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

 

Just Dive In

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 “Therefore, I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothes?…. Can any one of you by worrying add a single hour to your life? Matthew 6:25,27

One attribute of the millennials and next generation is indecisiveness.  They have a hard time making decisions, particularly about life choices:  What school should I attend?  What should I major in?  Should I ask a girl out for a date? What do I do if she says no?  Should I live with my parents?  Should I strike out on my own? What career should I pursue?

A person makes an average 35,000 decisions every day. That’s a lot of decisions, although most of them are very small and inconsequential.

While the phenomena of indecisiveness are not new, by any means, it is particularly acute in the next generation who seem to be paralyzed when it comes to making life decisions.  To some, particularly Christians, the added complexity is whether a decision will be the “will of God”.  This is a red herring.

One of my friends is a golf professional at our club.  A millennial himself, he has observed this trait first hand.  He says that he finds that too many millennials are afraid to make a decision.  They are afraid it may be the wrong decision, and that fear keeps them from making any decision, which, by default, is a decision to do nothing.

My wife was an aquatics instructor, and she ran the swimming program at St. Mary’s, a private boarding school in Raleigh. In her youth, she was a junior Olympic swimmer and diver and taught swimming lessons through college.  I’ve watched her over the years work with our children first, and now with our grandchildren, teaching them to swim and dive.

When it comes to diving, there is often a reluctance that comes from not having done something before. Kind of the fear of the unknown. She gently coaxed them and assured them that going into the water head first will be fine.

Ultimately, they overcome their fears and try diving headfirst. The second dive is easier, and they don’t need much, if any, coaxing. The solution to resolve their fears is to just dive in.

I don’t think I have the magic answer to this dilemma, other than to encourage millennials to do what the Nike ad slogan which says: “Just Do It.”  That might not be too helpful for a millennial, so perhaps I should unpack some of the reasons that the next generation has difficulty in making decisions.

One of the reasons the next generation is indecisive is that they have so many options presented to them.  In rural life, back in the 20th Century, options for jobs, friends, marriage and careers were often limited by geography.  Many grew up in small towns and never left.  People living on a small income don’t have that many choices to make.

Today, we are more urbanized, and social media has dominated the dating scene.  This next generation has grown up in a world where the pace of change is dramatically faster than at any time before. Before 1985, very few people had cell phones. Now, there are 7 billion cell phones in the world, and it is hard to imagine what life was like without them.

To illustrate how life has become difficult in making choices, just go into your local grocery store and count the number of choices of cereal that they have. Look at the number of sports drinks.  When you count 150 types of lipstick, 360 types of shampoo, 64 types of barbecue sauce, or even 230 different kinds of soups, you get the idea. This illustration comes from a book by Barry Schwartz titled The Paradox of Choice.

In many countries, there aren’t that many choices, but in the western world, we have too many. One has even suggested that we would be better off with fewer choices.

Technology has changed the landscape, especially the parental controls (or lack of them) over the internet and cellphones. I was on a father-son ski trip with my two sons some years ago, along with a former law partner from San Francisco who had teenagers. At dinner one night, the discussion by my sons and this man centered on finding the right solution on how to control your child’s use of a mobile phone in the digital environment.

I must say that I didn’t have a lot to offer, and found the conversation illuminating.  These were not issues I faced when my children were growing up, so I was fascinated at listening to the next generation dealing with an unfamiliar issue.

Another reason is that many in the next generation are inwardly focused. Some call them the “me” generation.  That inward focus has some drawbacks, particularly when it comes to a career. Many have seen their parents work in occupations that are perceived as not fulfilling, and they want to have a job or career that is fulfilling.

That’s all well and good, but they want a career that is “perfect” fulfillment, and are willing to sit on the sidelines until they find it. I think the quest for the Holy Grail might be easier.  In prior generations, the young adult moved quickly into the workplace, gaining experience and, in many ways, a resume for future endeavors.  They might have switched jobs, or even occupations.  There’s not a lot of risk when you are young.

For the millennial Christian, another consideration becomes front and center:  doing the will of God in your life. In a short book by Kevin DeYoung titled “Just Do Something – A Liberating Approach to Finding God’s Will”, the author takes on this topic with humor.

His subtitle is “How to make a decision without dreams, visions, fleeces, impressions, open doors, random bible verses, casting lots, liver shivers, writing in the sky, etc.”  I can’t do justice to the contents of the book, but he makes several points which bear repeating.

