We is Better than Me

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Two are better than one, because they have a good return for their labor: If either of them falls down, one can help the other up. ……….But pity anyone who falls and has no one to help them up.  Though one may be overpowered, two can defend themselves.”  Ecclesiastes 4:9-12.

The emphasis throughout both the New and Old Testament is that life is better lived in relationship with another.  I came across athe following quote that is attributed to C.S. Lewis:

The safest road to hell is the gradual one . . . the gentle slope, soft underfoot, without sudden turnings, without milestones, without signposts. This is why it’s so dangerous to do life alone.” 

A quote from a resident of a halfway house in Darien Connecticut put it this way:

The mind alone is a bad neighborhood.”

A 2015 study done in the U.K. found that a majority of the men surveyed (51%) had two or fewer friends, and 15% had no friends. None.  Nada.  Zip.  That’s hard to imagine.   According to C.S. Lewis, they are leading a dangerous life. It’s so easy in life to do things solo – without any aid from our friends.  We live in community with one another – in fact, most of the New Testament deals with how our Christian life is to play out on the horizontal field with other people.  Christianity is an individual decision,  but it is also a team sport.

So, who is on your team?  Do you have a friend – someone who knows you inside and out – the good, the bad, the ugly, including what your spiritual and thought life, and what junk you have in the trunk of your car (or “boot”, as it is called in other parts of the world)?  The British survey is sobering, but it really is even worse, because their definition of a “friend” really doesn’t go beyond an acquaintance with whom you share a common interest.  That’s not the friend that will stick by you through thick and thin, and will help you up when you have failed or fallen down or had a serious setback of circumstances.

The passage from Ecclesiastes above is one of the many scriptures that follows the theme of what I call the “principle of the twos” in the Bible.   Another one is found in Proverb 27:17: “Iron sharpens iron, and one person sharpens the wits of another.”  I have met with two men weekly for the past 24 years.  It is an intentional and covenantal relationship. Over time, we have shared each others ups and downs, successes and failures, trials and tribulations, and rejoiced at each others accomplishments for the kingdom. It’s second nature to us to be transparent with our lives and challenges.  I am really saddened how few other men have what we have experienced over a long time.

The majority of men I meet disregard the principle that life is best lived in community, unfortunately to their detriment. As the title says, “We is better than Me”.   Pastors are often the biggest offenders and yet the most vulnerable. They put moats around their lives and become insulated from others because of their position.   But that’s not how Jesus modeled it when he sent out the seventy-two disciples in Luke 10.  He sent them out two by two with a reason. This was their first “road trip”. Had I been advising Jesus, I would have suggested that it might make strategic sense to send them out individually because they would have covered more territory.  But Jesus had more wisdom than me, knowing full well that sending them in twos was more important than getting more geographical coverage.

I have long been known as an advocate of having someone else in your life (other than your spouse) to whom you can confide in and be accountable to.  The evil one doesn’t attack us in groups:  he isolates us and takes us down when we are alone.  Satan doesn’t influence a group to go out and collectively commit adultery.  It happens when we are isolated.

If you don’t have one or more close friends that you can be transparent with, you risk violating the biblical principle of the twos, and as C.S. Lewis suggests, you are in danger.  I encourage you to find one today.

Bill Mann

 

Learning

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 if you are convinced that you are a guide for the blind, a light for those who are in the dark, an instructor of the foolish, a teacher of little children, because you have in the law the embodiment of knowledge and truth—  you, then, who teach others, do you not teach yourself?  Romans 2:19-20

 I’ve written several posts that touched on this topic. Several of them have focused on the changes in teaching where colleges are abandoning the traditional lecture in favor of a participatory small group session that discusses the material (See Get it Got it Good and more recently, Outside the Box). It’s called the “flipped classroom.”

A recent podcast interviewing Dr. Britt Andreatta give credence to the brain science behind learning.  My research has already convinced me that much of our learning models in schools and college are ineffective. After reading this short piece and listening to the podcast, I now know the reason why.

Dr. Andreatta has several interesting points on how we learn.  Learning occurs in three separate phases, using different parts of the brain. It starts in our hippocampus which is where we begin the learning process. This is short-term memory.  According to the science, you need about 20 minutes of processing in the hippocampus to enable you to retain content in your memory.

The second phase is remembering – putting the information into your long-term memory so that it can be retrieved some time later – even years later.  Years ago, this was accomplished by repetition – memorizing things like multiplication tables or words.  Remembering is best accomplished when the content connects with something that the person already knows or has experienced before.

The interesting thing is that the retrieval method (i.e. pulling the information out of your brain) works best if you do the retrieval with intervals of sleep. The “sweet spot” is to retrieve information three times separated by sleep. To me, that’s an “aha” moment. I remember folks in college pulling “all-nighters”, trying to stuff their brain with course material on the night before the exam. It was all short-term memory, and not much stuck for the rest of the semester.

According to brain science, this is a poor method, which is something I intuitively learned in college. A good teacher will require retrieval of information three separate times to ensure that the information is getting stored into your long-term memory.

The third part of learning involves changing behavior, which involves making new habits. Brain science now says that you can change behavior. According to Dr. Andreatta, habits are formed when you have repeated something between 40 to 50 times. At that point, you have created a strong neural pathway or a habit.

