a mentor, you give mentees the opportunity to meet a Christian who loves Jesus and cares for them as soon as you respond to their first message.
Gradually, as you express love and empathy by asking questions, you find out more about their situation and their faith background. This can take several messages, and that's okay. You want to go at their pace, talking about prayer or faith in a natural way as the opportunity presents itself.
Once the matter of faith has been mentioned, you can offer to pray for them or briefly share part of your own faith story. If they continue writing in once you have begun to talk about Jesus, you know they have begun to trust you as a Christian (see Acts 17:17).
Learning to trust a Christian
At this point, they might still know nothing about God or even be hostile towards him. They may be of a different faith or have false ideas about Christianity. They might also be Christians struggling or seeking to grow in their faith.
Whatever their spiritual state, because they are continuing to write in now that you have told them you are a Christian and have prayed for them in your responses, you know that they are willing to talk about life and faith with you.At this phase, focus on sharing truths that will help them find solutions to their problems and understand how beautiful Jesus is (see Acts 17:18-21).
Becoming curious about Jesus
You know mentees have become curious about Jesus when they begin sharing prayer requests or asking questions about your faith and your spiritual life. They may not yet be interested in following Jesus, but they do want to know more about him and the life he offers (see Acts 17:22-32).
Continue to build trust by helping them find solutions to their problems, praying for them in the body of your response, and sharing why Jesus is so important to you.
Open to the life Jesus offers (open to change)
As they read your prayers for them and ponder your answers to their questions, they begin to realize their own need for Jesus and see the life he offers as desirable. Their heart is now engaged (see Acts 17:33-34).
When you see that they want to know Jesus, you can begin to encourage them to find out more about him through a film, a Bible study, a Gospel presentation, or other resources.
They now want to know what it means to be a Christian and are interested in becoming one. They may be reading the Bible or trying to pray. They might ask all sorts of questions about what it means to follow Jesus. At this point, you can invite them to commit their life to Christ and explain how they can do so (see Acts 2:37-40).
Appears to be or says they are a Christian
Do not assume that someone who asks for prayer or even tells you they are a Christian has really committed themselves to following Jesus.
Make sure that a mentee who claims to be a Christian understands the full meaning of believing in Jesus (John 1:12):
- believing with the mind (believe in him);
- trusting with the heart (receive him);
- and committing with their life (become a child of God).
Ask if they’ve ever done this (see Romans 10: 8-16; Acts 19:1-4) or whether or not this describes their relationship to Jesus right now.
Committing their life to following Jesus
Finally, in response to your invitation to do so, they make a commitment to follow Jesus. Or perhaps, they confirm that they have truly done so in the past. They say, “Yes! I want to live my life with Jesus, for Jesus.”
Some people take years to cross the thresholds that lead up to this moment while others do it in a matter of months, weeks, days, or hours (see Acts 2:42). Celebrate their decision with them.
Learning to walk in the Spirit
When people indicate that they have committed to following Christ, you can encourage them to
- do follow-up Bible studies
- become involved in a local church
- learn how to walk in the Spirit in all areas of life.
Praying for their situation with them and sharing how they can obey God daily in the Spirit's power now becomes the focus of your messages (see Galatians 5:16-25).
Engaged in Christian community
You also want to encourage Christians to gather together to:
- encourage one another
- learn from one another
- grow together
- be involved in mission together
Their involvement in a Christian community helps them discover how practices like baptism, the Lord's supper, corporate worship, prayer, and Bible study — done in the Spirit's power — facilitate spiritual health and growth (see Ephesians 4:14-16).
Sharing their faith
As mentees see God transform their life, they discover that they too have a powerful story to tell. Their love for God and for others makes them willing to tell people how they came to Jesus and to share the difference he’s made in their life.
At this point, you can invite them to become online mentors so they can learn to join people on their spiritual journey just as you have (see Matthew 28:19).
As mentees continue to grow spiritually, God will begin to use them to help others grow spiritually.
As a mentor, you can continue to encourage them, pray for them, and direct them to helpful resources. You can also continue to encourage them to invite others to join them as mentors (see Matthew 28:20 and Ephesians 4:14-16).
Teaching others how to share their faith
As they continue to share their faith in Christ, you want to help them encourage other Christians to walk in the power of the Spirit and to share their faith as they do.
When they are teaching Christians not only to share their faith but also to teach others to do so, they have become multiplying disciples (see 2 Timothy 2:2). They might be interested in becoming a mentor coach at this point in their journey.
Remember that this Spiritual Journey Diagram does not illustrate a linear progression. For instance, some Christians might start sharing their faith before becoming engaged in a Christian community. Some might be teaching others and yet be struggling in their own walk with God. This diagram helps us remember that mentoring involves continually evaluating everyone's place on this diagram with the understanding that what is most important is not the stage they are at. What matters most is whether they are growing closer to Jesus or not. Because if they are delighting in Christ, they will naturally go from one stage to the next, even if the order of those stages might vary from one person to another.