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Your Mentoring Life


The Mentored Life: From Individualism to Personhood by James M. Houston, Navpress: Colorado Springs, CO., 2002. Author Profile

James Houston has been a mentor for more than fifty years. A graduate of Edinburgh University and Oxford University, he was a lecturer and tutor at Oxford for twenty-three years. He was founding principle and chancellor of Regent College in Vancouver, BC.


Houston states that the purpose of the book is “to explore how the Christian finds the authentic Mentor or “Other” in his or her life” by “knowing oneself before God more simply and genuinely as a “friend of God” who treats us transparently as we really are.”

He uses three examples of the natural individual as illustrated by the Greek view of a heroic mentor, the Stoic view of the moral mentor, and the secular psychotherapeutic view of a mentor.

He shows how the naturalistic and individualistic life-view falls short of the Christian view of personhood. He then shows how discipleship is built on being “open to God” so that we are being discipled for Christian living to be persons in Christ and mentored by the Word of God and Worship in Community.

Houston uses historic mentors such as the early fathers, Kierkegaard, Augustine, Edwards, Bernard, Luther, Calvin, and Hans urs von Balthasar to illustrate the principles of mentoring in Christ.


Houston accesses the riches of the historic Christian church to illustrate the concept of personhood in contrast to the modernistic view of individuality.

The first four chapters are like reading Leviticus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy. I was reminded of a Philosophy class I had at Samford University that met after lunch and how it was difficult to stay awake.

Chapters five through eight make the book worth it because it opens up like reading the Psalms!

This book is not an introduction to mentoring but rather a philosophical view to the life-views which have affected our views of mentoring.

One of the strengths of the book is how Houston moves beyond current views of mentoring between two individuals and raising our focus to see how God is our true and ultimate mentor. The concept of being “open to God” is a fresh way of viewing the discipled-mentored life.


I found Kierkegaard’s perspective on Bible reading to be very helpful, one that I want to practice and teach others [93, 102]. The review of the five distinctions of Christ’s discipleship [118-119] will be very practical to use in teaching disciplemakers.

The concept of “cultivating the presence of Christ” [121] and being “open to God” is a fresh way of viewing discipleship. This brings clarity to me in the area of what characterizes the Christian life.

It is not necessarily a cognitive acknowledgement of our sin and need of a Savior expressed in a “decision” in our past but rather it is a moment by moment passion to worship God and to be known by Him being open to Him.

I found the sections on being a good listener [121], letter writing [122], and reading Scripture to see Christ [132, 134] to be key aspects of spiritual direction and mentoring. The table (below) on page 114 is very helpful to distinguish the contrast between the “individual” and the “person”.

Best Quotation(s)

We are discipled above all to live selflessly. For this, prayer becomes indispensable, for once God has called us by name, there is nothing more we can do or be, but to follow Him. [162]

Humility is the general environment for emotional intelligence, that in knowing oneself, one can read the hearts of others too. It is the mentoring friend who can help me to expose elements of self-deception and who can probe perhaps more deeply than I would wish to do voluntarily. [121]

Conformity to Christ is the redemptive transformation of individuals becoming persons in a readiness to change. [122]

I have learned to interpret the knock at my office door, not as an interruption but as a fresh opportunity to learn more of the mysteries of our humanity. [14]



Secular Anthropological understanding: Humans created in own image

Theological revelation (

imago Dei): 

Humans created in the image of God

Identity based on human action

“Made righteous” by God’s justification

Freedom defined within the autonomous self

Freedom defined as self-transcendence, that is, from self-groundedness “in Christ”

Sin as self-enclosure, “unrighteous” and disobedience

Discipleship as “openness to God,” based upon his calling

 What has been a positive mentoring experience you have had?