We is Better than Me

friendship-1081843_1920

 

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

 

Comfort Zone

 

When I think, my bed will comfort me and my couch will ease my complaint, Even then you frighten me with dreams and terrify me with visions.  Job 7:12-14

We all have one.  A comfort zone is a state where we feel comfortable, protected, secure and at ease.  We don’t like to get out of our comfort zone.  It’s…….well, it’s un-comfortable.  Getting outside the comfort zone means we put ourselves in an unfamiliar environment that we don’t want to be in, or are having to do something that makes us uneasy.  But, as someone once said, Jesus came to comfort the afflicted, and afflict the comfortable.

Jesus wants us out of our comfort zone where everything is second nature to us and we don’t have to stretch.  When we are in a comfort zone or our element, we can just run on cruise control because we are dealing with something that is known to us.

But the world beckons outside our comfort zone.  As Roy Bennet says: “If you always do what is easy and choose the path of least resistance, you never step outside your comfort zone. Great things don’t come from comfort zones.” I agree with him.

My comfort zone was always on the intellectual side of things – figuring out how things worked in law, for example – learning a complex tax code and contemplating how to help my clients navigate around it to their economic advantage.  Some of you might think that’s goofy, but I liked it.  It was stimulating and, over time, I became more proficient at it.

On the other hand, there were many things I did not like to do.  I hated the thought of having to stand up before people and do any public speaking.  That might have been why I gravitated to a “transactional practice” because it meant that I didn’t have to make arguments in court in front of others.

If called upon to speak to a group, my hands would break into a cold sweat and my stomach would turn into knots. Totally out of my comfort zone. And I shunned leadership positions, preferring to work in the background to achieve my goals and needs, letting others take the leadership position and supporting them.  I was very comfortable in the background.

Then my life got turned upside down when at age 38, I became a Christian.  It changed my world – not immediately, but within months.  I started attending a bible study which I loved – I soaked up scripture just as I had the tax code.  It was fascinating and all new to me.  The second year of the bible study, I was asked to be a leader of 15 men.  I took a big gulp and said yes. I was petrified – first because I wasn’t a bible expert, and secondly because I never had done this before.

Within a short time, I helped organize and set up a church in Raleigh with others and ended up on the Elder Board.  We had over 500 people at our very first service. That put the size of our new church plant in the top 10% of all churches in the United States.  My learning experience was straight up. No curve to my experience – just jump out of the boat and start swimming.  Upon later reflection, I realized that Jesus had kicked me out of the boat. It wasn’t just a gentle push.

In my legal career, the small law firm I had helped start in 1978 merged with a large international firm based in San Francisco in 1985. I was selected by my partners to be the manager of our Raleigh office and put on a 5-person management committee (called ExCom) which was responsible for the oversight of 17 offices and 550 lawyers. A leadership position to which I was drafted by my partners.

I remember sitting on a plane headed to one of our monthly Ex-Com management meetings in San Francisco and wondering how this had possibly happened to me.  I mean this was something I had intentionally avoided for most of my life.  I was out of my comfort zone, for sure.

I retired from 45 years of law practice at the end of 2013, and one of the things that appealed to me was being more involved with the MentorLInk ministry.  I didn’t know what that looked like when I discussed it with my close friends before retiring.  It was just a desire to do more because I would have more time on my hands.

Two years ago while at our regular lunch with my friends Stacy Rinehart and Ralph Ennis, we were going over upcoming travel schedules to get an idea of what lay ahead.  Stacy mentioned that he was going to do a MentorLink training in Kenya.  Without much forethought, I wondered out loud that I might be interesting to be involved on such a trip.

The next thing I knew, I was on a plane to Nairobi, Kenya.  Stacy took a different airline so arrived around 9 pm by myself in Nairobi after 22 hours in an airplane.  We stayed at a hotel near the airport. Because of a scheduling conflict, Stacy had asked me to speak at a church in Nairobi, and Bishop Patrick Maithya picked me up the next morning at 9 am and I was still adjusting to the 8-hour time change.

We drove to his church and on the way, Patrick turned to me and said: “Brother Bill, in Kenya when we worship, we dance when we sing.”  I responded that I was looking forward to that experience, and he continued: “If you will, just move your feet a little, and everyone will understand.”  Wow!  No pressure there. Having two left feet wouldn’t matter.

My apprehension of speaking to a church in a foreign country quickly disappeared.  I delivered my message which had simultaneous translation, a first for me.  In America, we take for granted that our audiences speak the same language.  Considering that, just a few years ago, I would have been petrified to speak to any audience, much less one in a foreign country, I found the experience encouraging.

In America, the Church has become a comfort zone where we can exercise our faith, often with total anonymity. Very few churches urge people to go on a short-term mission trips or even be involved in missions.  I am grateful that my church here is an exception.

The value of a mission trip is not what is accomplished abroad (although that is important). It is what is accomplished in the heart and mind of the participant.  I have yet to meet anyone with foreign mission experience who wasn’t changed in some subtle but profound way.

One area where comfort zones become moats to ministry is the area of mentoring. I am a strong advocate of mentoring (in case you hadn’t noticed), because I firmly believe it is our obligation to pass on our faith lives to the next generation. It’s a biblical imperative which has gotten little lip service in the world or the church, to the detriment of the next generation of leaders.

I recently have formed a friendship with Steve Morrow, a man who discovered MentorLink on his own and has become involved in facilitating some of our institute sessions with others.  He was drawn to our emphasis on learning from the inside out and our methodology of teaching. He just retired and is contemplating what the next steps in life are for him.

During our last conversation, I challenged him to do two new things he had not done before.  The first was to find a younger man to mentor.  Kind of a “get out of the stands and get on the sidelines to coach others” admonition.  I want him to have hands-on experience of investing in another’s life.  It will change him, although I can’t say how at this point.

The second thing I suggested was for him to join me on trip to Togo next May.  One picture is worth a thousand words.  The experience is life changing in so many ways, but, as you can imagine, it takes a little courage to get out of our comfort zone.

So, what’s your comfort zone?  What will it take to get you out of it?   What is it that you have never stretched for?  Has anyone encouraged you?  Have you felt a nudging of the Holy Spirit to do something out of your comfort zone?

What about going on a mission trip? Facilitate a class?  Become a mentor to someone you don’t know anything about?  Join in their life experiences and provide support and Godly counsel of your life experiences?

There’s an infinite number of things that you can do, but if you are stuck in your comfort zone, nothing will happen.  My challenge to you is to consider doing something you’ve never done before for the Kingdom.  Big or small.  Doesn’t matter.  You’ll find that if you are in God’s will, you will not be un-comfortable.

