Back to the Basin: The MentorLink Story

As the 20th century drew to a close, countless mission agencies and ministries mobilized to saturate the globe with evangelism. God answered prayer!  Hundreds of thousands of new churches were planted as the new century dawned.

But…capable leaders did not spring up magically. In many places the fruit of the church planters, new believers, stopped growing or withered away.

Many parts of the globe could tell a story like this:  the Philippines saw 51,000 new churches planted in the 1990’s.  However (and this is a big however), an official Filipino study found that of the churches that failed, 91% cited “lack of coaching/mentoring of the leader” as the cause. Jesus said exactly the same thing. “The harvest is plentiful…but the laborers are few.” 

If you look for the roots of Mentorlink, you will find them in a mission phenomenon known as CoMission. In the early 1990’s, 84 mission agencies partnered together to answer the call to come to the former Soviet Union to teach Christian ethics and values in their educational institutions. Dr. Stacy Rinehart, then with The Navigators, led the team conducting training for the 1800 missionaries sent.

MentorLink International was birthed at the end of this time, in a strategic meeting of 13 leaders representing 12 different ministries. Nearly a hundred mission and ministry leaders contributed to MentorLink’s mission and approach. Everywhere the cry was the same:  the Church needs leaders….leaders with passion, training, and character.

MentorLink International was formally founded as a ministry in January 2000 with a large anonymous financial gift. As the MLI staff began to tackle the issues of developing leaders for the burgeoning global church, we found the rift to be greater than anyone knew. Yes, there was a huge shortfall of leaders.

But even more disturbing was the model of leadership accepted as the pattern to follow. This fallen, human model has many forms:

  • the success and production emphasis of the western business professional
  • the centralized power boss in the Former Soviet Union
  • the distant “strong man” in China
  • the chief in Africa
  • the all-knowing guru in India
  • the dictator in Latin America

Whatever the form, the desired outcome is the same: power, control and success for the leader and his or her organization. The cost in crushed lives, dejected spirits and scarred testimony of the church is beyond quantifying.

Christ gave one holy model and it works in every culture! It’s the posture of a Servant bent over a basin, gently washing dirty feet. The desired outcome was the deliverance of people from the bondage of evil and into God’s Kingdom. This Servant was crushed, dejected and scarred for a testimony of God’s power to redeem through sacrificial love.

The only path from the human to the holy is following in the footsteps of Jesus. He set down His leadership philosophy simply:

You've observed how godless rulers throw their weight around, how quickly a little power goes to their heads. It's not going to be that way with you. Whoever wants to be great must become a servant. Whoever wants to be first among you must be your slave. That is what the Son of Man has done: He came to serve, not be served—and then to give away his life in exchange for the many who are held hostage. (Matthew 20:25-28, The Message)

As the MLI staff meditated on this passage and ‘watched’ Jesus lead in the gospels and Acts, we saw that the timeless solution for the present problem was Jesus’ mentoring model:

  • Jesus’ method focused on character transformation through close mentoring relationships.
  • Christ demonstrated it daily with his disciples and changed them from the inside out.
  • The apostles followed Jesus’ model - intentionally investing as freely in others as He had invested in them
  • The result: exponential growth in Kingdom leaders for an expanding Kingdom movement.

This caused us to shift the focus of developing leaders from content and skills to character and Spirit. In His Word and life Jesus gave us a relational, character- transformation pattern which calls leaders to communicate from their heart and life, and to minister through transparency and honesty, embodying Christ-like values as they serve and lead.

This “inside-out” leadership development is summed up by our Transformational Goals:

  • Building God’s Kingdom
  • Living the Gospel of Grace
  • Leading as a Servant
  • Operating in Teamwork and Community
  • Accomplishing Intentional Multiplication

Returning to Jesus’ model has yielded results that can only be accounted for by God’s blessing! Even as the number of nations MentorLink reaches increases, our core staff remains small. Mentorlink is able to work through partnerships and existing networks within a country to develop the next generation of Christ-like leaders. Our role as a servant team is to equip these national and local brothers and sisters and release them into full Kingdom service among their people. Our long-term investment is in the lives of people not in buildings or an organization – just like Jesus.

God has honored this return to “the basin and towel.” A vision which began in a fellowship not much larger than Jesus’ original following is now beginning to touch all parts of the globe. It is our prayer that Mentorlink will play a significant role in developing leaders who lead like Jesus.