As I read this explanation on learning, I couldn’t help but recall one of the disorders affecting the next generation which is called the “Google Effect” (see my post on Digital Dark Side). The Google Effect describes the effect of the digital world on our brains. The next generation has lost the ability to store information and, instead, use the digital world (Google, Bing, or others) to “keep” information instead of retaining it in their brains.

Dr. Andreatta uses this science in how she teaches young adults. She limits her talking to only 15 minutes (never more than 20). She always has her learners do some processing – possibly asking questions and then letting them either discuss it in a smaller group, or write about it, or even take a little assessment, which is a hands-on activity. If it’s a longer session, she does a wash-rinse-repeat by stringing together 15 minute sessions interspersed with a “processing” activity.

What’s interesting to me is how this affects interaction with the next generation. Already, institutions like businesses and professional sports are having to alter things to accommodate a shorter attention span.

Most millennials learn best by an interactive model which may explain why they value and want a mentor in their life. They don’t want lectures, either from you or anyone else.

Even churches can learn from this science of the brain. Long sermons (particularly in Africa) results in the least amount of retention. I don’t expect pastors to break up their audience into small discussion groups. Still, in other venues or seminars, this has proved to be the most effective mode of teaching.

After all, the goal of teaching is to be sure learning is happening. All too often, long-term learning does not take place, and based on brain science, it’s not just the fault of the audience. Sadly, many teachers (and even pastors) forget this goal.

The challenge here is to use this science in a way that helps you communicate effectively, whether to a large audience or small, or even your mentee. The next generation has some hurdles to overcome due to the digital age and its negative effect on learning.  We can be more effective knowing how the brain retains memory.

MENTOR TAKEAWAY:  The process of mentoring is one of the most effective methods of learning.  It is interactive, and provides the next generation with a badly needed sounding board.

FURTHER STUDY:  To listen to the podcast by Dr. Britt Andreatta, here’s the link:

https://growingleaders.com/blog/three-phases-make-learning-stick-podcast-45/

Dr. Andreatta’s book, Wired to Grow discusses this topic in more depth. It is available from Amazon.

For information on the “flipped classroom”: http://www.ascd.org/publications/educational-leadership/mar13/vol70/num06/Evidence-on-Flipped-Classrooms-Is-Still-Coming-In.aspx

WORSHIP: Join Hillsong as they sing “You Said”:

COMMENT:  I would be delighted at comments on this or any other post. You can comment by clicking on the icon at the top of the page, or emailing me at otterpater@nc.rr.com.

SUBSCRIBE:  You can receive an email notice of each post by clicking on the icon at the top right corner of the site (www.mentorlink.wordpress.com)  and entering your email address.

 

Guardrails (Part II)

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 I am conscious of nothing against myself, yet I am not by this acquitted; but the one who examines me is the Lord… wait until the Lord comes who will both bring to light the things hidden in the darkness and disclose the motives of men’s hearts; and then each man’s praise will come from God.” (1 Corinthians 4:4,5).

As suggested in a prior post, guardrails are quite simply those things outside of ourselves that keeps us from getting off the path.  In the above picture, the guardrails protect cars from plunging down a cliff.

As the above passage notes, we will have an ultimate accounting of our lives before the Lord.  Yet, I don’t find it to be something in the top of my mind every moment of the waking day.  In fact, I would have to admit that my behavior is rarely dictated by the thought that my day-to-day actions will face scrutiny of God.    For me, it is not a strong guardrail.  I am not alone.

In a post-modern, post-Christian era, the next generation suffers from a lack of value formation which often results in bad choices.  They don’t have the guardrails of a biblical view of life. Their bad choices, can and often do, last for a lifetime.  The unwanted teenage pregnancy, for example, often results in the inability for the mother to finish her education.  In turn, that results in an inability to get a reasonable job to support her family. The child also becomes a victim of this bad choice.

This point was driven in years ago at a lunch with several of my close friends.  Three of them were seminary graduates. They were lamenting the fall from grace by a seminary colleague who had an affair which ruined his marriage and cost him his job as a senior pastor.  He made a bad choice. There was a disbelief by my friends that knew him well that this man could have made that kind of mistake. Before this failure, he was perceived as above reproach.

It dawned on all of us, that if this man could fail, we all could fail.  No one is exempt. One man in our group, though took a different tack. He said that his marriage was too important to him to blow it on an affair.  In effect, he was saying fear of consequences kept him between the guardrails.

Another guardrail came out of that discussion. In interviews with 200 pastors who had moral failures, one thing was missing:  they had no one to hold them accountable. They had no one who could ask them questions about their thought life or how they were doing spiritually or emotionally. No one to ask them what God was teaching them in the word.

I have developed a close relationship with these men who have acted in one capacity as being an accountability group (although we don’t call it that).  We have met together almost weekly for 25 years. When we get together, we share each other’s lives – the good and the bad- along with the challenges we face.  It’s really a peer mentor group, although we didn’t apply that label to it until recently.

The theme of accountability has been a strong influence in my life.  I have urged others to adopt it. While I have failed in my own weak areas from time to time, my failures have been kept in check in by knowing that my failure would be subject to periodic reviews by others.