Bill Mann

MENTOR TAKEAWAY:  Don’t shy away from starting a relationship with someone you don’t know.  I have only known  one of the men I have mentored before we started meeting together. Most were referred to me.

FURTHER STUDY:  Read The Light in the Heart by Roy T. Bennett, a writer who encourages people to nurture their minds with positive thoughts of generosity, kindness, peace, empathy, compassion, humility, love and joy. https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/29359991-the-light-in-the-heart

WORSHIP:  Join Michael W. Smith singing Open the Eyes of My Heart:

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 this site (www.mentorlink.wordpress.com)  and entering your email address.

 

 

Prosperity

 

ferrari-188954_1920 

For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.  Jeremiah 29:11

God wants us to prosper.  I get it. That’s not hard to glean from this passage. Even I can figure that out.  But often, this message gets distorted in a way that causes harm to believers, not just in this country, but particularly in Africa and Latin America.

Many of Christian television stations available in Nigeria and Cameroon feature Christian shows that focus on the Word of Faith movement which includes something called “prosperity theology” or “health and wealth gospel.” The Word of Faith movement has its own adherents in the United States, many of whom have TV shows and broad followings.  Their popularity belies their twisted message.

The idea is that you can “name it and claim it.”  Sort of a perversion of “you have not because you ask not.”  You can see the churches that preach this gospel in Cameroon and Kenya– often they are huge gaudy buildings which stand out starkly in contrast to the more normal understated buildings of other churches.

It is a message that brings, unfortunately, a false hope to people who have no ability to obtain the level of promised prosperity.  Interestingly, the word “prosperity” does not appear in the New Testament.  That, in itself, should be instructional.

In his book, Leading in Light of Eternity, Stacy Rinehart comments that one leader in Cameroon said that the prosperity gospel affects some 75% of the churches in his country. The pastor is quoted: “Pastors who want to maintain their people preach prosperity. It is what the people want to hear. It is like parents bringing candy to their children because they want it.

Spirituality becomes a test of what you have and what you give, even though those aren’t the values taught by Jesus.  Stacy concludes that these pastors are but one kind of three false teachers delineated in scripture.  He has an Appendix to his book to document scriptural passages on heresy and false teaching.

The Apostle Paul was especially hard on this heresy, cautioning believers to be cautious of listening to men of “corrupt mind” who equated Godliness as a path to access riches which is a “trap leading to ruin and destruction.”  (1 Timothy 6:5, 9-11).  The prosperity message has an obvious appeal in countries where the standard of living is very low, and is a seductive siren call to a way out of poverty through a false message.

One of the great verses is in 1 Timothy 6:10: “For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil. Some people, eager for money, have wandered from the faith and pierced themselves with many griefs.”  I vividly remember Charles Stanley pointing out that this passage does not condemn having money, but instead looks at our motive. As he said, “some of you have committed the sin of loving money when you didn’t have a dime.”

Paul experienced both having very little and having plenty, yet was able to say in Philippians 4:12: “I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want.”  Nothing in that passage even suggests that every believer is entitled to be wealthy or prosperous, but instead says that we should be learn to be content with our material circumstances, whatever they are.

So, what does biblical prosperity mean (as opposed to the heresy advanced by many)?  Well, to me it means that not everyone is assured of riches. In fact, we aren’t even assured of a happy life without trials, temptations or even grief and sorrow. Jesus kind of nailed it by telling his disciples “You cannot serve God and mammon (money).”  (Matthew 6:24). Those that teach otherwise are twisting scripture to fit their personal agenda.

Instead, the bible teaches stewardship – that we our stewards of everything we possess and that we don’t really “own” anything while here on earth.  It is all God’s, and it’s our job to employ our resources in ways that glorify him, not ourselves.  Buying fancy foreign cars, or huge homes may impress other people, but not God. God is concerned with what we do with what we have, not with what we want to have.

My own concept of the value of money and possessions was formed by teaching a Christian financial class in our church in the mid 1980’s, and then later attending a Crown Ministry class with my wife.  There are many good resources out there including courses offered by Dave Ramsey.  Forty Days with Jesus has a 5 session series which has a focus on Money and Possessions which gives a good biblical teaching on this topic in video form. The link to this is given below.

I think back to the saying that you will never hear a man on his deathbed say they wished they had worked more so they could have more stuff.  In fact, I doubt that anyone on their deathbed would say they wished they had bought one more expensive painting that they could put next to their bedside to comfort them as they die.  Yet our secular world sends out seductive messages of materialism that appeals to our senses, and often, those messages get assimilated into prosperity theology.

Having more stuff is good, “they” say.  All you need to do is pray for it.  To me, not so much.  I went through several years of financial distress where just meeting the basic needs of my family was a challenge.  I quickly learned that “stuff” was not important.  What was important was relationships with family and friends.  Those are priceless.  That’s real prosperity.

Paul, in  1 Timothy 4:3,4,  cautions us to be careful with our theology and doctrine:  “For the time will come when people will not put up with sound doctrine. Instead, to suit their own desires, they will gather around them a great number of teachers to say what their itching ears want to hear. They will turn their ears away from the truth and turn aside to myths.” The prosperity gospel is something that appeals to “itchy ears”.

The challenge here is for all to have spiritual discernment about what is, and what is not, true teaching about prosperity, money and possessions.  Unfortunately, many of those who advance the health and wealth gospel are highly visible and have wide television ministries.

Being popular doesn’t equate to being correct.  It is not our job to eradicate false teaching, but it is our job to learn Jesus’ values directly from Him, not from someone with popular appeal. As mentors, it is also our responsibility to be sure our mentees have a firm grounding in this area.

Bill Mann

FURTHER STUDY: A primer on prosperity gospel theology:  https://gotquestions.org/prosperity-gospel.html

Information on Crown Ministries founded by Howard Dayton:  https://www.crown.org/

Lead in Light of Eternity  by Stacy Rinehart: https://www.amazon.com/Lead-Light-Eternity-Jesus-Model-ebook/dp/B00YSS73FA/ref=sr_1_1_twi_kin_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1480684225&sr=1-1&keywords=lead+in+light+of+eternity

A book on false teaching is Christianity in Crisis: The 21st Century: https://www.amazon.com/Christianity-Crisis-21st-Century-ebook/dp/B001NLL220/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1479932269&sr=8-1&keywords=christianity+in+crisis+21st+century

For a Days with Jesus videos on Money and Possessions, go to:  http://www.mentorlink.org/index.php/resources/days-with-jesus/english/

WORSHIP:  The song Enough by Chris Tomlin reminds that Jesus is Enough for every need. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HMzuHwVGuNc

COMMENT I would be delighted at comments on this or any other post.  I often don’t get much feedback, yet many who read these have told me they enjoy my posting. 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 this site (www.mentorlink.wordpress.com)  and entering your email address.