The first is that the Bible gives a lot of instruction on morality and character.  Yet, the next generation often is looking for God’s will for “non-moral” decisions.  As DeYoung notes, “Scripture does not tell us what to do this summer, what job to take or where to go to grad school.”

His point was that while God cares about every detail of our lives, what we consider to be the most important decisions of our life are not the most important to God. “Too often God’s people tinker around with churches, jobs, and relationships, worrying that they haven’t found God’s perfect will for their lives.” His advice? Give up on hyper-spiritual approaches to finding God’s will and “just do something.”

One thing I have noticed and which I fight against, is the view that getting a secular “job” is often not perceived as rewarding or fulfilling as working for a non-profit. Books have now been written on this topic, including ones by Tim Keller (Every Good Endeavor) and Tom Nelson (Work Matters), which debunks the impression that your work doesn’t matter to God.

I had to fight this tendency myself when I became a believer at the ripe old age of 38. It turned my world upside down and I felt a call to ministry and possibly seminary as a means of advancing my ministry. Then, someone wisely noted that sometimes God wants you to grow where you have been planted.  That was profound, and it caused me to retool my thinking into developing ways that I could serve God as a Christian lawyer.

The challenge here is to come alongside the next generation and help them weed through the many life choices that they face. They need someone to help them get off the edge of the pool and into the water headfirst.  A mentor can help provide the mentee make better decisions in their lives by providing wisdom that comes from experience.

That’s what a mentor does – he or she can be a sounding board for someone who is struggling to make life or career choices. Procrastination results in no choice, possibly to the detriment of missing out on what God wants for them.

MENTOR TAKEAWAY:  The mentor may be the first line of offense for a millennial stuck on making life decisions or finding fulfillment in their careers. They need your counsel.

FURTHER STUDY: John Maxwell, a wonderful communicator, has a new audio series entitled “The Mentor’s Guide to Decision Making”, which includes topics such as “missing an opportunity because of procrastination.”

https://www.johnmaxwellacademy.com/p/mentors-guide-to-decision-making?utm_campaign=E-Commerce%20Promotions%202017&utm_source=hs_email&utm_medium=email&utm_content=52956096&_hsenc=p2ANqtz-88Nfbzr7ofUkyCyhyU3jni-BMcKBgjHPKRCj6ADtPzg6Tuz6KMY-hlc8FmmDoFCLD_BXNPgtXfC5YJdnOrL8K07tMp6w&_hsmi=52956096

A good read in this area is a short book by Kevin DeYoung entitled “Just Do Something” which gives an enlightening look at how to use scripture in making decisions. Available at Amazon:

https://www.amazon.com/Just-Do-Something-Liberating-Approach/dp/0802411592/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1497447893&sr=8-1&keywords=just+do+something+by+kevin+deyoung

WORSHIP: Listen to Paul Baloche sing “Today is the Day

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.

 

 

Back to the Future

future

Therefore, go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you.”  Matthew 28:19,20

I feel like I’ve had an epiphany.  To me, an epiphany is one of those breakthrough moments when you have this intuitive realization of the reality of something.  I’ve had one of those, and it resulted from my recent trip to Togo.

After studying the millennials and the topic of mentoring for several years, as well as writing over 100 posts on the subject, I learned something that, to me, was so profound, that it was a verbal “Aha” moment.

One of the leaders guiding one of our sessions made the following statement: “Christ didn’t start His church with members.  He started it with disciples who made disciples, who made disciples.”

That, my friends, is profound.  Many churches in the world have it backwards.  Their focus is on members.  It is a laser focus, which excludes all else.  The incentives are all there, too. Pastors get paid more when they have more members.  Their status as a pastor is tied to the size of their church.  Voila!  I rest my case.

Most churches and denominations keep track of statistics on members, and other things like conversions, marriages, baptisms, etc. These are the standard metrics for measuring the success of a church, and indirectly, the success of the senior pastor.

Put another way, churches are good at creating programs and maintaining an institution, but not so good at creating a transforming relational community.  The latter only occurs through relationships.

For fear of offending nearly everyone, I have to say that this priority is all backwards.  I’ve come to realize that the modern church is stuck in a rut trying to appease the desires of the members by adding program after program to appease the interests of the members.

Jesus could care less. He didn’t ask us to go make “members of all nations”. He asked us to make disciples of all nations.  I don’t think there are many churches in the world that keep track of the number of disciples they have made.  They only track members.  Members don’t make disciples.  Disciples make disciples.

