All this month on Inspi(re)laity we’ve been talking about the importance of mentoring and discipling within our churches. Last week, I sat down with Rich Little, the preaching minister at the University Church of Christ in Malibu, California. Rich is a fantastic preacher and communicator, and he was also my Freshman Bible Teacher at Harding University.
Ever since I’ve known him he’s been passionate about mentoring the generations that are coming behind him, so I sat down to ask him for practical advice on what he’s learned.
In the Interview I asked Rich 5 questions:
1. When I was at Harding, one of the pivotal moments of my life was you sitting me down and calling me out to preach. What do you look for when you are going to mentor someone?
2. Why are you so passionate about mentoring younger ministers?
3. Most of the pushback I hear about mentoring is that our schedules are already full, how do you balance time with ministry/family/writing with mentoring?
4. What are some of the challenges you’ve faced with mentoring in the past?
5. What advice would you give to someone who is just thinking about doing this for the first time?
What I love about Rich is that he is really someone who is smoking what they’re selling. It’s easy for preachers to talk about the lack of discipleship in our churches, it’s another thing to actually seek out younger men and women to disciple.
You can hear follow Rich on Twitter here, and read his blog that he posts regularly at here.
During the month of March, we’ve dedicated Thursdays to talking about mentoring, why it’s important and practical tips about how to go about doing it. Today’s post is by a man who’s worked hard to mentor younger ministers, as well as get mentoring. Jim is the preacher at the Crestview Church of Christ, and is one of the best ministers and encouragers I know. Jim consistently writes great content for leadership/ministry at his blog over at www.godhungry.org. You can follow him on Twitter here. And I highly recommend checking out his blog here.
For much of my adult life I have desired to be mentored. As a young minister, it was very clear to me that I had much to learn. Consequently, I was very intentional about seeking out people from whom I could learn. Over the years I have gained from the following:
Several trusted ministers who were very patient as I came to them again and again with my questions and difficult situations. Some of these people have been a very important part of my life for many years.
Relationships that I had for a particular season of ministry. That is, for a season I learned from these people and stayed in contact.
Occasional coffees and lunches with particular people. These were more than conversations. I often came to these moments with numerous questions I needed to ask.
Individuals through their biographies and autobiographies. At other times, I saturated myself with the writings of Henri Nouwen, N.T. Wright, Gordon MacDonald, John R.W. Stott, C. S. Lewis, etc.For many years I wouldn’t have used the word “mentor” to describe what I needed from these people. I just knew that I had much to learn from others.As you read this note, I want to ask you:
Are you being mentored by anyone?
As you think about this question, know that I continue to be mentored by others. I am still intentional about learning from others. I look for people from whom I can learn.
Are you willing to be mentored?
The following are a few questions that might be helpful in reflecting on this:
Who am I learning from right now?
Am I serious about growing and changing?
Do I really listen to trusted people?
Is there anyone in my life with whom I talk and then actually follow through on something that person suggested?
Am I serious about moving from “What shall I do?” to “What kind of person wilI I be?”Look for someone from whom you can learn. Ask to spend some time with that person. Go prepared. Ask good questions. Listen. Write down what you wish to remember. Listen to this person’s words and watch this person’s manner. Be fully present when you are with this person.
Are you investing in anyone else’s life?
First, I am not talking about someone who might be presumptuous and think someone would be blessed just to spend time with him. Blessing someone through a mentoring relationship works best when that person is living out of the soul, not the ego.
Mentoring is more than dispensing information or trying to get someone to recognize one’s wisdom. It is the willingness to make oneself vulnerable
and available to another. It is the willingness to be fully present with another. It is a willingness to step into another’s life (if invited) to add value. It can occur one-to-one or in a small mentoring group.
This kind of investment can be helpful in the following ways:
• Mentoring can help shape another’s life.
• Mentoring can help a person as he travels through life.
• Mentoring can put various problems and struggles in perspective. • Mentoring can encourage and help another see the future.
Most of all, you can bless another by simply paying attention to him. Before you conclude that you have very little to offer, let me remind you that there is only one you and you may be used uniquely by God to make a difference in another’s life.
Finally, three suggestions:
(These are simply places to begin.)
Begin by praying that God would lead you to a person from whom you can learn.
Attempt to schedule a time (perhaps coffee or lunch) to be with someone from whom you would like to learn. Simply tell that person you would like to ask questions about ministry and life. Come prepared with questions.
Consider inviting a person to coffee or lunch who might have less experience in life and ministry than you. Be fully present and listen to that person’s words and heart. Affirm whatever you see that is good, right, and godly. In other words, don’t try to do anything or fix anything. Simply be present and see what might develop from that relationship.