 

 

 

Ruddering

                                   rudder

Or take ships as an example. Although they are so large and are driven by strong winds, they are steered by a very small rudder wherever the pilot wants to go. James 3:4

A friend of mine, Sam Bass, recently sent an email which starts with this quote: “A ship cannot cross the Atlantic Ocean on a single compass heading. Winds and currents will require numerous adjustments along the way. Similarly, in life, changes, challenges, and opportunities will come along requiring adjustments.”  This is the gist of this post – the function of a rudder on a ship that makes course changes on a journey of life.

Without a rudder to alter course and change directions, a boat can end up on rocks or crash into other boats. In the case of the Titanic, the collision was with an iceberg at night.  The rudder is the means of changing course, as well as the means of pointing the boat in the right direction.

One aspect of ruddering (or steering) is found in the spiritual gifts.  Each Christian has his or her set of spiritual gifts, and if you don’t know what they are, you can find out for free at the link at the end of this post. The list of spiritual gifts is found in Romans 12, 1 Corinthians 12 and Ephesians 4.  Some people are gifted with the gift of administration. They have a role to play in life, and often in the church or on boards as leaders.

Dr. Larry Gilbert provides an analogy of those with the gift of administration: “A kubernesis (in the Greek) was a steersman for a ship. He had the responsibility of bringing a ship into the harbor—through the rocks and shoals under all types of pressures.”  Chuck Swindoll then makes the connection and says “A kubernesis was an expert in the midst of a storm.”

This is a good working description of someone with the gift of administration in a church. They are “take charge” people who jump in and start giving orders (sometimes whether or not someone else is in charge).  They act as rudders for their church, giving it direction and harmony by keeping people on the same page.

In life, a person needs both a rudder to change course and a kubernesis (or pilot) to be the steady hand giving directions. Some course changes are small and imperceptible; others are drastic.  The storms of life can cause a shipwreck, and the millennials today are facing a lot of challenges.

In my presentation on mentoring, I use the following quote to describe millennials:  They (the next generation) are like a rudderless ship on a sea of uncertainty.  This was my short hand way of describing the millennials who largely don’t trust institutions of any kind (government, business, education or religion), and they shun taking risks.

They are digitally oriented in learning, and don’t read books.  Their path in this world is clouded by economic malaise – many are just trying to survive economically by living with their parents into the early 30’s and twenty percent of them have college debt because they borrowed money to pay for their education.

Thirty-nine percent of them between the ages of 18-30 are still being supported by their parents.  In America, the jobs they sought just haven’t been there since 2008.  They have extended adolescence into their late 20’s, and are Asian in outlook and philosophy which means that they don’t view truth as a high value.  Truth or honesty, then, becomes relative, and their answers to questions often will be dictated by the context. (See my post on “Honesty”).

I showed my presentation to people in Cameroon which contains the above profile of millennials, and my friend, Juliet Njock, said that she observed the same traits in the next generation in her country, too. This profile of millennials is not limited to America, but describes the next generation in many other countries as well.

On the plus side, millennials want authenticity in their lives, and I have found that the vast majority of them desire to have a mentor in their life to help them navigate their journey.  While a mentor doesn’t actually act as a rudder in their life, he does act as a kind of pilot or GPS for them.  A mentor can point them in the right direction, and caution them that certain directions may lead to crashing into icebergs or rocks which might not be obvious.

How does a mentor help?  Well, in most cases, a mentor’s life experiences have shown them where the rocks of life are – some of which are not visible to the naked eye, such as an underwater reef.  They have that “been there – done that” type of background which can be useful to the next generation who are trying to figure out what is the best direction for their life. Mentors don’t need any training in life experiences.  They’ve already experienced them and the lessons from those experiences can prove invaluable to our next generation.

Sadly, however, most of those valuable experiences go wasted.  All too many of the older generation – the gray hairs – haven’t seen the pressing need for mentors by the millennials.  Valuable life experiences that can help someone else are worthless if they are not shared with the next generation.

The challenge here is to both sides of the equation.  If you are part of the next generation, be proactive in seeking out someone you admire and ask them to spend some time with you so you can “pick their brain”, as it were.  They might not have mentored before, but that’s probably because no one ever asked them. If, on the other hand, you have gray hair (or at least salt and pepper), consider becoming a pilot in the life of someone in the next generation.  It can be one of the most rewarding experiences that you have ever had for both you and your mentee.

Bill Mann

FURTHER STUDY:  For a useful article on the Gift of Administration:  https://www.churchgrowth.org/do-you-have-the-spiritual-gift-of-administration/

For an online free spiritual gifts inventory: http://gifts.churchgrowth.org/cgi-cg/gifts.cgi?intro=1&_ga=1.243910661.1885838211.1479569833

WORSHIP:  Listen to Chris Tomlin sing “I Will Follow“:

 

COMMENT:  I would be delighted at comments on this or any other post.  I often don’t get much feedback, yet many who read these have told me they enjoy my posting. 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 this site (www.mentorlink.wordpress.com)  and entering your email address.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

LOLWROF

laughter-1809858_1920

There is a time for everything,

    and a season for every activity under the heavens:

    a time to weep and a time to laugh,

    a time to mourn and a time to dance.  Ecclesiastes  3:1-4

Younger readers may recognize this acronym.  Most everyone would recognize the shorthand of “LOL” which stands for Laughing Out Loud. The next generation uses this shorthand when they text each other.  LOLWROF takes LOL one step farther and means Laughing Out Loud While Rolling on Floor.   Why write a post about laughter?  Well, the bible has lots of humor, often overlooked, which is part of life, and anything that is part of life is fair game for a post.  The word “laugh” appears 38 times in the bible and “laughter” another 10. That’s enough times to say that it is a topic to write about.

What isn’t apparent to many is that Jesus had a great sense of humor, much of it obscured by translations of the Bible from the original language. All too often, we run into humorless Christians.  They are often somber, unsmiling, tight-lipped, or judgmental. They have missed the understanding that the Christian life isn’t to live in perpetual seriousness.  In an article by Tim Schenck entitled The Often Overlooked Humor of Jesus, Tim writes “Jesus used humor to teach, heal, convert and ultimately redeem.”  He did so to show that being profound and being humorous can go hand in hand.  They are not “mutually exclusive.

Jesus humor is often subtle, particularly in his use of humorous exaggeration, such as his retort to his Apostles on the efficacy of Prayer: “What father among you, if he asks for fish, will give him a snake? Or if your son asks for an egg, will you give him a scorpion?”  (Luke 11:11-12).  You can visualize the snickers of his followers when they heard this.

