Mentoring: Biblical, Theological and Practical Perspectives

Dean K. Thompson and D. Cameron Murchison, editors
Eerdmans Publishing, 240 pages
Reviewed by Heath K. Rada

Run, don’t walk, to purchase your copy of this new book. Outstanding theological leaders Dean Thompson and Cam Murchison have assembled material from some of the most respected and competent mentors known to religious leaders today. This book has the potential to be a classic in its field, and fills a major void in studies of faithful mentoring.

The various mentoring perspectives throughout this book will appeal to many mainline Protestant groups, their pastors and laity, evangelical pastors and laity, Roman Catholic clergy and laity, seminarians and their professors, youth and young adult advocates. But it also has significant information and foundational data related to African-American and Hispanic/Latino/a groups, advocates of women’s equality concerns, as well as a range of readers concerned about social and cultural criticism, ethics, theology, biblical studies, preaching and prophetic witness here and in the Global South.

The book is a wonderful blend of solid biblically-based scholarship and practical, even simple, suggestions that can make a major difference for mentors and mentees.

Thompson and Murchison could have written most of this book themselves because they are proven and seasoned outstanding mentors. Instead, they have chosen to gather outstanding writings from many who have been chosen as mentors by others. To write this review without mentioning the list of writers would prevent one from being enticed by the quality of the contributors: David Bartlett, Walter Brueggemann, Katie Cannon, Thomas W. Currie, Cristian De La Rosa, Jill Duffield, Elizabeth Hinson-Hasty, Luke Timothy Johnson, Kwok Pui-Ian, Thomas Long, Melva Lowry, Martin Marty, Rebekah Miles, Cameron Murchison, Camille Cook Murray, Rodger Nishioka, Douglas Ottati, Alton Pollard III, Cynthia Rigby, Dean Thompson, Ted Wardlaw — and with opening comments from Michael Lindvall and Shannon Kershner. All participate in what is a virtual “who’s who” of some of today’s most outstanding mentors and leaders.

Murchison and Thompson state at the onset that these particular authors were assembled because “they could write substantive, visionary, educative interpretations that are arguably preeminent.” And indeed they did. It is not merely an interesting and readable book — it will serve as a reference for those who find themselves called upon to mentor others. Already there are seminary professors who intend to adopt this as one of their texts, and ministers and educators have marked pages and lines that they intend to use over and over.

Chapter topics are wide and varied. Some will have greater appeal to certain readers while others will find different insights to be equally exciting. As a whole, it is motivational. When dissected, it can be a relevant and useful tool. Two very meaningful parts of this book are the foreword and afterword sections, written respectively by Jill Duffield and Martin Marty. Duffield, in her consistently inviting and charming manner, invites us to wrap up in a soft quilt on a cool evening, and sense the multiple and complex themes that run throughout the publication — not unlike a beautifully crafted quilt. Marty, instead of rehearsing the content of each chapter, eloquently lifts up particular themes and concepts as presented by each author — and manages to wrap them up in enticing packages. His cogent comments and insightful musings are inspirational in and of themselves.

heath-rada.jpgHeath K. Rada was former president of PSCE (now Union Presbyterian Seminary) and served as moderator of the 221st General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.). He lives in Montreat, North Carolina.