Before high speed internet, most sexual failures were the physical kind – people having affairs or being unfaithful. Now the issue is more complicated, particularly with the next generation.  Online pornography (and to a certain extent gaming which has taken a turn to violence and sexual content) is readily available on every smartphone, iPhone, iPad or computer.

The negative impact of pornography is only now emerging, partly because researchers have been unable to find enough participants in the next generation who did not view online porn. Thus, the classic two group study of the outcomes of participants – one group having viewed porn and one group that had not – failed because of the lack of one group.

I take it as a given with the next generation that porn is an issue in their lives.  When speaking about mentoring, I bring this up as a topic because of its prevalence. As a mentor, one of our tasks is to probe into the dark areas of a mentees’ life, and hopefully help them bring light to it.

I recall reading recently that the most effective antidote for dealing with pornography was having an accountability partner or mentor. Made sense to me, given the results of the study of the 200 pastors who had affairs.  Having someone to whom you are accountable to increases the likelihood of success by some 5 times more than anything else.

In James 5:16, we are admonished to confess our sins to one another so that you may be healed.  That’s what accountability looks like in scripture in the horizontal world. Yes, we are accountable to God, but if one is serious about his faith and walk as a follower of Christ, I submit that accountability to another person is a guardrail that we all need.

The challenge here is to recognize the issues facing the next generation. Changes in technology have created new threats that didn’t exist until just recently. One of the tasks that we have as mentors is to help the next generation face these issues head on and not keep them in the dark. Urge them to seek an accountability partner or mentor.  The Christian life is a team sport, as I have said many times.  Having a teammate to whom you are accountable is an invaluable guardrail for your life.

MENTOR TAKEAWAY:  Mentors should be aware of issues that face the next generation. While the issues may be general in nature, it is quite possible that your mentee struggles with one of more of them. You can be guardrails in somebody’s life.

WORSHIP:  Listen to Kari Jobe sing “I Am Not Alone”.

COMMENT:  I would be delighted at comments on this or any other post. You can comment by clicking on the icon at the top of the page, or emailing me at otterpater@nc.rr.com.

SUBSCRIBE:  You can receive an email notice of each post by clicking on the icon at the top right corner of the site (www.mentorlink.wordpress.com)  and entering your email address.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Guardrails (I)

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For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each of us may receive what is due us for the things done while in the body, whether good or bad. 1 Corinthians 5:10

When you go into a restaurant and have finished your meal, you often motion to your server that you want the check.  In French, it’s called “l’addition” and in German “rechnung”.  In English, you just ask for the bill.

When you get the bill, you usually check to see that you’ve been charged correctly.  Why do you check the bill? Well, it’s because you want to be sure that it is a correct accounting of your meal before you pay. If it is accurate, you can then pay the bill.

In life, we have a final accounting.  It’s on the last day, when we stand before God with Christ at our side as our advocate. He looks at our life just as we review our restaurant bill – to see if what we’ve accomplished in life – good or bad – will be deserving of praise.  That’s the ultimate accountability. Fortunately, God has erased the bad from our record by sending His son to the cross to die for our sins.

Still, we face an accounting for our actions and deeds on earth as detailed in scripture, although we don’t often act like it, myself included. We often get off the path and slip into the weeds – in many ways and every day.  An angry retort or giving in to a temptation that has plagued you. We often aren’t serious about our sins, and think God will just excuse them at the end.

That would be a mistake and a misreading of scripture. It’s what Dietrich Bonhoeffer called “cheap grace” where we recognize that we are under grace and forgiven, so we can just go on living our lives as if sinning no longer matters.

Why did I use the word “Guardrails” and the above picture?  By guardrails, I am referring to those metal safety devices that you see on highways what keeps your car on the road in case of an accident.  Without them, your car may go over the side.

I have found that my conduct in life has been a function of several different guardrails over time.  I will talk about some of them that helped me and others in this and subsequent posts.  I have asked the question of others: “What has kept you on track in your life?”  Essentially, what “guardrails” in your life kept you from going astray.

One set of guard rails are the innate set of values that tells you what is wrong and what is right. Those values keep you on the road so you don’t have a wreck. The next generation, in this post-Christian age, do not have that innate sense of right or wrong which most of us grew up with in a Christian culture. Put another way, they don’t have a strong set of values that act as guardrails.

They have left the biblical moorings of the prior generation, so moral absolutes don’t apply any more. It’s as if someone has removed the guard rails of morality in their lives.  Their conduct is likely to be more dictated by peers than by any sense of right or wrong.  That’s a dangerous and slippery slope, particularly for a generation which has extended adolescence into their late 20’s or early 30’s.

Their attitudes about drugs, sexuality (and homosexuality,) are not based on any biblical understanding.  Ditto for abortion. Their attitudes are framed by their culture. Some have called this generation the “hook-up” generation. Studies and research is clear on this topic. They have lost the values of the prior generation which acted as a set of guard rails to guide them.

I met a man who told me that he knows a businessman in eastern North Carolina who is looking for employees who will start at $50,000 a year salary, but they cannot find ones that can pass the drug tests.  Almost all have used drugs. Out of desperation, he now hires employees that have tested positive for drug use but otherwise appear promising, and then sends them to a rehab to get them to clean up before he puts them to work.

