In my recent conversations with college students, there is a comment that has risen to the surface. When it comes to having relationships in the local church nearly every student I have spoken to in the past month has expressed a desire to have a mentor(s) who will come alongside and walk with them through the uncharted territory of life. This is not only an admirable yearning, but a biblical one as well.
Of the many Old Testament passages that could be examined (including the relationship between the prophets Elijah and Elisha) there is one that is of interest. Isaiah 61:1 (which Jesus applies to himself in Luke 4:16-21) states that "the Spirit of the Sovereign Lord is on me, because the LORD has anointed me to preach good news to the poor" (emphasis mine). The Hebrew language is one in which there can be multiple meanings for one word. The phrase "preach good news" is one word, which also has the meaning "flesh" (Brown, Driver, Briggs, Hebrew Lexicon, p.142). In-other-words, preaching good news is not only a proclamation of certain propositions about the gospel, but is to be an "enfleshment" of the preacher to the person. To put it another way, a true form of preaching good news is in a mentoring relationship in which the mentor shares his/her life with the apprentice in coming alongside and helping in both word and deed.
This is exactly what Jesus did with his disciples, and is what true "discipleship" is. It is not simply getting through a three-ring binder of Christian doctrine and practice with a student, but a genuine investment of blood, sweat, and tears over time that forms another spiritually in knowing God. Paul also had mentoring relationships in mind when he urged Titus to teach the older believers so that they can, in turn, train the younger believers in godliness (2:1-8).
Reaching college students and seeing their spiritual formation realized is dependent upon our willingness, as people in the church, to be mentors. Students can also take initiative to approach others for whom they have found respect and maturity, and ask them to come alongside in a special relationship centered in Christ. But we in the church must not wait to be asked. The onus is on us to identify students in need, and offer a hospitable life which can nurture another into Christian truth and life. In this, we will pass on the love and grace of God to the generations to come (2 Timothy 2:2). May the Lord be honored in our efforts to do his will.