As I have discipled or mentored people in varying seasons of life one helpful conclusion for everyone has been that someone has gone through the same things before them. Once you recognize there are others with insight to give, you are likely to heed it.
Increasingly I have noticed a trend of disillusionment toward the experience of others. Those I try to encourage exude an attitude that says their story or circumstance is unique and no one would have any clue what they are going through.
I get the temptation toward that feeling. Just on the base level of our selfish sinfulness or course we would lean toward narcissism as if we are all that matter, or have ever mattered. And this is why community is so vital as we pursue life, and especially pursue Jesus.
When we awaken to the reality that others have faced similar or the same situations, we enter into a gracious space of being understood. This is where bearing with one another happens. This is where growth happens.
So please, don’t think you can or should go it alone because your situation is a one-of-a-kind. Someone has been there before, and they are probably closer than you think.
Justin Taylor has highlighted an interview with Michael Lindsey about his new book View from the Top. It is a look at how the powerful see the world and insightful in the conversation is how people become leaders. Asked if there was one defining characteristic or shared trait in the stories of how leaders got to where they are, Lindsey summed up his findings with this:
“So a lot of your major demographic characteristics do not matter on your likelihood to succeed. What does matter is the formative influence of an adult who speaks into your life and who has a sustaining relationship with you that you carry with you. Each of us could identify one, two, or three people outside of our family who had a formative influence, and my hunch is that the relationship you had was not for months, or for semesters, but for years. That’s what Christian Institutions can create and that’s one of the things that we found that was really special.”
You can be born anywhere, have nearly any experience, and if an adult pours into you, mentors you, you can become a leader. This is the proof of mentoring with research to back it up. You can read the rest of the interview here.
The implications of this reality for the church is an obligation to make the legacy of the church, and the older members of our church, our ability to influence and care for the next generation. Who are we inviting to the conversation. Who are we choosing to spend time with to build up and encourage.
This doesn’t mean you have to mentor everyone. And sometimes those you choose to mentor are not a right match for you. But we keep on, giving our experience and encouragement to a new generation of leaders. I too can name the few non-family members that providing the greatest encouragement and opportunity and now I recognize the importance of these discipleship relationships within the church. Let’s be about it.
In an article on productivity on Inc. Drake Baer shares nine tricks that influential execs use to improve the effectiveness of their meetings. It is a good list, mostly.
What stood out to me was this about Evernote’s chief:
“Evernote CEO Phil Libin always brings a high-potential employee to participate.”
At any given meeting at Evernote, there will be someone there who doesn’t belong.
This is by design. The cloud note-taking startup has an internal program called “officer training,” where employees get assigned to meetings that aren’t in their specialty area in order to explore other parts of the company.
“They’re there to absorb what we’re talking about,” Libin says. “They’re not just spectators. They ask questions; they talk.”
Libin got the idea from talking with a friend who served on a nuclear submarine. In order to be an officer of such a sub, you had to know how to do everybody else’s job.
“Those skills are repeatedly trained and taught,” he says. “And I remember thinking, ‘That’s really cool.'”
It is a discipleship mentality that I think we are missing at many of our churches (and other organizations as well). The mentoring, or at least exposure, of others to train them up. And it is not just watching, these officers in training are interacting and participating. Does this happen on your elder board, your staff team?
Not a bad idea. Bring someone with you that doesn’t belong…
My wife Stacy is an advocate for healthy mentor relationships in the church. She serves at our church in a role to educate and coordinate those interested in mentoring, something which is central to her faith experience and maturity.
One thing that frustrates both of us is when mentoring in the church takes on culturally defined norms. People seek out “life coaches” or people with more years of life experience and the relationships are centered on how to raise kids, and succeed in work. All good things but perhaps something less than what Christian mentoring should look like. Perhaps Christian mentoring is more about “gospel reminding” than trite talk of the weather…
Steven Curtis Chapman seems to agree and in his book, Speechless, he outlines some things we should look for in a mentor. I commend this list to you!
“1. Be intentional about being a follower of Jesus Christ. To have a mentor in songwriting, gardening, and golf is one things, but to have a mentor in the gospel is quite another. Jesus calls us to be mastered by his cross, not to have our own personal guru or coach. Pray for spiritual mentors who find joy in connecting you to Christ and not primarily themselves. Look for those who are themselves still in the process of growing in grace as opposed to being “retired from active duty.”
“2. Be sobered by the fact that each of us is already shaping the lives of those who are watching and following us. We are all mentors for others. Therefore, let us be careful about who we follow. Our models and mentors are already affecting the generation behind us.
“3. Get ready to be taught, exposed, stretched, rebuked, and loved. Don’t think primarily about showing up at Starbucks for a latte, a scone, and a deep conversation about your favorite author. Though being an apprentice in the gospel is free, that doesn’t mean it won’t cost you. To what are you willing to say no in order to say yes to the freedom for which Jesus has set you free?
“4. Be realistic. Don’t expect to find “the mentor of your dreams.” Few of us ever have that experience. Our role models in the faith should be men and women who have lived before us in a such a way as to say, “Follow me as I follow Christ.” Their lives are a contagion of grace, an aroma of love, an incarnation of the life of the cross, a picture of what it means to suffer well. But many of them may only be accessible to us through great literature, both in Scripture and in thousands of books. But accessible they are. The writer of the book of Hebrews encouraged Christians in his day to take heart from “the great crowd of witnesses” that surrounded them, referring to the Old Testament saints who have left us a living hope in what has been and what is to come. Those same witnesses surround us.
“5. Choose childlike servants rather than so-called experts as your models. We live in a day when true heroism has been replaced with celebrity. Entertainers and athletes are our culture’s heroes. Look for models and mentors who live close to Jesus – those who prefer anonymity to the spotlight; who lovingly take up a towel to wash feet; who are astonished that Jesus loves someone like them. You will find these individuals everywhere.”
– Steven Curtis Chapman, “Speechless. Living in Awe of God’s Disruptive Grace”