This is one example of behavior based on peer attitudes without any concern for consequences. Another is the example of babies born out-of-wedlock which now represents 40% of all births in the US today. In the black community, it soars to 73%, and many women have babies by more than one father.  It’s very commonplace, and is now baked into their culture so that it will take years to reverse.

In many cases, the father is totally out of the picture when it comes to raising a child.  In 2014, Pew did a study and only 62% of children under 18 live in a household with a father and a mother as parents.  This is a historic low.

The unwed mother loses, too – she often gets pregnant at a young age when she hasn’t completed her education, so that when she is the sole bread-winner in the family, she has insufficient skills or education to get a good paying job.  The studies bear this out.

Low economic circumstances are devastating in its long-term effect on the children. In a 2015 Pew study, lower-income families cause several limits to the maturity of the children. Sometimes, it is a limit on growing up in a safe environment, or even being exposed to enriching activities that more affluent parents take for granted.  Children from lower incomes don’t have access to positive after-school activities.

The child loses – they are left to be raised in a one parent household, and studies show that this is not a good environment.  Society loses, too, because many of these unwed mothers become dependent on welfare – handouts from the government – which is expensive and does nothing to address the real issues.

So, how does one navigate life to be sure that our choices and conduct is kept “between the guardrails.” Based on my experience, that there are things that helped me make proper choices.  The first of these is a well-developed set of values (See my post on Values).  Those imbedded values are the basis of many decisions.

The second one is fear of consequences.  I know this is a negative motivation, but most people I know would say the same thing.  We are called to be holy in scripture, but too often, it is the fear of consequences that rules the day.  I can’t say that I focus about standing before God on the last day when I make critical choices.  I am more motivated by what others who I respect would think of my conduct.

Two things are happening:  first, the next generation are not getting a balanced set of values exhibited by good role models.  Recent studies confirm that the traditional family with a mom and a dad leads to better outcomes of the children, which contradicts the liberal advocacy that single gender parents are just as good.

Secondly, they are not getting any discipline.  Parental discipline results in the fear of consequences for bad behavior. It is usually the father figure that is the disciplinarian in the family, and if he is not present, there is nothing to fill in the void.

They then look at the culture and their peers for the answers. Unfortunately, adolescents can’t differentiate what is a good path or a bad path, and if they don’t have any good role models or mentors around them, they are adrift.

The challenge here is enormous.  I really don’t know where to start because the trend of diverse families – either single parents, or same-sex parents – is a societal issue beyond my ability to reverse.  But I can reach out to someone in the next generation that might have a gap in their life in their upbringing and help them along the way.  It’s called mentoring, and anyone can do it.  Even you!

MENTOR TAKEAWAY: While you are not a parent to your mentee, you can provide him or her with a biblical role model that they may not have encountered before.  Just being there and listening to them is a valuable resource for their development. Y

FURTHER STUDY:  For the Pew research on parenting: http://www.pewsocialtrends.org/2015/12/17/parenting-in-america/

Pew Research on growing diversity of families:http://www.pewsocialtrends.org/2015/12/17/1-the-american-family-today/

Studies showing value of traditional family unit on outcomes of children: http://www.washingtontimes.com/news/2012/jun/10/study-children-fare-better-traditional-mom-dad-fam/

WORSHIP:  Listen to Chris Tomlin and Passion sing “We Fall Down”:

COMMENT:  I would be delighted at comments on this or any other post. You can comment by clicking on the icon at the top of the page, or emailing me at otterpater@nc.rr.com.

SUBSCRIBE:  You can receive an email notice of each post by clicking on the icon at the top right corner of the site (www.mentorlink.wordpress.com)  and entering your email address.

 

 

 

Procrastination

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There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under the heavens: a time to be born and a time to die, a time to plant and a time to uproot, a time to kill and a time to heal, a time to tear down and a time to build. Ecclesiastes 1:1-3

 My simple definition of procrastination is putting off until tomorrow that which you should do today. We don’t often procrastinate about things we like to do.  Instead, we tend to delay doing things that are not so interesting or fun.  In my case, I never like to get ready to do my annual income tax return.

A friend of mine who was chairman of my law firm had a description of something he called the “green monster”.  A “green monster” was a file on every attorney’s desk that had sat untouched for so long that it had started to be covered with green moss.  We all have green monsters in our life.

We live in a world where procrastination is rampant in the next generation.  I’ve written about the delay of young adults’ emergence into adulthood.  The millennials are often increasing adolescence until their early 30’s.

What are the marks of adulthood?  Well, for most it involves leaving home, completing all education, being financially independent, and often getting married.

According to Robert Wuthrow, 77% of adolescents had achieved independence by age 30 in the 1960’s (these were the Baby Boomers).  That number has dropped to only 46% of women and 30% of men by 2000.

Pew Research studies in 2016 show that 40% of young people aged 18-34 now live with their parents. The studies attribute these numbers partially to economic factors, but part of it is because the propensity of young adults to procrastinate in making decisions or commitments.

The trend of extended adolescence didn’t just start with the millennials.  It also affected Generation X – the generation born before 1980.  In her book New Passages, author Gail Sheehy wrote about the delayed emergence of adolescents into adulthood in 1985.