Think about the people in your life who make you laugh.  They are fun to be around and they often energize you.  My oldest son describes me as having a “wicked” sense of humor. I’m not sure about his choice of words, but I enjoy humor.  For example, I think God has a great sense of humor because He accepted me into His Kingdom just as I was.  He’s been chiseling off the rough edges ever since I came to faith. My only issue is that I wish He didn’t use a sledge-hammer with the chisel.

I was reminded of my own experience this past weekend when we sang Mighty to Save where the lyrics go:  So take me as You find me; All my fears and failures, fill my life again; I give my life to follow; Everything I believe in, now I surrender.

I have friends that I enjoy just being around because I know our encounters will result in a good laugh, or perhaps even an LOLWROF experience.  One of them, Ed Hallberg, has been a friend of mine for many years.  Somehow he just thinks funny.  He often speaks in a deadpan way for effect. When I had cancer surgery years ago in Atlanta, I knew that driving back to Raleigh would be difficult. My doctor told me that on a long drive in a car, I needed to stop every hour and walk around for 10 or 15 minutes to keep the blood circulating.

Stopping that many times would make a 6-hour trip into an 8 or 9-hour trip. Ed knew about my surgery and called me up to see if he could help.  He is an experienced pilot who had his own plane, and he offered to fly down to Atlanta and bring me back “just as soon as he got his plane fixed from his accident.”  Yes, you read that right.  That’s what he said which cracked me up.  I, of course, declined his “generous” offer.

I later heard what had happened to cause him to have an accident wiht his plane.  When attempting a landing at our local airport, a freak weather front overcame his plane turning a 5 knot headwind (which is about 7 miles per hour) into a 30 knot tailwind, and literally knocking his plane down onto the runway which damaged the propeller on his plane. He had an instant to react and he chose to abandon the landing since the propeller contact with the ground had jerked his plane off of the runway.  He circled and landed safely. He was later told by a co-owner of the plane (a professional airline pilot), that he was so very lucky because normally vibration caused by a damaged propeller will rip an engine out of the plane.

Years ago, I decided that one of my roles in life was to try to inject humor and a smile into everyone’s life.  I really can’t help it – I’ve been doing it for most of my life, sometimes cracking jokes or saying witty things. My goal is to make people smile or laugh – to enjoy themselves for a moment, particularly when life has been tough and unfunny.

I reflected on this topic when I wrote Fifty Years and suggested three things that would help any marriage succeed for that length of time.  One of them was to laugh more, and even be prepared to laugh about yourself.  While research isn’t definitive on whether or not laughter is the “best” medicine,  according to Webmd.com, “[s]ome researchers think laughter just might be the best medicine, helping you feel better and putting that spring back in your step.”  Proverbs 17:22 says it this way:  A cheerful heart is good medicine, but a crushed spirit dries up the bones.

When I went through burnout several years ago, one of the symptoms I encountered was clinical depression.  It was not fun, although in hindsight, I learned a lot about myself.  My wife, who is the most positive person on this planet, had a hard time understanding my plight.  “You are acting depressed!” she would tell me.  “Get over it!”  Easier said than done.  Kind of like telling an alcoholic that the solution to their problem was very simple:  Stop drinking!   While that is accurate advice, it is not very helpful to someone who is addicted to alcohol.

During my most difficult days, one of the things that we had to do was try to stay away from people who were negative which would drain me. I’m sure you have them in your life, too.  Even if you like them and consider them friends, their spirit is one of negativity which tends to take an emotional toll. When your emotional tank is empty, you have no margin in your life to handle it.  You can literally feel their presence drain you. We made some hard choices by eliminating some people out of our social life, and limited our contacts to friends who were positive, cheerful, or emotionally upbeat and often made us laugh.  It was the right solution for us during that season of our life.

From that experience, I reflected at my own life – was I having a positive impact on people around me, or was I draining them?  I suppose, in hindsight, there were times when I drained people.  I actually made a mental commitment to be an encourager of my friends.  To help them have a smile or even a laugh when they needed it most.  Just as Ed Hallberg did in my life. We need more Ed Hallberg’s in this world!

Jim Valvano, a famed college basketball coach was stricken with terminal cancer.  Before he died, he was honored on a national sports television show.  He was helped up to the podium to address the audience.  In his stirring speech, he said this: “To me there are three things everyone should do every day. Number one is laugh. Number two is think — spend some time in thought. Number three, you should have your emotions move you to tears. If you laugh, think and cry, that’s a heck of a day.”  Good thoughts, and absolutely in line with Solomon in Ecclesiastes 3, above where it says there is a time to weep and a time to laugh.

I take joy in having fun with my grandchildren, and hearing their laughter and giggles really makes my day.  I would never want to be thought of as a gruff old grandfather who never laughed or smiled, or didn’t make them laugh or smile.  I enjoy life, and laughter is a key component of that enjoyment.

My challenge here is for you to reflect on your own impact on others around you.  Are you an encourager or a discourager?  Do you make others smile or laugh?  Do you energize them, or do you drain them?  These are hard and very personal questions, and often, you can’t answer them by yourself.  Find out from your spouse, close friend or mentor and see what an objective answer is.  Anyone can become cheerful.  You can choose to be a positive person who energizes others. Start today to make someone LOLWROF.  Besides having more fun, your life (and theirs) will be greatly enriched.

Bill Mann

FURTHER STUDY:  Read about “The Often Overlooked Humor of Jesus”: http://www.clergyconfidential.com/2013/05/the-often-overlooked-humor-of-jesus.html

Watch a video of Jim Valvano in 1993 give his speech including Three Things:  www.youtube.com/watch?v=HuoVM9nm42E

WORSHIP:   Listen to Hillsong sing Mighty to Save:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sR8rlTIU8_Y

COMMENT:  I would be delighted at comments on this or any other post.  I often don’t get much feedback, yet many who read these have told me they enjoy my posting. 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 this site (www.mentorlink.wordpress.com)  and entering your email address.

 

 

Non Sibi

 

hospice-1793998_1920 

Each of you should use whatever gift you have received to serve others, as faithful stewards of God’s grace in its various forms.               1 Peter 4:10

This title won’t make sense to the vast majority of readers, which is OK.  It is a Latin phrase which means “not for self”.  It is one of the principles embraced by my high school – Phillips Academy, located in Andover, Massachusetts.  The head of school of Andover recently addressed the school in an all school meeting and reaffirmed it this way: “We embrace together the idea that thinking and acting for others must guide our lives – not for self.  Andover has stood for this value for 239 years and it will for evermore.”