For the month of March, I’d like to dedicate Thursdays to talk about mentoring, how to find mentors, and how to disciple and mentor others.
Look forward to practical content from Jim Martin and Rich Little. But today I’d like to try and tell you why this matters so much.
Dashrath Manjhiwas born into a poor labourer family in a village in India. He was living a happy and content life until his wife, Falguni, died because of a basic lack of medicine. She died because the closest doctor was over 40 miles away and Manjhi wasn’t able to get her to a clinic on time.
And so Dashrath Manji started working to help that never happen again.
For 22 years he worked night and day carving a hole in a mountain (like you do). He was working to create a shortcut between cities. And it worked. When he was finished he had reduced the distance between a hospital and his village from 75 Kilometers down to 1 Kilometer.
He carved a hole in a mountain for the people who were coming behind him.
I once heard Tom Long point out that the Gospel of Luke starts with the seniors. You’ve got Elizabeth and Zechariah and Simeon and Anna, people who are well into the AARP benefits. But then Long points out that these older people pass off the gospel to the younger people and then trust God enough to trust them with it.
So the rest of Luke and Acts, is young people taking the gospel all over the world. It looked different than the senior saints could have ever imagined, but it was exactly what they had always hoped for.
And these senior saints could do that, because they trusted that God was bigger than any one generation.
The Problems with Mentoring
I know I have hit the jackpot with having great mentors. I’ve been extremely blessed to have some of the most talented people to be willing to invest time and wisdom in me. But I hear constantly from other young ministers and leaders who don’t have that. They are hungry for people who are willing to invest in them.
But I understand why we don’t want to mentor…
I get it, you don’t know what you would share with them. You know you’re not perfect and you know your weaknesses. For many, the idea of mentoring feels arrogant and condescending.
I’ve never met someone who thought they had a perfect mentor. In fact, your failures are probably one of the best gifts you can share. What does it look like to do balance ministry and family? Or preach a hard sermon? How do you make time for taking care of yourself? These are all questions that you probably don’t have fully figured out, but you probably have had several more years of experience in asking them.
I once heard Andy Stanley say that the biggest mistake we can make in mentoring is thinking we need to have all our junk in order before we have anything to share. We don’t have to give every answer to every question they might have. It’s not our job to fill up their cup, it’s just our job to pour ourselves out.
We don’t have to be faithful to sharing our lives and wisdom about stuff we don’t know. But chances are there’s somethings you do know, that someone younger than you could really benefit from.
I know that there are plenty of reasons/excuses that we have for not doing this. The urgent is always more pressing than the important, but if you want to outlive your life…if you want to be a part of something bigger than you, then you can’t get around this.
Mentoring is Discipling
So there is a time in the Gospels where Jesus has just finished back to back chapters of healing/serving and teaching people. He’s been innundated with people coming from all over to get help. He’s exhausted from the overwhelming demand of human need. And Jesus responds not by criticizing the people who are coming, but by saying “The Harvest is there, we need more workers.” He’s basically saying “I wish there were more people who were able to do what I do.”
Which is exactly what he was doing with his life.
He wasn’t just ministering and serving the world, he was intentionally doing it with other people. He didn’t write a single book, he never left the area of Palestine, he just mentored the disciples. And the only reason you know the Gospel, the only way it got out of the small Middle Eastern area of the world is because Jesus trusted these people to change the world.
And the most unlikely people did it, and still do.
The Church I grew up in was 10 people. Bro. Foy was just a math teacher who preached. But I’ll talk about him until the day I die.
Rick Atchley has been my mentor for 10 years, and when he retires from ministry in another 10 years, his ministry through the several people he’s mentored, will just keep going.
The people who meant the most to me in my life were the people who were carving holes in mountains for those who would come behind them.
I want to be one of those people, I think it’s at the heart of the Gospel.
The apostle Paul travelled all over the known world with Timothy and Silas or Barnabas. He shared with them, not just what he knew, but who he was. I’m sure that made ministry more difficult at times, but it also meant that when he died, in a very real sense, his ministry had just begun.
About a year ago, I was back in Arkansas preaching at something. And on my way back to Fort Worth I stopped off at Bro. Foy Mitchell’s house. Foy was the Patriarch of that little 10 person church that I grew up in. He was one of the craziest people I have ever known, but he was crazy for Jesus.I was worred that Bro. Foy would get on to me for not working at a church that was just like the one he helped raise me in. I was working at Richland Hills, and I had heard through the grapevine that Foy now knew that RHCC had made some changes. Continue reading Turbulence→