The Power of Mentoring: When the Mentee Surpassed the Mentor

By Rev. Tim Yee

January 21, 2017

“Then [Elisha] arose and went after Elijah and assisted him.”

1 Kings 19:19-21


As I was preparing a sermon recently, I was inspired by a blog by Daira Curran to remember the importance of mentoring. The silhouette of someone older advising someone younger.Here in this story of Elijah and Elisha, we get a picture of a unique relationship between mentor and mentee. If you are familiar with the story, you’ll remember that Elijah was a powerful prophet who was ultimately raptured — never tasting death! How could the mentee Elisha ever outdo that? Yet Elisha asked for a double portion of Elijah’s spirit, which resulted in a fruitful ministry for Elisha that some would argue surpassed that of his mentor.

Back at a previous church, I mentored a young man from another church who subsequently became a church planter like me. It was a wonderful relationship of mentor and mentee that brought us both joy and support for many years. Five years ago he called me for some advice about how to grow his new church plant. After talking about discipleship, theology of urban ministry, and some practical matters, I finally asked, “How many people are actually coming?” He answered: “Well, we have about 500 after a year but we think we can reach more!” My own five-year church plant had grown to no more than 100, so I responded, “I need to learn from you!” Of course, my mentee could really care less about the numbers. But my point is that a good mentor takes on mentees knowing that they may likely surpass him or her in significant ways. That’s actually a blessing that we see with Elijah and Elisha, but some leaders don’t actually mentor with the intention of seeing mentees surpass them. Perhaps they fail to do so out of insecurity or ignorance, but leaders should expect that God’s assignment to invest in raising up leaders might very well mirror this experience of the mentee surpassing the mentor.

Not many people have heard of Pastor Mordecai Ham. Pastor Ham was leading a revival back in 1934 when a young man gave his life to Christ. The boy’s name was Billy Graham! With Pastor Ham’s initial support, Billy would go on to share the gospel to over 200 million. He was used by God to impact hundreds of thousands with the spoken and lived gospel of Christ. That’s the power of a mentor! But the mentor needs to be humble enough to know that those we invest in may very well surpass us and we must remember that, at our core, a leader is one who influences others. Mentoring is a significant way for leaders to impact other leaders.


Do you believe mentoring is something you can commit to this year? Ask yourself: “If it weren’t for _______, then I wouldn’t be the leader I am today.”

Can you think of “mentors” who may not have even known they were mentoring you? How has God used you in the past to mentor someone else, whether formally or informally? Are you comfortable with the idea of a mentee surpassing you in some way?

Do you currently have some mentors in your life?

When have you experienced mentoring relationships go awry or cease to be empowering? What made the mentor/mentee relationship difficult?


Thank You, Spirit, for including this rich story of Elijah’s and Elisha’s mentoring relationship. Your Word continues to speak to me today as I seek to be a leader that honors and glorifies you in my work. Help me to prioritize the work of mentoring this year and may I have the humility to celebrate when the mentee surpasses me now and in the future. Amen.


Explore more at the Theology of Work Project online Bible commentaryThe Prophet Elisha’s Attention to Ordinary Work (2 Kings 2-6)


Rev. Tim Yee

Contributor Emeritus & Pastor

Rev. Tim Yee is Pastor of Union Church of Los Angeles, a 100-year-old church in downtown L.A.’s Little Tokyo District where he serves a diverse church of professionals, internment camp survivors, artists and homeless. He serves on the Board of Union Rescue Mission where he leads the P...

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