Friday, December 3, 2010

Augustine as Mentor: A Model for Preparing Spiritual Leaders

As a former Protestant minister and theologian, it's always gratifying to see men and women who are among our Separated Brethren discover the Fathers and Doctors of the Church. For those brave souls who seek Christ alone, it may be a journey that leads them back to the House of the Father, as it did me some years ago.

In that spirit, I would commend a recent text by Edward Smither, professor of Church History at Liberty Baptist Theological Seminary in Lynchburg, Virginia.

Yes, THAT Liberty Baptist.
Yes, that Liberty BAPTIST.

From the preface:

"Augustine as Mentor will help modern-day pastors and spiritual leaders to guide and equip others in such timeless matters of the heart as integrity, humility, faithfulness, personal holiness, spiritual hunger, and service to others."

Swap our "mentoring" for catechesis or discipling, and you get a sense of what the text addresses. Chapters included "Mentoring in the First Century", "Augustine's Thoughts on Mentoring", "Augustine's Approach to Mentoring", and "Shepherding Shepherds Today."

The author studiously avoids those aspects of Augustine's teaching that might be in sharp relief with conservative evangelicalism, but that does not keep him from producing a book worth reading; he warns us that "this book does not attempt to evaluate the appropriateness of his [Augustine's] views on theological issues such as predestination, sacramental grace, baptismal regeneration, church polity, papal authority, clerical celibacy, monasticism, relics, miracles, and the Donatist controversy." We may well ask how easily one may separate out all those subjects and have something that it essentially Augustinian in nature, but there seems to be enough that is truly Augustinian remaining as to make it worthwhile to those who would rather pay attention all that this sainted doctor wrote.

As the author states in the preface, "Augustine's approach to mentoring will surely provide a practical model for how to mentor others. Finally, for students of church history and followers of Jesus, Augustine's early church model for mentoring ought to give some inspiration and direction for what it means to be a disciple of Jesus and an active participant in his body." Here is a work that unpacks the insights of this great saint so that we may apply them in practical areas in our lives and ministries.

In Him,

Rick Bauer
Colorado Springs, Colorado

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