How did Jesus make disciples?  He didn’t send them to seminary or a bible study, that’s for sure, although there is nothing inherently wrong with a bible study.  Nor did he sit them down and lecture them daily.  He mentored them by walking besides the disciples for 3 years. He did very little preaching to them.  His advice as recorded was giving them kingdom principles which came out of teachable moments.

We have an opportunity. A golden opportunity.  In a “Back to the Future” kind of moment, the next generation of leaders are begging for someone to walk alongside them.  As Sam Eaton recently said, “Millennials crave relationship, to have someone walking beside them through the muck.”

They don’t want to be preached to and they shun the institutional church.  But they are reachable through a relationship – one with someone older who is willing to invest in them and someone they have learned to trust.

Our challenge is to get it right and reverse the trend of trying to grow the church through members.  Jesus told us to make disciples, and he showed us how by investing in twelve men by walking beside them for three years.

It’s not rocket science, but somehow, the seminaries that crank out our church leaders haven’t figured it out. As I have said before, no seminary (either protestant or Catholic) has any courses on leadership – the leadership exemplified by Jesus. Sad, but unfortunately, so true.

This is a back to the future moment is for church leaders and mentors. The question becomes how do we stop the exodus of millennials from the church? Tim Keller is someone I have a high regard for put it this way. In context, he was talking about the millennial that won’t darken the door of a church.

Keller suggests that we stop trying to get them into the church (at least initially).  He said: “We have enough churches in America.  What we need are more Starbucks.”  That’s where they are, and that’s where we need to be to interact with them.

As a believer, we don’t have to wait for guidance or direction from your pastor or minister to reach the next generation of leaders. You can take up the slack by being open to mentoring. It doesn’t have to be sponsored by the church.  It just needs to be done, and the millennials are begging for it.

MENTOR TAKEAWAY:  For the older generation wanting to make an impact for Christ today, the opportunity is at your doorstep by mentoring someone in the next generation.

FURTHER STUDY:  Sam Eaton’s article on why milennials are leaving the church: http://faithit.com/12-reasons-millennials-over-church-sam-eaton/

For another provocative take on Evangelical’s in the Church:

https://stephenmcalpine.com/2017/05/12/millennial-evangelicals-and-church/

Finally, my friend Jolene Erlacher has written a book that is worth a read entitled “Milennials in Ministry” which is available from Amazon.

WORSHIP:  Listen to Michael Smith sing “Open the Eyes of My Heart”:  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wutmEjdbedE

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.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Relational Mentoring

 

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I know that my title is somewhat redundant. By definition, mentoring involves joining someone else’s life in a relationship. Jesus did it with his disciples. We should take note.

A recent article entitled “59 Percent of Millennials Raised in a Church Have Dropped Out—And They’re Trying to Tell Us Whyis a challenging read to anyone in the older generation trying to connect with the next generation.

The author, Sam Eaton, is a millennial, and he gives 12 reasons why millennials are having a hard time connecting to the church. Three of them bear mentioning here.  One is that church feels exclusive and “cliquey” to outsiders, where well intentioned people do not make the effort to be compassionate and welcoming to the next generation.

The second reason is that millennials are “sick and tired” of hearing about values and mission statements. They want the church to stop using Christian mumbo jumbo. Jesus’ imperatives to us can be condensed into four words: “Love God. Love others.”  With those four words, the task is complete. Mission accomplished.

Thirdly, they want to be mentored, not “preached at.”  “Preaching just doesn’t reach our generation like our parents and grandparents.”

Eaton continues: “Millennials crave relationship, to have someone walking beside them through the muck. We are the generation with the highest ever percentage of fatherless homes.”

Eaton’s conclusion is to “ask the older generation to be intentional with the millennials in your church.”  I concur, but it must be relational, not something that you can make a “program” out of.

I just returned from a trip to Africa – Togo to be exact. I brought a young man with me.   I have been meeting with him for about 6 months in Pinehurst.   He was, as a friend of mine described, my “Timothy”, only his actual name is John Mark. So, that makes me his Barnabas. He is in the picture above with his friend, Ben, who was our translator.

Our role at the gathering was to provide worship for leaders from ten West African countries.  The other mission was to spend time together and to learn from others as well as each other.

The worship was important, but the results of our trip were unexpected.  Due to a series of missed and cancelled flights, we were stranded in Morocco for 3 days until we could get a flight to Togo.

