The Coaching and Comfort of a Spiritual Mentor

By Jenni Key | October 29, 2020

I was standing in the middle of Sproul Plaza on the UC Berkeley campus talking to a guy named Doug Muraki from the Bible study I was in when, seemingly out of the blue, he challenged me to step up my game in Bible reading. More specifically, he said, “If you’re really serious about studying the Word, you should be reading the entire New Testament every month—that’s a pace of about seven chapters a day—and since it’s the 4th of the month, you’re already behind so you’d better get reading.” Well, okay.

I had my Bible with me and so I grabbed a seat in the student union and read Matthew straight through, from chapter 1 to 28 (four days’ worth of seven chapter increments!). And it was a revelation. I had never seen the scope of Jesus’ ministry so clearly. I had never felt so inside the experience of the disciples in walking those three years of ministry with Jesus. But seriously—I also had so many questions!

Within a couple of days I happened to mention to John Bruce (the director of the Campus Crusade for Christ [CRU] work on the Cal campus) my new reading program and the complication of not understanding what I was reading and how it was slowing me down, and—John interrupted me to offer this: “When you come to something you don’t understand, just write it down and keep reading. Then we’ll get together every couple of weeks and go through the list of questions together.” I’m sure my sigh of relief was audible.

Fast forward forty-something years. It probably won’t surprise you to read that I still think of Doug and John often and am so grateful for the challenge and counsel they offered me. Even as I say that, other faces pop up in my mind’s eye of those used by God at moments I needed to be listened to—and then corralled or corrected or comforted or coached. Has discipleship looked different in various seasons? For sure. Have I, in turn, learned much from discipling others? Absolutely. And now as an “older woman teaching younger” I am being refreshed in entirely new ways by the reciprocity of spiritual mentoring.

We as a church are committed to discipleship, to spiritual mentoring—it happens in youth groups and small groups and homes all the time. And Kelsey Crowe and I had the privilege of matching 180 people in pairs over the last school year for mentoring. Yes, things look different now in the midst of the pandemic (and we’re hoping to return to that model soon in the new year) but in the meantime, we want to continue to grow and develop our skills in discipleship, right? So we have invited Dr. Judy TenElshof to do a Zoom seminar we’re calling “Developing Ears to Hear” next Thursday November 5 at 7pm. Register here and join us to learn to listen better, both to God and to each other.

Jenni Key