Sheehy’s thesis was that the usual benchmarks of life which the Boomers observed have been pushed back by 10 years. Adulthood for a Boomer was achieved by age of 21, whereas the newer generation had their emergence as an adult delayed until age 30.

The issues for the millennials are more complex because they have so many choices arrayed to them. For some reason, they are paralyzed when making decisions with the result that they often spend time trying to “find themselves” first before they make a commitment.

I am currently meeting with one young man who is struggling to reenter the workforce having volunteered for a disaster aid agency. He is looking for meaningful work which matches the level of fulfillment he received by working for a non-profit.

He’s struggling with choices and has deferred making commitments. Based on my research and personal experience with other millennials, he is not alone.

In my prior life, I call this the paralysis of analysis. It came from observing young lawyers who could argue both sides of an issue.  But in the real world, the client wants your opinion as to the best course of action, not an evenly balanced presentation of all the options.

We often hesitate to commit based on what is God’s will for our life.  What I have found is that often God’s will is best seen in hindsight, not as something directly from God as to what direction or choice I should make. It’s a clash between God’s will for our lives and our free will which He also gave us.

Kevin DeYoung has written a pithy book entitled Just Do Something. As the title suggests, he advocates that the next generation make a decision even if one is unsure if it is the right or best decision. He notes that God rarely tells us what to do, so waiting around for that “word” from above may prove fruitless.

It’s our job to make the best decision we can, relying not just on our own intellect, but also getting the benefit of the wise counsel of a mentor or a Godly friend. No matter what the decision is, we know that God will be with us regardless of the outcome.

Ultimately, it is a leap of faith – deciding and then relying on God to be by our side and rely on Him for the outcome.  At an early age, most decisions are rarely fatal or irreversible if they prove to be wrong.

Our challenge is to help the next generation take baby steps towards decisions and commitments. Sitting on the sidelines waiting for the perfect job may be an exercise in futility. The role of a mentor is best exercised by drawing on relevant experiences or scripture to illustrate how they dealt with something similar.  We don’t make the decision for the mentee – that’s their job.

MENTOR TAKEAWAY:  You can be a valuable sounding board for the next generation who get stuck trying to overanalyze decisions or commitments. Sometimes there are no bad answers, and just being there to help them consider the options is an invaluable resource.

FURTHER STUDY:  The Pew Research study on millennials living at home: https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/wonk/wp/2016/06/30/the-real-reason-so-many-millennials-are-living-at-home/?utm_term=.ffac09bf0642

WORSHIP:  Join Passion sing “Better is One Day in Your Courts”

COMMENT:  I would be delighted at comments on this or any other post. You can comment by clicking on the icon at the top of the page, or emailing me at otterpater@nc.rr.com.

SUBSCRIBE:  You can receive an email notice of each post by clicking on the icon at the top right corner of the site (www.mentorlink.wordpress.com)  and entering your email address.

 

 

 

 

 

 

For Us

 

mission 

But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.  Romans 5:8

This post was inspired by just two words: “for us”.  While we were attending a communion service in a suburb of Memphis on Sunday, the pastor highlighted these two words from the above passage, and they resonated with me.  How profound they are.   God showed His love “for us”. Christ died “for us”.

We live in an egocentric and introspective society. Often, “it’s all about me”. Unfortunately, our next generation (Generation Y) has narcissistic tendencies. Social media makes them become introspective and reduces interaction with others.  I’m hopeful that Generation Z may be more altruistic than Generation Y as early studies show.

While eating dinner recently in Huntsville, Alabama, I chatted with a man who worked for a company that repairs airplane engines. He said that he hires young people, and he is aghast at their lack of social skills.  In his interviews, he wonders to himself “Didn’t anyone tell you that what you just said was inappropriate?” He attributed this to social media which has replaced face to face conversations. They don’t think about others when they speak. The focus is on self, not others.

Even Rick Warren’s best-selling book Purpose Driven Life starts off with the famous line “It’s not about you.”  In a short sentence, he conveys the principle that your purpose is not to be selfish, but to be selfless.

Christ was selfless.  He gave his life for us.  You and me.  He didn’t do it for himself, but for others. That’s the ultimate in selflessness. As John 15:3 says, there is no greater sacrifice or expression of love than one who lays down his life for another.

We, on the other hand, tend to be selfish. We are more concerned with our circumstances, our bank account and life style.  We live in an affluent fog. When I visit sub-Saharan Africa, I end up coming away with one distinct impression: our commitment to Christ in the western world is very shallow by comparison.

We have not been called to hang out in neighborhoods with Boko Haran or Al-Shabab. We have not been called to live in an extremely poor country where the average family income is less than $100 a month.  For that matter, we haven’t been called to drive 3 hours on rough roads just to go 35 miles.

We haven’t been called to live in areas like northern Kenya or Tanzania where drought has existed for the past two years, and people are dying from hunger. We don’t even see appeals for humanitarian aid in our media.  We have become immune to seeing the worlds’ needs, unless, of course, you have been there and have seen them for yourself.

We, at Mentor Link, are ultra-efficient with our money.  We partner with indigenous and self-supporting NGO’s, churches or denominations that are already on the ground. We do that for several reasons, not the least of which is that we don’t have to overcome or understand cultural or language barriers: our partners do that for us.

