Some of the best mentors I have are actually pushing up daisies. They are super dead...and have been so for quite awhile. Here at Theologian of the Boss, I try to connect leaders to theologians, both past and present. My hope is that ancient theologians, who have often been focused on exclusively by academics, would function as mentors to a new generation of leaders. In my own life, these theologians often feel as if they are friends--there to critique and encourage me constantly.
So what can we learn from these dead mentors?
1. Dead mentors give us a different perspective on modern issues
C.S. Lewis argued that we must steer clear of what is called "chronological snobbery" which defined, as "the uncritical acceptance of the intellectual climate common to our own age and the assumption that whatever has gone out of date is on that account discredited." We forget that many of the issues that face us faced our predecessors as well. However, we are inundated by our culture and so often think like everyone else in our culture. What ancient mentors do is allow us transcend our culture, even if for a few paragraphs. They can give us "creative" ways of dealing with difficult problems. For this reason, it is essential for us to read ancient sources.
2. Dead mentors function as either warnings or examples
We live in a society that give quick responses to virtually all news stories. No sooner is a decision made then you have five or six different opinions posted all over news sites. What is great about having ancient mentors is that history has weighed in on their decisions--whether for good or ill. Did they make good decisions? Well, we can tell often from the aftermath. Did they fail epically? We can see where they went wrong and learn as well. I have learned just as much from the failures of mentors as from their successes. For instance *Jonathan Edwards example*
3. Dead mentors connect us to the larger story of history
The role of any mentor is to help us grow. One of the best ways dead mentors help us is by connecting us to the larger story of history by showing us our role within history. We have the tendency of thinking of ourselves as unique and the challenges we face as something new. This causes us to have a feeling of isolation. However, when we read dead mentors we recognize that the issues we face are not necessarily unique. They provide us with a sense of solidarity. While our world may look different, the human heart hasn't changed. Thus my dead mentors become close confidants and good friends.
I can help connect you with some of these mentors! Sign up for my monthly newsletter where I will give you book recommendations of some of the best books I have read. Right now, if you sign up, I'll give you my "Reading for Leading" genre reading schedule. It will keep you on track so you can grow as a leader.
Daniel Pandolph is co-founder of Ministry Assistant Services and founder of Theologian of the Boss. He holds a BA in Christian Studies from North Greenville University and an MA in Religion from Liberty Baptist Theological Seminary.