My years at Andover were not much fun.  It was interesting to attend my 50th reunion with classmates and to hear how miserable many of them were as well.  When I attended, I thought I was the only one who had a difficult experience.  It turns out that even the ones that I thought had it all together had similar feelings.  Yet, years later, we all were unanimous that those years in a challenging educational environment laid the foundation for our later lives and that we all felt that it was one of the best things we experienced in life. To a man, they all said they would do it all over again.  I didn’t think much about Non Sibi while I was at Andover, to be honest. It sounded like a classical platitude that didn’t have much relevance at that point in my life. It’s significance to me came later when I graduated from law school.

Over the years, Andover has produced remarkable people who have led lives of service to others. It includes several Presidents of the United States. Others led careers in the military serving our country. One of my classmates ended up being an Admiral in the Nay.  Still others became leaders in business, education or government, or became authors.  Almost all of them gave back to society and others – whether it was through their profession or through their leadership, volunteering,  or philanthropy.   My eldest son, also an Andover graduate, is “giving back” through his involvement in The Fistula Foundation which he learned about on a trip to Ethiopia several years ago.  The Fistula Foundation provides surgical cures for a condition that occurs in the developing world where medical care for pregnant women is all but non-existent, resulting in thousands of women suffering after childbirth. Their condition can be corrected by fistula surgery but resources are scarce.  Last year, the Foundation provided 5,000 women with a life restoring operation. (www.fistulafoundation.org). I applaud his involvement with the Fistula Foundation. He is now the Chairman of their Board, and helping them raise money since they do not rely on any government funding.  The Foundation sponsors medical centers in over 20 countries in Africa and Asia, and the Foundation estimates that one million women suffer from obstetric fistula worldwide.

Why is Non Sibi important today?  Well, critics have labeled the next generation – the millennials this way: “They are a class of self-centered, self-absorbed, selfie-snapping 20-somethings” according to Samantha Raphleson of NPR. Of course, that probably could have been said about most prior generations – minus the “selfies” of course.   In a 2013 commentary in Forbes magazine, Dan Schwabel wrote a commentary on “Why You Can’t Ignore the Millennials”: “Even despite a poor economy, millennials strive to give back to society. Eighty-one percent have donated money, goods or services, reports a study by Walden University and Harris’ Interactive. They strive to support causes that align with their values and personal belief system. When Pew Research asked a sample of millennials what their priorities were, they said being a good parent, having a successful marriage and helping others in need.”  Bottom line:  millennials may be described as self-centered, yet research shows they want Non Sibi in their lives – the ability to give back to our society and helping others in need.

That’s good news, but today, it often has no biblical underpinnings. As the Walden University Study shows, millennials support causes that align with their values and personal belief system, which is increasingly secular.  Christianity has stood for the principle of service to others for two millennia, but it is not a topic or theme that gets a lot of mileage.  In fact, I couldn’t think of many songs that have lyrics relating to serving others, and it’s not a frequent sermon topic.  Having said that, the concept of service or serving others is one of the strongest themes in the New Testament. As Jesus was grooming the next generation of leaders – his disciples – He constantly reminded them that serving was the key to leadership in the Kingdom.   His was a model of servant leadership – serving others sacrificially.  His meeting in the Upper Room with the disciples was the crowning lesson when He said “Whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant.”  Jesus was God’s servant here on earth. His life was a life of service and sacrifice for others – for you and me.

Studies on service consistently show benefits to the one serving, not just to those being served. Volunteering has been shown to have a benefit for students in high school: “[It} enhanced students’ problem-solving skills, improved their ability to work within a team and enabled them to plan more effectively.”  “Another benefit of service-learning is that young people are far more likely to remain engaged when they can see that their participation is effecting change.” In other words, they can see that they make a difference. I met this morning with a man whose son has struggled with drug addiction.  His son  says that volunteering at a rest home keeps his mind on the needs of others, not on himself. He points to his volunteering as  being therapeutic and helpful in his journey to remain clean. This just illustrates that there are lots of motivations to want to serve others.

I don’t need a study to tell me that most people want to “make a difference” in this world. As noted above, the millennials are no different. Lives of others are made easier when people serve others.  How your service plays out is often tied to what your purpose in life is.  You see, we are placed here on earth to glorify God.  That’s only the beginning, because He has gifted you as a unique individual and equipped you with specific gifts, talents, passions and interests. That’s what the 1 Peter 4:10 verse is about.  What gets me excited might not do anything to you.  So, how do you glorify God?  You start by loving others – love your neighbor as yourself.    How do you love your neighbors?  What do you actually do?  Well, Jesus says it well – you love your neighbors by loving and serving them.  How do you serve them depends on who you are and where you are? There is no “one-size fits all” template when it comes to serving our neighbors. Not everyone can be on the board of an international charity.  But you can, in some way, no matter how big or small, find something you are passionate about and find a way to be involved.

When I think about the topic of service, I cannot help but think of Mother Teresa who dedicated her life to the poor and dying on the streets of Calcutta, India.  A Catholic nun, she felt led to a life of service at an early age.  She  was born in Albania and moved to India in 1950, setting up a mission which was to care for, in her own words,  “the hungry, the naked, the homeless, the crippled, the blind, the lepers, all those people who feel unwanted, unloved, uncared for throughout society, people [who] have become a burden to the society and are shunned by everyone.” What began as a small mission of 13 people in Calcutta grew to 517 missions in over 100 countries by 1996, the year before she died.

So what does your life of service look like?  That’s where it gets interesting.  You don’t have to be a Mother Teresa to make a difference in the world. You might be led to a “service” profession such as medicine, nursing, fire protection, or even the military.  God needs His servants in every profession – lawyers, doctors, nurses, carpenters, or even salesmen.  I became a Christian long after my chosen profession was already clear. I had no idea what God had up his sleeve for me because I had no idea what it meant to be the spiritual leader of my household, much less what being a Christian lawyer looked like.  Over the next couple of years, a picture emerged which totally changed my perspective. You see, I realized that God wants everyone to serve where they are planted.  That came from a verse in 1 Corinthians 10:31 which should be familiar: “Whatever you do, do it for the glory of God.”  Everything, not just some things. Being a lawyer meant that I had to figure out a way to glorify God. When that passage sunk in, my attitude towards law practice, my staff and my clients changed overnight. I realized I was to serve them, and I spent time in figuring out how to serve others outside of my law practice.  Soon, I was representing a number of Churches and setting up Christian ministries. Some of the work I did was pro bono (i.e. for free). The rest of it was for fees that were substantially reduced from what I would otherwise have charged. That was my way of giving back.