We do not act as an endowment. We don’t give money. We give leaders tools like 40 Days with Jesus or our leadership training modeled on how Christ mentored his disciples. We give away our materials freely. We don’t try and monetize our resources because our audience can’t afford them.

This model, of course is different from what missions has looked like in the western world over the last century. That model involves putting a western missionary on the field in some country and support him (or her) there for several years. It is expensive, and to my way of thinking, an economically inefficient method. Our reach and breadth (we are now in over 80 countries and have trained over 70,000 pastors in just 17 years) tells me that our model is an effective and efficient model.

Having said that, I am a fan of short-term missions, less so for what those involved can do for others, but for the change in the hearts and minds of the people going on a missions trip. Over the years, I have rarely met anyone who hasn’t been changed by the experience.  It’s transforming and life-changing in most cases. It might be economically inefficient, but spiritually invaluable.

The transformation includes changes to our vision.  Suddenly, we see the world differently. One quickly starts thinking about others – what our actions does for others, just as Christ going to the cross was “for us”.  We are told to die to self, and this is one way where we can see and feel what that looks like by being involved in missions for others.  We can’t experience it at home because of our affluent culture.

Our challenge is clear which is to deepen our faith and love for others and take our eyes off ourselves and invest in others. One step would be to get involved in a short-term mission.   As a mentor, you can encourage your mentee to take that step as well.  They say one picture is worth a thousand words. Well, one mission trip is worth a thousand sermons in my opinion.

MENTOR TAKEAWAY:  Mentors can encourage their protégés to go on a short-term mission trip. It will be worth the cost – both in time and money, and will teach them lessons about living for others that you cannot.

WORSHIP:  Listen to Hillsong sing “Draw Me Close to You”

COMMENT:  I would be delighted at comments on this or any other post. You can comment by clicking on the icon at the top of the page, or emailing me at otterpater@nc.rr.com.

SUBSCRIBE:  You can receive an email notice of each post by clicking on the icon at the top right corner of the site (www.mentorlink.wordpress.com)  and entering your email address.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Ego

ego 

A dispute also arose among them as to which of them was considered to be greatest”. Luke 22:24

Ego.  Yes, we all have one.  Some have larger egos than others.  It is constantly cropping up in the New Testament.  The above passage is right before the last supper, but the issue came up early in Jesus three years of mentoring the disciples.  It occurs back in Luke 9:46 where the disciples got into an argument as to who would be the greatest. In both instances, Jesus repressed it and rebuked the disciples for their wrong thinking.

Wow.  You’d think by the time of the Last Supper that the disciples would have “gotten it”. You’d think I would have “gotten it” too, after 72 years on this earth.  But Ego creeps in and it is hard to suppress. We want to be recognized for our “achievements”. We want to number 1.  We want to be “top dog”.

My mother had a saying that I remember to this day.  She said that under their clothes, everyone has a tee-shirt on that says, “I want to feel important.”  They don’t broadcast it, but that desire is there in everyone.  When you make someone feel important, they react positively.

We see it in the Pharisees – they want the perks that goes with their titles, so they wore robes and spent a lot of their day being recognized for their outward appearances.  But God doesn’t want outward achievements to control.  He wants our hearts.

Ego creates a tension between our humanity and God’s eternity.  If our humanity (and ego) controls, we can get out of God’s will.  Some have described the word ego as an acronym for Edging God Out. Good stuff.

In Africa, and elsewhere, people want titles to demonstrate to others their importance. Pastors are not immune.  They want to be called Apostles, and then Bishops.  It’s a quest for titles to show how important they are. They are looking for self-created importance in the eyes of man, not in the eyes of God.  They want the “perks” of their position. A seat at the front, rather than at the back. The ability to wear special robes. The right to put a title in their name.  That’s what the disciples wanted – they wrestled for a seat next to Jesus so others could see their importance.

In the kingdom, eternal values trump our human instincts, but I must say that our “hard wired” instincts (including our ego) are often hard to change. What God is after is out attitude – one that flows from our heart – that sees being a servant leader more important in His kingdom.

I recently came across something that really made sense to me. It came from a book by Simon Sinek entitled Leaders Eat Last, and it describes how our brain works.  We have two sets of chemicals that affect us.  The first are endorphins and dopamine which he calls “selfish” chemicals because they give us a “high” for getting results. The bigger the accomplishment, the more one gets a dopamine rush.

The other chemicals are the “selfless” ones: serotonin and oxytocin.  The former results in a feeling of pride when we feel valued by others. It helps take bonds between people to a deeper level. Oxytocin, on the other hand, helps develop empathy and trust, which also deepens the bonds between people. There is no rush as one gets from dopamine. Instead, oxytocin has long-term effects which is “the chemical manifestation of love.”

Ego thrives on dopamine – getting a rush for accomplishment and recognition. Being a servant leader – or “eating last” as Sinek puts it – involves loving others.  You build relationships and bonds with others.

Which brings me to mentoring.  Where does mentoring others fit in with ego?  Well, I can honestly say that it is quite consistent.  Mentoring the next generation is not glamorous. You will never see your name in lights nor get accolades for achievements.

In fact, you won’t garner much attention from our culture.  Yet, your impact on the lives of the next generation can have eternal significance.  No dopamine highs or rush is involved or needed.