We spent three days hanging out in Casablanca.  John Mark was watching me every moment.  Most lessons of life are caught, not taught.  He saw me handle the adversity of messed up travel plans and having to improvise our plans based on our situation.

We made the best of it.  We survived. He learned that not all travel goes smoothly. He said this was the first time he had ever had an experience like this.  I told him that I’ve travelled over 4 million miles and this was my first experience, too.

John Mark didn’t have a father for the last 11 years.  In a way, he got a picture of a mentor/father that he had not seen nor experienced before.  He saw the good, the bad, and (hopefully) not the ugly. My imperfections surfaced for him to see – including trying to hold my temper at the incompetence of the airline in rescheduling our flights.

At the end of our trip, John Mark was grateful for all that he had learned, not just from me, but from the other leaders during our training sessions.  He was permitted to interact and participate, and I think it may have transformed him in a way that content transfer cannot.

In Togo, John Mark found two other young men at the gathering who quickly bonded and became friends. One was the translator in the picture above, and the other was an Anglican minister from Nigeria.

It was fun to observe them kidding each other.  John Mark said he was surprised at how quickly he had made friends, particularly in a foreign country with people he had never met before.

The takeaway from our experience was similar for both of us. While it was aggravating to get stuck in Morocco for three days and miss the first day in Togo, I am convinced that it was God’s plan for us to spend time together, taking our relationship deeper.

Had we made it to Togo on time, the meetings would have eclipsed our time together.  The meetings in Togo went from 8:30 in the morning to 6 in the afternoon with only time outs for lunch and two coffee/tea breaks. During the breaks, we spent most of our time meeting with the other 30 participants from West African countries.

The challenge here is to realize that relationships take time and effort. To build a relationship with the next generation, you may have to extend yourself into doing something together.  Going to Sub-Saharan Africa may not be possible for you, but there’s lots of things that you can do with a mentee in your own backyard to enhance your relationship.

MENTOR TAKEAWAY:  Spend time “outside the lines” with your mentee doing something together.  It’s a way to build a relationship.

FURTHER STUDY:  Sam Eaton’s article on Millennials and the church can be found at:  http://faithit.com/12-reasons-millennials-over-church-sam-eaton/

WORSHIP:  Listen to a popular African song by Odegwu  song that we sang in Togo suggested by my African friends.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rJ7LhVcWNDQ

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.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Transformation

Lizhen 

Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will. Romans 12:2

Transformation is a concept that is central to MentorLink.  It affects our teaching model of leadership, as well as our approach to Kingdom work. A Catholic priest recently told me that “leadership is not taught in any seminary – either protestant or Catholic.”  He’s right, and it’s something we’ve known for years.

I recently became friends with a woman from New Jersey who came from mainland China in 1989.  Her name is Lizhen Yan. She came to the U.S. for advanced studies, and has several graduate degrees including a PhD.  The picture above is Lizhen at one of her many graduations.

She became a Christian in 2007.  She attended Seminary studying marriage and family therapy. Virtually all her studies have been didactic: the classic teacher – lecture model. It’s what we refer to as “outside-in” teaching, where the teacher transfers content to the students.

She joined one of our Skype Institute sessions which is a discussion model.  Participants study the same material and then share their struggles and challenges.  She quickly sensed the transforming power of relational mentoring.  Learning from one another, not just textbooks or lectures.

She was amazed at what she learned from others, and it has changed her approach to teaching and her ministry.

Instead of lectures and content transfer, we use the “inside-out” method. We aim at the heart values and over time we can see the effect on our participants.  A heart change is transformational.  If you change peoples’ hearts, their minds and actions will follow.

Our values are kingdom values which are timeless. We employ the method of teaching that Jesus used with his disciples: mentoring them in a relationship.

When I mentor others, I rarely provide content transfer.  Instead, my input is done relationally, which is more natural.  I try, with God’s help, to model the principles and values that have guided my life.

This morning, in the last session of one of our Institute modules, the group talked about why the process of the Institute works so well. One called it “magical”, noting that the learning comes not from the materials or the curriculum but from each other.

He concluded that it was “not an educational experience.” It is the community learning from each other. It’s the “secret sauce” to transformation, as it were.

Another, Ada Babajide from Lagos, Nigeria, said that she had turned down a scholarship to get a degree, but felt God was leading her in a different direction. Then she was introduced to MentorLink, its values, and later our Institute.

Ada said our Institute sessions has transformed her, through the working of the Holy Spirit in her life.  She said it has totally changed her ministry.