Or, your service may be part-time – doing volunteer work outside of your occupation.  Volunteering for a non-profit or at Church.  Leading a bible study, or even singing at Church.  It might be something like making weekly visits to a rest home or providing meals to those who are shut in.  In my case, it involves mentoring younger men and helping them to be the best they can be and volunteering for leader training for MentorLink. The possibilities are endless, and the needs are so great

My family has gone in different directions when it comes to service to others. As noted above, one of my sons is involved with The Fistula Foundation.  My daughter has volunteered for something called Young Lives in Raleigh, which is a Christian outreach to unmarried pregnant teenagers who often have nowhere to turn and whose families may have turned their back on them. My wife volunteered on a ministry that conducted bible studies for over 20 years in the Women’s Prison in Raleigh – a maximum security prison for women who have been kicked to the curb because of something they did which landed them in the prison. Many of the inmates are serving life sentences. The majority of the prison inmates come from histories of family abuse – physical, emotional verbal or sexual – when they were young. These women have low self-esteem, and finding out that God is a God of second chances regardless of what they might have done in the past is a message that resonates with them. My youngest son gives back to others by co-sponsoring a scholarship for a deserving underprivileged student in the 5th to 8th grade at the Washington Jesuit Academy, a  a private school in Washington, DC.  All of the students are on full scholarship provided by the generosity of individuals like my son.

The challenge here is to engage and encourage our next generation to live “Non Sibi”.  One of the tasks of a mentor is to help a mentee identify his or her life purpose, and then help them take steps to accomplish their goals.  That includes helping them identify what they are passionate about, which often leads to identifying opportunities for service to others. From the standpoint of both the mentor and the mentee, what develops is fun to watch and our world is better off for it.  If you haven’t mentored before, it is simple act of service to share your life experiences with the next generation and be an encourager of living Non Sibi.

Bill Mann

FURTHER STUDY: Samantha Raphelson’s article on NPR about Millennials being self-centered. http://www.npr.org/2014/10/14/352979540/getting-some-me-time-why-millennials-are-so-individualistic

For Dan Sshawbel’s article on millennials wanting to be involved in service to others: http://www.forbes.com/sites/danschawbel/2013/09/04/why-you-cant-ignore-millennials/#42030f756c65

For information about the Fistula operation: https://www.fistulafoundation.org/what-is-fistula/

For information on the Jesuit Academy Scholarship program in Washington, DC:
http://www.wjacademy.org/apps/pages/index.jspuREC_ID=281923&type=d&pREC_ID=646249

WORSHIP:   Listen to  Kari Jobe sing “I am Not Alone“: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bfveawSAHJA

COMMENT:  I would be delighted at comments on this or any other post.  I often don’t get much feedback, yet many who read these have told me they enjoy my posting. 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 this site (www.mentorlink.wordpress.com)  and entering your email address.

 

 

 

 

 

Outside the Box

box-1216241_1920

[Note: My apologies for this longer than usual post. I thought about breaking it into two, but decided against that because it would lose continuity.]

‘Then he said to them all: “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross daily and follow me.”  Luke 9:23

“Outside the box” is an expression most of you have heard before.  Usually it’s “thinking outside the box”, or, in Australia, it’s called “outside the square.”  The phrase is thought to have come from management consultant’s decades ago and it is a metaphorical way of describing creative thinking which may be unconventional or different, or even from a different perspective.  Of my three children, my daughter is the one that comes to mind. I had lunch with one of her college friends and when our conversation turned to her.  I think I said something like “Liz thinks outside the box” and his reply still amuses me.  He said “Liz doesn’t know what a box is!”  I have to agree with him.  Very perceptive.  I have always maintained that Liz has more creativity in her smallest finger than I do in my entire body.

What “outside the box” means is that sometimes it’s important to challenge underlying assumptions, traditions or paradigms. Often, those assumptions go unnoticed, but they do influence our point of view. It also suggests that one should go beyond thinking of the obvious, and go beyond the barriers of conventional norms.  It can challenge of our ways of learning – we often revert to the way we were taught, which for most of us was a didactic teaching style.  A style where there is a teacher telling the pupils what they need to know on a topic.  Teacher/pupil model.  That model, though, actually grew in popularity during the middle of the last century.  Before the classroom model, another model was widely used – that of mentoring, apprenticeships and internships.  Much of the latter was one-on-one or one on a small group.  But for us, we now use the assumption of the didactic teaching style as the best way to be systematic in education.  I would challenge that assumption, and would ask one to reconsider the mentor model, where learning involved a relationship with another. It was the model Jesus employed with the next generation of his leaders – the disciples. He didn’t plunk them down in a classroom and ask them to pull out their notebooks so they could take notes on his lecture.  He just said “follow me.” He walked beside them and shared their journey, and often extrapolated God’s lessons to be learned from their common experiences.

As far as I know, the only occupation that still uses mentoring is the medical profession. The legal profession used to employ it, but it has been abandoned.  There are now initiatives for voluntary mentoring of older lawyers with younger ones, and I applaud those because just learning “the law” is not enough, and learning where and how to apply the law with a specific client is an art. Interestingly, didactic teaching – the model of the lecture is the least effective method of learning (see my post entitled “Get it, Got It, Good”), where actual learning from a lecture is only about 5% of the content. On the other hand, learning to do it by practice – the hands on experience – results in a 75% retention.  Even just using a discussion group model results in a five times better learning curve than the lecture model. Yet our educational system scrapped internships and mentoring which had proved to yield a better learning experience.

The point of the above is that mentoring is now considered “outside the box” to conventional thinking.  Even our seminaries fall into this line of thinking.  That’s why I sometimes refer to them as “semetaries”, much to the amusement (or chagrin) of my colleagues who attended them.  Mentoring – in all its forms – is a better model for transformational value transfer. It can occur in a one-to-one relationship of one older with one younger, a peer mentoring relationship, or even a group mentoring experience.  Mentoring is not easily adapted into a “program” which is what conventional thinking would try to make it so it can be “taught” systematically in a classroom context.  That’s inside the box:  we want to distill learning into a systematic equation where you take steps in a logical progression.  Unfortunately, life is not a logical progression, and certainly not linear (at least that’s my experience).  Life has twists and turns, where sometimes the lesson that the didactic teacher would have you learn is set up for next semester, but you need it now.  You can’t wait.  Where do you turn?   Mentoring isn’t linear either.  I have been meeting with many younger men in my life, and every experience is different because their needs or challenges are all individual and often defy neat compartmentalization.  No one is the same – either in experience, temperament or their place in life.

