Book Review: Augustine as Mentor: A Model for Preparing Spiritual Leaders
“Many pastors today...are struggling in isolation without a pastor to nurture their souls.” The need for all spiritual leaders to have others discipling them is crucial. Smither deeply desires for his readers to gain an understanding on what it truly means to be a disciple. Mentorship starts with a Jesus based plan, Augustine uses this plan in his forty year ministry and Smither captures Augustine’s life with diligence and precision. Smither’s study of Augustine is thoroughly and chronologically sound and filled with numerous early church spiritual leaders but he fails to apply how Augustine and his principles can ...view middle of the document...
Among his most significant mentors was Valerius. This mosaic of Augustine’s life and the key people involved in shaping him leads Smither’s text into Augustine’s own approach to mentoring. Augustine’s forty years of ministry included more than 500 sermons, numerous letters and books, and Smither uses many of these as examples of how Augustine would mentor his fellow bishops and disciples. While the climactic focus is on Augustine’s approach to mentorship, Smither gives Augustine’s thoughts on the subject in his breakdown of the eight mentoring stages. Smither’s page and a half epilogue finally attempts to answer the question he asked in the very beginning of his book: “how could a fifth-century African bishop be relevant to the twenty-first century?”
Smither’s key theme
Smither’s main theme is of course mentoring spiritual leaders but he does this through the framework in which Jesus laid down the eight mentoring stages and understanding that the mentor must still be a disciple. The eight stages are shown through the church leaders in the third and fourth century and through Augustine’s life. This platform for guiding future spiritual leaders is the key in which Smither hopes to address his concern with “shepherding shepherds today” . when making disciples your form a group and in that group you all feed off each other, pray with each other, expound upon theological complexities together. All leaders, with the exception of Jesus, are continuously growing, and this must happen in the group nurturing form.
Smither’s concern for struggling pastors who are in isolation and are not being nurtured are given an in depth look at just how the mentoring process takes place in Jesus’ ministry and among leaders in the early church. Among the key elements in the eight stages of mentoring is ‘the group’. “Mathetes (make disciples) is repeated 239 times in the plural form in the Gospels and Acts compared to only 25 times in the singular form.” Disciples meant a group of people together, sharing the Gospel. The disciple concept was solely meant to be in group form in the Gospels and Acts. The group mentality adheres to a relational makeup of human’s needs and desires. Being in a mentoring group does not put all the pressure on one sole person. Augustine himself knew that holding on to the Roman idea of friendship (amicita) was not going to satisfy. Amicitia “was based on common interest and experience and often included some pursuit of wisdom or shared understanding of virtue.” Augustine matured in his Christian and spiritual leadership ideals as well as his idea of friendship. While leading, mentoring, and disciplining others you form bonds with those people and create lifelong friendships. Friendship, to Augustine, is a love for God and neighbor as modeled by the Trinity.
Another strength in Smither’s work is the layout in which he delivers the model for preparing spiritual leaders. Smither purposely says that this...