The most interesting finding of this study was unexpectedly high statistically significant correlation between church growth and the existence of a spiritual mentor. The average number of people from fast growing churches who had spiritual mentors was 32 percent higher than the corresponding number of ministers from growing churches. The comparison of growing and stagnating churches was much more spectacular. The average number of people from fast growing churches who had spiritual mentors was more than 100 percent higher than the corresponding number of respondents from stagnating churches. In order for a church leader to give ministry he or she should first receive ministry. Pastors and church leaders who are under the supervision of a spiritual mentor are healthier and much more effective in the ministry.
Unfortunately, not everybody today understands this truth. Foster says that the discipline of spiritual mentoring was much wider known in the ancient church comparing to the modern congregations:
As in the Middle Ages not even the greatest saints attempted the depths of the inward journey without the help of a spiritual director. Today the concept is hardly understood, let alone practiced. … That is a tragedy, for the idea of the spiritual director is highly applicable to the contemporary scene. (Celebration of Discipline 185)
Spiritual mentoring is very biblical. Jesus had the twelve, Barnabas mentored Paul who later became a great mentor for Timothy, Titus, and many others. In the course of Christian history mentoring was very important. Not long before the bloody revolution in Russia, Fyodor Mikhailovich Dostoyevsky wrote his famous novel The Brothers Karamazov. One of its main heroes was monk Zosima, who is pictured as a genuine spiritual director with tremendous prophetic gifts. Spiritual mentors for centuries have played a very important role in the Russian Orthodox Church. Evangelical church leaders should intensively draw from the enormous spiritual heritage of the Church. Thomas Merton’s words could be easily applied to Dostoyevsky’s Zosima as well as to any mature spiritual director:
[A] spiritual father who ‘begot’ the perfect life in the soul of his disciple by his instructions first of all, but also by his prayer, his sanctity and his example. He was … a kind of ‘sacrament’ of the Lord’s presence in the ecclesiastical community. (9)
Another very important and frequently underestimated role of a spiritual mentor is to protect the mentoree from the temptation of power. In many Russian Evangelical churches pastors have a great deal of power, sometimes almost absolute power. That can be very destructive as Foster notices, “power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely. … Those who are accountable to no one are especially susceptible to the corrupting influence of power” (Money, Sex and Power 178).
(extract from Andrei Blinkov’s dissertation ” CHURCH HEALTH AND CHURCH GROWTH IN CONGREGATIONS OF THE RUSSIAN CHURCH OF EVANGELICAL CHRISTIANS” Asbury Theological Seminary, 2007)