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Augustine as Mentor

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Augustine as Mentor

CHHI 520D18 LUO (Fall 2013)

Church History I

Liberty Baptist Theological Seminary

Reed E. Harvey (ID# 24867788)

December 16, 2013

THESIS STATEMENT
Determine whether the mentoring approach used by Augustine, an Early Church Father is yet relevant for today’s church.

TABLE OF CONTENTS

I. Introduction …………….……………………….………………………………….…4
II. Brief Summary ……….…………………………………………….………………...4
III. Critical Interaction ………………………………………………………………….6
IV. Conclusion ……………………………………………………………………………7
Working Bibliography …………………………………………………………………...9

I. Introduction This review will provide a summarization and critical interaction with the text: Augustine as Mentor authored by Edward L. Smither. Smither is associate professor of Church History and Intercultural Studies at Liberty Baptist Theological Seminary. Other areas of scholarly interest include the Early Church, evangelical missions among Arabs and the history of missions. The thesis of this text is, “that Augustine effectively mentored spiritual leaders and set them apart for needed ministries in the church.” II. Brief Summary Smither sets the table for this text through an in-depth analysis and look at mentoring in the first century. Special emphasis centered on mentoring done by Jesus with the Disciples as found in the Gospels and with the Apostle Paul from the book of Acts and Paul’s epistles. Smither’s summarized definition of mentoring is “a master, expert, or someone with significant experience is imparting knowledge and skill to a novice in an atmosphere of discipline, commitment, and accountability. The writer asserts there are eight characteristics of mentoring that comprise the model of early Christian mentoring. From the foundation laid in chapter one, the second chapter covers four key characters who graced the Christian movement in the third and fourth centuries. These leaders are Cyprian of Carthage, Pachomius of Egypt, Basil of Caesarea and Ambrose of Milan. Smither expands on the evolution of each leader and insights on their mentoring point of emphasis. The third chapter raises the question – who mentored Augustine? The writer argues in favor of the influence of Augustine’s mother Monica who although she was uneducated, modeled piety and prayer and raised him as a Christian. Mention is made of Alypius and Nebridius who shared his journey into faith and continued association with Augustine throughout his ministry. Then there are spiritual leaders such as Ambrose and Simplicianus who imparted into Augustine’s life through their life example, speaking ability and the basic resolve that a mentor should still be a learner. Lastly, there is Valerius whom Augustine revered as a father. Valerius ordained him, involved him in local ministry and finally released Augustine to the work of ministry. The fourth chapter delves into Augustine’s approach to mentoring which centered largely on monastic activity. It is here his greatest efforts to provide mentoring occurred through a framework of practical teaching and life application. The fruit of these efforts notes that, “Other churches therefore began earnestly to ask and obtain bishops and clerics from the monastery that owed its origin and growth to this memorable man…” From the hub of the Augustinian monastic incubator were other spokes of mentoring. This included the equipping and edifying of clergy by letters, writing books – especially Confessions, widely read by the laity as well as the clergy. Through participation with church councils, Augustine served as a theological and exegetical resource for bishops in need of teaching and an effective model for resolving doctrinal controversy. Moreover, Augustine’s comportment during these councils highlighted his wisdom, patience and focus to others. The final spoke comprised personal visits – requiring travel which although Augustine was not fond of whether by land or sea, he yet did as he considered this a necessary part of ministry to carry out council decisions, handle delicate matters and controversy, conduct church visits and visits to friends and those he disciple. The fifth chapter contrasts and compares the framework of mentoring Augustine used with the model described in the first chapter. Hence, the principles deployed by Augustine reflect use of a group context versus individual mentorship, the mentor as disciple, selection,, the mentor-disciple relationship, sound teaching, modeling and involvement in ministry, releasing leaders and resourcing leaders. The epilogue provides a challenge for contemporary Christian leaders to consider the relevance of Augustine’s approach to mentoring. III. Critical Interaction Modeling upright character is one theme woven throughout this book. Highlights include the godly influence of his mother Monica. She was a woman of prayer, tears, spiritual warfare for her son and her husband. This thread continues, as Augustine refers to Ambrose as a “man of God” due to the holy lifestyle of Augustine’s mentor. Accordingly, Augustine maintained high standards for holiness as a requisite for men involved with ministry. A secondary theme is that of spiritual progress characterized by one’s willingness to be teachable. Augustine severally demonstrates this trait by not allowing pride of position block learning and growth from Jerome of Jerusalem. He requested input from Paulinus of Nola while maintaining the posture of a learner. He sought feedback from Aurelius on an initial draft of On Teaching Christianity It is apparent that Augustine understood and embraced that a mentor must be committed to continue to be a disciple. A third theme is a commitment to sound teaching. Augustine’s mother expels him from her house when she learned he had become a Manichean. She was unwilling to compromise; even for her son and one of several stands she makes which impacts Augustine. Augustine upon appointment to the priesthood immediately requested a sabbatical to study the Scriptures. Augustine required training of other bishops and presbyters for preaching and demonstrated his soundness in the Word as he modeled how to deal shrewdly yet graciously with heretics and carrying out the decisions of councils through follow-up visits, letters and books. Augustine believed there was a necessary and natural link between sound teaching and holy living. The fourth and final theme is releasing men for ministry. As Augustine was realizing the potential that Valerius saw in him for ministry, the latter sought to have Augustine appointed as cobishop. Valerius did not feel threatened by Augustine, but rather welcomed the young man’s release into service and responsibility. Likewise, Augustine was willing to deploy his disciples and friends to serve the needs of the church of Africa upon proving themselves as viable candidates he personally knew or at least had a credible reference of commendation. Yet, the book does exhibit a weakness in the repetitiveness of mentoring techniques used by the characters introduced in chapter two who mentored in the fourth and fifth centuries. Of the four characters, Smither cites Ambrose in this chapter, and then information concerning Ambrose resurfaces in chapter three. A similar pattern exists concerning Ambrose’s approach to mentoring where in chapter one there are eight mentoring characteristics mentioned, but are not revisited with depth until the final chapter of the book. Regardless, the material presented is a sound case for applying the Augustine mentoring approach contemporarily. Smither’s proves his thesis, “that Augustine effectively mentored spiritual leaders and set them apart for needed ministries in the church” through the information supplying the practices, methods and standards Augustine used through his approach to mentoring. Because Augustine recognized the worth of upright character, the value of spiritual progress, the need for sound teaching and releasing those trained for ministry, therefore Augustine enjoined many men through mentoring. Smither has shown that the eight elemental characteristics of Augustinian mentoring are timeless and therefore has contemporary relevance.

Working Bibliography

--------------------------------------------
[ 1 ]. Smither, Edward L. Augustine as Mentor (Nashville, TN: B & H Academic, 2008), 2.
[ 2 ]. Ibid., 4.
[ 3 ]. Ibid., 13-23.
[ 4 ]. Ibid., 24.
[ 5 ]. Ibid., 111.
[ 6 ]. Ibid., 124.
[ 7 ]. Ibid., 156.
[ 8 ]. Ibid., 195.
[ 9 ]. Ibid., 204.
[ 10 ]. Ibid., 208.
[ 11 ]. Ibid., 213.
[ 12 ]. Ibid., 93.
[ 13 ]. Ibid., 103.
[ 14 ]. Ibid., 250.
[ 15 ]. Ibid., 223.
[ 16 ]. Ibid., 97.
[ 17 ]. Ibid., 239.
[ 18 ]. Ibid., 240.
[ 19 ]. Ibid., 123.

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