In his 1991 book, Church Without Walls, Jim Peterson tells the story of having spent several years as a missionary in South America. On his return to the U.S., Jim and his wife settled in Colorado Springs, CO and joined a local church.  As he and his family left his house every Sunday to go to church, he noticed that most of his neighbors were not church goers and were in their yards cutting their grass or just chatting with neighbors. He decided to spend time with them – in their yards initially, then inviting them for coffee, and ultimately starting a bible study. The reaction by his friends in church was instructive:  he was condemned for not being in church on Sunday. Yes, you read that right.  Although he was doing relational evangelism with his neighbors, he was criticized for not adhering to the norm on Sunday morning.  In his book, he used an analyses of form and function to describe this phenomena. Stay with me here – this is really not all that abstract. Every function ends up having a form.  Worshipping God on Sunday is a function that ends up looking like your typical church service on Sunday morning. That form becomes the tradition and the norm – it’s what is “inside the box” as it were.  Over time, the form of a church service becomes so calcified and rigid that we forget the function which is to worship and glorify God in all that we do, and we are commanded to make disciples. I’m not knocking corporate worship, mind you, but it can’t stand in the way of reaching the lost who aren’t in church.

Jim Peterson was thinking outside the box.  He knew that if he attempted to get his neighbors to church he was unlikely to succeed, but If he met them where they were (i.e. in their yards on Sunday morning), he might have better success.   Just as Jim was thinking outside the box, we have gotten ourselves “in the box” when it comes to discipleship training.  Much of it is didactic – teaching in classrooms, from the pulpit and elsewhere. Given that the retention rate of didactic teaching is the least (5-10%) effective method of learning, one has to wonder if the way Jesus taught could be useful today.  Jesus didn’t herd his disciples into a classroom and have them take notes.  That’s content transfer.  Instead, he mentored them – walking beside them and sharing life together. Guess what:  it worked then, and it works today, only we have abandoned His teaching model so that it is now considered “outside the box”.  Traditions often act as barriers to innovation. That’s why it’s important to sometimes step back and take a look at the tradition to see whether or not it is impeding other biblical functions.

Peterson’s book was written about the time that many of our millennials were born. Its message was prescient then, and applicable today.  We have observed the phenomenon of the growth of mega churches in America – churches with membership of more than 6,000.  Their design and model is to provide welcoming place, often providing “seeker” services, as well as Christian coffee bars, Christian exercise classes and even Christian yoga. Their model is premised on being welcoming to the non-believer.  But studies show that the millennials of today don’t trust institutions of any kind, including religious ones, and therefore aren’t likely to darken the door of the church as their first Christian experience.  Tim Keller, the head pastor of Redeemer Presbyterian Church in New York, has it right when he says: “We don’t need any more churches today. What we need is more Starbucks.”  In other words, evangelism in the new millennium will require Christians to go outside the walls of their fortress church buildings to meet the next generation where they are – often in coffee bars, at work or in the gym. If they won’t come to us, we have to think “outside the box” and go to them, just as Jim Peterson did with his neighbors in Colorado Springs.

What Peterson did was relational evangelism. He built friendships and relationships first, and then shared his life second.  Millennials want authenticity in relationships.  If you have developed a transparent relationship with them and have earned their trust, they will let you speak into their lives and hearts. Without that trust and relationship, you won’t be heard. While doing leadership training abroad, I have told pastors two things intended to get them to rethink their priorities.  The first is that the average attendee in their church only remembers at most 15% of their sermon, even on the best day.  Other studies show there is only 5% retention. The second is that most ministry does not take place within the four walls of their church.  Ministry takes place in the home, in the workplace, at the market or at the gym – where lives intersect with other lives the other 6 days of the week.  Tim Keller and others have seen this disconnect and are now emphasizing market place ministry.  His recent book Every Good Endeavor: Connecting Your Work to God’s Work is an example of taking Christ into the workplace, not just the church.  Getting outside the box, if you will.

Professors love lectures, and pastors love sermons. Tim Elmore, in a recent email mentions that the Medical School at the University of Vermont is joining other universities by embracing the “flipped classroom” which will eventually eliminate lectures entirely. The Associate Dean for the Medical School said: “If you have the evidence to show one treatment is better than the other, you would naturally use that treatment. So if we know that there are methods superior to lecturing, why are we lecturing at all?”  Wow.  That’s outside the box.  The rub as to why this change is difficult:  Professors like to lecture –it’s what they have always done. Bingo.  Mind you, I am not advocating that Pastors abandon sermons, but I am suggesting that they consider mentoring the next generation of leaders as a method of training. The “flipped classroom”  model involves having the students review content before class and then use the classroom as a discussion model where the teacher acts as a facilitator, not a lecturer.  We use this model in MentorLink in our training of pastors worldwide.

I have been working with the Secretary General of the Apostolic Church in Cameroon. It is a denomination of about 190,000 people and is in 92 countries. My friend, Njie Assam Peter Tabe, has embraced mentoring and the MentorLink approach of leadership development, yet he is having trouble convincing others in leadership because the concept is “outside the box” and not the norm for training their leaders. The guiding principle of MentorLink is to teach from the inside out, where most leadership training is just the opposite – teaching from the outside in.  What I mean by that is that typical teaching is content transfer hoping that it will trickle down to the heart. Our method starts with the heart knowing that It is “outside the box” to many.

Jim Stump authored The Power of One on One: Discovering the Joy and Satisfaction of Mentoring Others.  Jim mentored students and athletes at Stanford University in Palo Alto, CA for three decades.  The quote that caught me was the following: “You change the world by reshaping hearts and lives from the inside out. By walking with people on a daily basis teaching them how to live by modeling a Christ like life.  You change the world one individual at a time.”  Inside out – that’s where transformation occurs. That’s the Jesus model.  That’s what we’ve been doing at MentorLink since its inception in 2000. We facilitate self-discovery, and it’s wonderful to watch it happen.

The challenge here is to think about what traditions and conventions around you impedes or acts as an obstruction to the Jesus method of teaching through mentoring the next generation of leaders.  He modeled it with his disciples.  It worked then, and it works now, only we have come to view mentoring as outside the box.  All of the recent studies about learning validate that His approach as being more effective than what our seminaries and educational systems have adopted over the past 75 years. If you have never mentored another person, I challenge you to consider it if you want to be more like Jesus.  You might surprise yourself by thinking outside the box.

Bill Mann

FURTHER STUDY: Jim Peterson’s book Church Without Wall: Moving Beyond Traditional Boundaries: https://www.amazon.com/dp/0891096639/ref=rdr_ext_tmb

Jim Stump’s book – The Power of One on One: Discovering the Joy and Satisfaction of Mentoring Others – is a wonderful book for those considering mentoring to read to see and feel what his mentoring experiences were.  It is available at Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/Power-One-One-Discovering-Satisfaction/dp/0801015847/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1479294768&sr=8-1&keywords=jim+stump

Jolene Erlacher has written an excellent book entitled Millenials in Ministry which provides an excellent overview based on interviews with 30 millennials from different denominations who served in 10 different states and 5 countries. It is important, as she notes in the forward because “ [u]nderstanding and relating to individuals whose worldview, preferences and expectations differ from our own is difficult and often ends in miscommunication, frustration and pain.”  Available at Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/Millennials-Ministry-Jolene-Erlacher/dp/0817017526/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1479294832&sr=8-1&keywords=erlacher

WORSHIP:  Listen to Hillsong United singing From the Inside Out: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SZ-fghqc8Oo

COMMENT:  I would be delighted at comments on this or any other post.  I often don’t get much feedback, yet many who read these have told me they enjoy my posting. 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 this site (www.mentorlink.wordpress.com)  and entering your email address.