I’ve often thought that mentoring doesn’t get much attention because some may perceive it as not being visible enough. Other ministries are more visible and glamorous.  But, as Jesus notes consistently, your reward is not here on earth, but in heaven.  Doing God’s will doesn’t mean that you will end up in a ministry that calls attention to yourself.  Being a mentor means following what Jesus did.

I have met with many mentors in my life.  They were intentional and humble.  They weren’t in it for recognition. They were investing in others’ lives for their recipient’s benefit, not their own. They did it quietly and without fanfare. They meet in coffee shops, over lunch, or anywhere they can connect.  They even meet on ski slopes like a friend of mine from Evergreen, Colorado, who was a natural mentor to every man he met.

Jesus inverts the importance of our humanity and replaces it with humility and servanthood. Our inclination is to do something showy and flashy – something that others can see.  Something where our culture says, “Atta boy”.  Something that gets a dopamine rush.

Jesus, on the other hand, loved the person who labors in the background without fanfare or recognition. He wants and needs people to work in the shadows doing God’s will in their own unique way. He wants people who see that their efforts for eternity will last, even if they are unseen by our culture.

When I call men to mentor the next generation, I am calling them to lay down their ego to a certain extent.  They could be teaching a Sunday school class or doing dozens of other more visible ministries where they get recognition.  But that’s not how Jesus did it.  He did it one on one, initially with the Disciples, and then to the 72.  His messages were life on life.

The challenge is to see the eternal benefit of mentoring which is life on life connection with the next generation.  It is not a task for those who want dopamine highs for accomplishments, because the accomplishments that matter are ones that the mentee achieves, not the mentor.

MENTOR TAKEAWAY:   Seeing God’s call on your life to mentor the next generation is not something that will stoke your ego.  Instead, you will find yourself loving your mentees through their ups and downs and challenges.

FURTHER STUDY:  Simon Sinek’s book Leaders Eat Last is available on Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/Leaders-Eat-Last-Together-Others-ebook/dp/B00DGZKQM8/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1489156646&sr=1-1&keywords=leaders+eat+last

WORSHIP: Listen to Kari Jobe sing I Am Not Alone:

COMMENT:  I would be delighted at comments on this or any other post. You can comment by clicking on the icon at the top of the page, or emailing me at otterpater@nc.rr.com.

SUBSCRIBE:  You can receive an email notice of each post by clicking on the icon at the top right corner of the site (www.mentorlink.wordpress.com)  and entering your email address.

 

 

 

Digital Dark Side

digital

 My son, do not let wisdom and understanding out of your sight, preserve sound judgment and discretion; Proverbs 3:21

 I have become increasingly concerned with the next generation’s obsession with things digital.  I posted on one aspect of this called FOMO (Fear of Missing Out) some time ago, and have made other comments on some of the not-so-good side effects, particularly on boys. Another one of my posts entitled “Critical Thinking” touched on the decline on the ability of the next generation to think critically instead of relying on answers that they can look up online.

One of those side effects is the impact on “gaming” which is more a problem for boys than for girls. By gaming, I am talking about playing various games on different platforms like a computer, cellphone, iPad or even Xbox developed by Microsoft. The games can be played via Apps on your phone.

We are seeing boys beginning to lag behind girls significantly in their vocabulary and education.  As noted in a prior post, children in middle school today possess a vocabulary of only 10,000 words, down from 25,000 just ten years ago. Boys tend to be bigger consumers of playing games digitally.

The next generation (Generation Z, and iY) are those who have grown up with touch pad devices in their hands – either a cell phone or an iPad or something else.  They were all born after 1990.  The first of these are now going to college, and many of them haven’t read a book, but instead have listened to them on audiobooks.com.

This generation is much more graphically oriented in their learning.  They are used to pictures to help describe what is going on.  In fact, for this reason, I have a picture attached to each of my posts which generally is graphic depiction of my topic in some way.

More recently though, some of the more negative aspects of the impact of the digital world is emerging, and some of them are disturbing.  One of these is that there are now 8 new mental illnesses brought to you by the internet.  According to Evin Dashevsky, writing in PC World, these disorders, which range from the “benign to destructive”, have just been recognized recently and didn’t even exist in the middle 1990’s.

Some of these are variations of older disorders.  While some may be familiar with FOMO, one of these new disorders is called “Nomophobia” which is a fear of not having access to your mobile phone (either it crashed, you lost power, or it was lost or stolen).

The condition can be severe as the PC World magazine article notes: “[T]he condition has found its way into the most recent edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5) and has prompted a dedicated Nomophobia treatment program at Morningside Recovery Center in Newport Beach, California.”

Another condition is called Cybersickness which results in physical symptoms like nausea and dizziness caused by interacting with things like virtual reality and other use of mobile apps. The next is called “Facebook Depression” which may be descriptive enough that you can figure out what the symptoms look like. It comes from the despair that accompanies one watching everyone else have more fun and lead more successful lives than yours.

The next two are described as addictions: “Internet Addiction Disorder” and “Online Gaming Disorder”.  The former is descriptive of such an extraordinary use of the internet that it interferes with your daily life.  The latter is limited to an unhealthy need to be online playing multiplayer games.

