When I became a Christian, older fellas told me I needed a mentor. I needed someone who could lead, push, guide, and correct me in a way that would cause me to look more like Jesus. I heard that wisdom, thought it was a good idea, and went looking. But then something terrible happened.
I didn't find anyone.
Well, I should be gracious. I found loads of guys who could have worked out, but they were busy with work or mentoring someone else or we didn't click. For various reasons, I couldn't find a man to mentor me. I felt a little lost and, honestly, a little betrayed. Wasn't it their job to help the younger people of the faith deepen their love for Christ? How could I learn to love Jesus as a 20-something if nobody showed me how?
Then I met John and Martyn. These guys had been doing ministry for a while when I finally met them, but they changed my life. These guys loved Jesus. They had a sold-out, no-holds-barred, unadulterated kind of love for Jesus. Martyn was a gifted preacher, but his real passion was seeing lives change. He was a shepherd at heart, and his ministry showed that. John had never grown away from the cross. Decades after his own salvation moment, he was more in awe of Jesus than the day he met Him. These men shaped how I grew to love Jesus in my own way and, eventually, how I came to ministry. They were my mentors for 10 pivotal years. They cared for me and shepherded me when I didn't have a lot of older male figures to lean on.
The only issue is I've never actually met John and Martyn. For those who caught on to my little game, John and Martyn are actually John Stott and Martyn Lloyd-Jones. These two guys were 20th-century pastors in Great Britain who wrote and preached extensively. They had fantastic ministries and greatly influenced generations, particularly during the World Wars.
I first read John Stott's Cross of Christ and was immediately caught up in his adoration and affection for Jesus. He wrote, "It was by his [Jesus'] death that he wished above all else to be remembered. There is then, it is safe to say, no Christianity without the cross. If the cross is not central to our religion, ours is not the religion of Jesus." I was blown away and humbled. As I was taking my baby steps into Christianity, John reminded me that all good morals and good teachings are worthless if they don't lead to the cross where Jesus died for the sins of humanity.
A year or two later, I was trying to learn more about how the church had made its way through history and decided to read some biographies. That's how I came across Martyn Lloyd-Jones. I read The Life of Martyn Lloyd-Jones by Iain Murray and then devoured Preaching and Preachers, several commentaries, and a book compiling his sermons. There are lots of great things that could be and have been said about the ministry of Lloyd-Jones, but something about him just worked for me. It wasn't one thing but a culmination of everything that drew me to his ministry.
I say all that to say you're not limited to finding a mentor in your church.
100%, it would be great if you could find a person you clicked with who loved Jesus well and could give you solid hours of their life to mentor you. But that isn't always available. And if that isn't available, I urge you to find a paperback mentor. Find a theologian, pastor, or early church father who has written in a way that could deepen your love for Christ.
Hebrews 11 is commonly called "The Hall of Faith" as it lists famous men and women from the Bible who tried to follow God the best they could and are commended for it. But coming out of that list is Hebrews 12:1-2, which says, "Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God." This verse points to precisely what I'm talking about with paperback mentors.
We are surrounded by a great cloud of witnesses – people who have lived a lot of life as an example of how to love God. They point towards the one who can make us truly happy and righteous. The perfecter of our faith. The author of Hebrews assumes the readers know the full stories in chapter 11. They read the Torah and the Prophets and know that Jesus fulfills both.
So, if you don't have a mentor or someone pouring into you regularly, look to the great cloud of witnesses through the last 2,000 years of church history. Read Stott and Lloyd-Jones. Read Billy Graham and St. Augustine. Read Jonathan Edwards and George Whitfield. If you need pointers, ask your pastor what authors and theologians they love reading, and go from there.