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

 

Progress

trekking-245311

 

“I know all the things you do. I have seen your love, your faith, your service, and your patient endurance. And I can see your constant improvement in all these things.” Revelation 2:19

There are a lot of principles in scripture, but this is one that doesn’t always get noticed, or even gets much attention.  Yet I think it is very important because the word “progress” really should be a one-word description of every believer’s journey.  There are other values that I’ve seen – for example “excellence” or “perfection” that often get mentioned.  I shy away from the concept of perfection, even though we are exhorted to become more like Christ, who was perfect in every way.  If you adopt perfection as a value, you will be constantly disappointed because it is not one that you can attain, at least not here on earth.  My friend Paula Rinehart even wrote a book in 1992 entitled Perfect Every Time: When Doing it All Leaves You with Nothing.  The title pretty much speaks for itself because it suggests that a life dedicated to being perfect at everything leads to emptiness and dissatisfaction, or as she says, it leaves you with Nothing.

Instead of perfection as a goal, I always preferred excellence which is a better target to aim at since it does not require perfection.  But even if you aim at excellence in everything that you do, you sometimes may fall short, no matter how hard you try.  So, while aiming for excellence is a good thing, what God wants us to aim at is progressthat our actions, speech and service showconstant improvement.”  In Paul’s first letter to Timothy (I Tim. 4:15), he tells Timothy: Be diligent in these matters; give yourself wholly to them, so that everyone may see your progress.  “These matters” refer to his life, speech, conduct, love, purity and faith. Pretty holistic – trying to make progress in all of those areas of life in order to set an example for others.

I’ve done a lot of mentoring in my life which brings me joy and satisfaction in ways that are hard to describe. My satisfaction comes from have the privilege to invest in another’s life and to see how they mature, which is another way of describing progress.  When I meet with younger men (and one woman in Africa – Anita), I tend to ask questions as to how they are progressing in aspects of their life where I know they are challenged.  We all face challenges and it’s nice to know that you don’t have to face them alone.  One of the men I met with – Mark – recently told me that our relationship has impacted him – not just for what we’ve discussed, but just the relationship itself.  He told me that I probably don’t realize the impact I’ve had on him (and to be honest, I really didn’t) just from the very fact of meeting with him.  Very encouraging to me, although it’s hard to point to one thing I said or did that I could say “this is important to communicate and I should remember it for others.”  That should be an encouragement to anyone who wonders if they would make a good mentor – your impact may not be anything that you actually say but just that you are there to listen.  You don’t have to say wise things or impart deeply profound truths.  You just have to listen and be there.

My own journey has not been linear where I could be seen as constantly making progress or improving, and sometimes my own progress has flat lined.  Those times of horizontal movement – where my spiritual life just seemed to go nowhere – often were when times were good and things were going well.  Go figure!  You’d think when things are going well for you professionally and with your family that you would experience some growth.  Well, that’s not my experience.  My times of growth usually came at times when things were not going well.  I’ve always thought that I learned more from life when things were hard and difficult, then when things were going well.  That might be your experience, too.  I sat down with a friend of mine who is doing a bible study for new believers this morning, and made that same statement, and everyone at the table nodded in agreement.  Tough times result in more growth, and therefore more progress.

My toughest times came in the late 1980’s when I faced financial ruin due to the recession and the collapse of the real estate market post 1986.  We skated on thin ice daily – wondering how we would survive another call from one of my creditors demanding more money than I had or could get. I was liable on some $55 million due to real estate projects that had floundered when the economy went into recession. It took me almost 10 years to work through it, and it exacted an emotional toll in the process.  I burned out from the constant stress and strain – not once but twice.  You’d think I would have learned from the first experience of burnout, but apparently not. At the end of the day, the banks that I owed money to ended up being my clients over the next decade.  Bankruptcy was always a possibility, but I preferred to stick it out.  It was not fun.  How did I survive?  First, I found a new and deeper faith in God, realizing that I could lean on Him. My wife was instrumental in all of this, and we learned to communicate at a level that we’d never been able to before. And last, but not least, I had several close friends who met with me weekly checking my “progress.”  Those meetings and conversations were as important to me as getting oxygen, water and food is to sustain my body.

I wouldn’t wish tough times on anyone, much less myself or my family. But it is those difficult times of life where we have to face the reality that life can be hard and that we don’t have all the answers and we need to know that Abba Father is on our side. It is through those difficult times – whether they be financial, relational, or health, or anything else for that matter – that one comes to the realization that we need God so that when we call for help, He is there.  When we finally realize that we need God as much as we need oxygen, food and water to sustain us, it is a turning point in our lives. We also need friends – those few Godly people or mentors who come alongside us sometimes at our point of greatest need and partner with us in our journey. While they can’t always solve our problems, they can help us attain a balanced view of our circumstances so that we have a perspective that is not short-term.  I attribute my financial disaster 30 years ago and its accompanying burnout to having left an indelible fingerprint on my life because I learned that God is in control of everything, and conversely, I was not.  Once I was able to pry my fingers off the steering wheel of my life,  I realized that He is real and is a better driver than I could ever be.

So, the challenge here is not to have tough times, but to use those times as a period of growth and to always see His hand in all of our circumstances.  Surround yourself with mentors or Godly friends who will lift you up when you are down, who will carry you when your energy is spent, who will encourage you when your courage is lacking, and who will pray for you when you need it most. When that happens, you will find that your spiritual life will become one of constant improvement and progress.  If you haven’t invested in someone else’s life as a mentor, think about it today.  Your hand in their progress is the return on your investment and it is eternal and priceless.

Bill Mann

FURTHER STUDY:  Paula Rinehart’s book “Perfect Every Time” is still available at Amazon.

For research on the connection between perfectionism to suicide and depression: http://nymag.com/scienceofus/2014/09/alarming-new-research-on-perfectionism.html

WORSHIP:   Listen to “I Am Not Alone” sung by Kari Jobe: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bfveawSAHJA

COMMENT:  I would be delighted at comments on this or any other post.  I often don’t get much feedback, yet many who read these have told me they enjoy my posting. 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 this site (www.mentorlink.wordpress.com)  and entering your email address.