With the internet, medical information not otherwise available about medicine is now readily available.  It is leading to users to have something called “Cyberchondria” where one is led to believe they have diseases that they found online.  Sites like WebMD give enormous amounts of information, resulting in people who may have a simple headache become concerned that it might be a brain tumor.

The last disorder is one that I am most concerned about based on what I’ve been learning recently. It’s called the “Google Effect”.  It describes the condition that our brains are declining in the ability to retain facts or information as before because it can be found online via a search engines like Google or Bing.

As a result, our brains are changed and we no longer have the ability to retain information as much as prior generations. The number of searches on Google has grown from 9,800 in 1998 to 4.7 trillion today. Since we now have nearly all the information of ever created by civilization at our fingertips, our brain functions may be altering how and what we retain.

A recent study confirms this. The study used two groups and gave each of them the same questions, only one group could look up the answers on Google and the other could not. Later, they redid the exercise, only this time they reversed the groups so that the group that had used Google to get the answers had to answer without that aid. In the second exercise, the group that had used Google originally were unable to remember their answers from the first exercise.

In effect, people have started using Google instead of their brains to store information. Unfortunately, as one writer notes, our brains use information stored in our brains in order to “facilitate critical thinking.”

The first time I encountered what is called the Google Effect was in talking with a lawyer who did complex litigation.  He said that he had a mind like a bathtub.  He said that when he prepared for a case, he filled his mind with all the necessary and complex facts, stats and data until he had filled his brain up to the brim.

Once the case was over, he pulled the plug and drained his mind just like a bathtub so he could prepare for his next case. He said he had gotten so good at it that if you asked him about the facts of a case several months later, he often couldn’t remember. That’s an older version of the Google Effect.

In his book, Glow Kids: How Screen Addiction is Hijacking Our Kids and How to Break the Tranceauthor Dr. Nicholas Kardaras likens the addictive effect on young children as being the same as Digital Heroin. He has observed young children going through signs of withdrawal when denied the access to digital devices, including tantrums as if they were digital junkies.

Before I leave this topic, I would be remiss in not mentioning the addiction to pornography, which studies now show has an impact on the brain (see video below).  To give you an idea of how prevalent online pornography is, one should understand that studies in this area have been made difficult due to a lack of participants who have not been involved with online pornography.

To do a study, there is a control group that does not have the issue (i.e. has not been involved in pornography) which will then be compared with a group of users of pornography. Until recently, they have not been able to find sufficient young adults who have not been involved with pornography to conduct a study. Pornography is every man and woman’s issue in the next generation.

Marvin Brubacher (one of my mentor colleagues) says that when he is begins mentoring a younger man or teaching a mentoring seminar, a mentor “needs to probe deep into the life of his mentee concerning this issue as well as a person’s engagement with God”. “The two issues are connected yet mutually exclusive in every case.”

He goes on to say that “they (digital addiction to gaming or pornography) are “connected because the practice of one keeps one from the practice of the other; they are mutually exclusive because they can’t be mutual passions in one’s life.”

Heady stuff, and some of it scary since these disorders are new, or at least variations of older disorders.  For mentors, it means that are likely to encounter someone in the next generation who has more than just a mild interaction with the internet or the digital world. As Marvin Brubacher suggests, if that interaction results in addictive behavior, a mentor needs to be able to identify it and help them through it, or at least direct them to counseling.

To mentor the next generation, one needs to understand them.  Now, that understanding includes learning about emotional or addictive behaviors which are novel and new. Ryan Terrance put it this way: “Everything in moderation, and there’s a perfect balance in this life if we can find it.”  What these new behaviors show that is that there is a dark side to the digital world that the next generation is plugged in to.

Our challenge as mentors and parents is to help the next generation navigate a safe route with the digital world and urge moderation in their use.  Digital obsession really does have consequences, and many of them are damaging.

MENTOR TAKEAWAY:  Be aware that the next generation is playing with fire, only, unlike fire, it doesn’t give off a warning through heat which they can feel. As mentors, you need to be asking your mentees about their digital footprint to be sure they aren’t crossing over to the dark side.

FURTHER STUDY: For 100,000 books you can download on Audio Books, go to http://www.audiobooks.com

Classification of Internet Addiction as a disorder:  https://www.rt.com/news/internet-use-mental-illness-389/

Eight New Disorders caused by the digital age: http://www.pcworld.com/article/2054386/eight-new-mental-illnesses-brought-to-you-by-wait-for-it-the-internet.html

For articles on the Google Effect: http://academicearth.org/electives/internet-changing-your-brain/

An article on Digital Heroin: http://miami.cbslocal.com/2017/03/03/doc-claims-too-much-screen-time-turns-kids-into-digital-junkies/

For the effects of pornography on the brain:  http://www.yourbrainonporn.com/your-brain-on-porn-series

WORSHIP:  Listen to “Healer” by Hillsong which reminds us that nothing is impossible with God:

COMMENT:  I would be delighted at comments on this or any other post. You can comment by clicking on the icon at the top of the page, or emailing me at otterpater@nc.rr.com.

SUBSCRIBE:  You can receive an email notice of each post by clicking on the icon at the top right corner of the site (www.mentorlink.wordpress.com)  and entering your email address.