She said being able to bring her hurts to the table and interacting with others in a safe place which was essential for healing. So many pastors, she said, are damaged, and they only pass on their damage to others if they are not healed.

So, the challenge for us is to realize that heart transformation rarely comes from content transfer.  Lectures and often sermons don’t always lead to application.  Millennials don’t want lectures.  They want you to share your heart and your life experiences, both the good and the bad. As one millennial said, “If I wanted a lecture, I would ask my parents.”

MENTOR TAKEAWAY:  Mentoring is not about content transfer or curriculum, but life transfer. Sharing one’s life with another is the best teacher.

WORSHIP: Listen to Christy Nockels sing “Let It Be Jesus” where the lyrics go “For me, to live is Christ”.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=N2h9Hm9JZho

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.

 

 

 

 

In Secret

 secret 

But when you give to the needy, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, Matthew 6:3

I don’t know about you, but I struggle with doing things in secret.  As humans, we are wired to be affirmed at what we do.  It’s positive reinforcement and sometimes it lets us know that what we are doing for the kingdom is valuable. But it can also be a subtle hindrance.

Perhaps the best story I know about doing something “in secret” comes from my wife’s childhood.  She was a gifted athlete, both then and now.  As a teenager, she loved to play baseball, but because she was a girl, she couldn’t play on a boys’ team even though she was quite capable of holding her own.

She grew up in Shelby, a small rural town in the western part of North Carolina. In those days, textiles were a big part of the local economy.  The town had five different mills that produced lots of textile products.  The mills all had women softball teams, so my wife, started to play on a team that was close to her home.

Her mother, a teacher, did not approve, partly because she was young, and partly because the women who played were often a little rough around the edges. As in all small towns, the local newspaper was always searching for local news stories.  Every game was covered in the paper giving all the names of the players.

She invited her mother to come and watch a game hoping that she might relent and let her play. It was a disaster.  When she came to bat, she hit a hard ground ball that hit the pitcher in the shin, and the pitcher reacted by swearing at her and throwing the ball at her.  Her brief career at women’s softball was over.

Maybe not.  Her Dad loved her participation in sports, so he went to the newspaper and told the reporters that his daughter’s name was never to be used in any article. Instead, they were to use the name “Sally O’Conner”.

For years afterwards, Sally O’Conner was a star of the local mill leagues. My wife’s aunts collected the many newspaper clippings of Sally O’Conner’s exploits and made a scrapbook out of it. My wife never told her mother about her “secret” until her mother was in her last year of life dealing with terminal cancer some 30 years later.

Then, and only then, did she show her the scrapbook of her secret career to her mother.  That’s what living a life “in secret” looks like. Even now, some 50+ years later, she is a little embarrassed by her athletic exploits.

One of the lessons of the above story is that it is entirely possible to live a life “in secret”.  In my wife’s case, she kept her secret from her mother for decades. There are two uses of being “in secret”. One is positive and the other not so much.

The term “in secret” is used frequently by Jesus, often in context with the Pharisees who made a show of everything so that others could observe their actions. That’s a positive use where Jesus says to pray and give in secret.

What God desires is to have an “secret” relationship with us.  He does not want us to play to the expectations of others. That’s harder said than done, I admit. Only when we are tuned in to Him can we find the courage to act in our ministry.

The other use of “in secret” is on the dark side.  It’s what we do in secret. Ephesians 5:12 puts it this way:  It is shameful even to mention what the disobedient do in secret.  In this day and time, digital access to pornography and “dating” sites that are nothing more than arranging hookups are commonplace.

How does one combat our propensity to do things in secret?  Not an easy question, I’ll admit. The first step is, of course, recognizing that you have a chink in your armor and are willing to try and get it fixed with God’s help.  It’s a little like alcoholism:  there is no cure until you admit you have a problem.

Step two can take several routes. Depending on the severity of your issues, you might need counseling. But for most of us, developing a relationship with another – either a mentor or a friend – who can and will hold you accountable.

This is biblical – sharing our sins with another is in 1 Timothy 5:12(a).  This is often overlooked because the second part of the 1 Timothy passage is quoted more frequently. The passage starts with the admonition: “Make this your common practice: Confess your sins to one another and pray for one another…”

As mentors, our role is to help our mentees address their weaknesses, first by helping them identify them and then giving them counsel on ways to help them.  That’s what integrity is. A simple definition of integrity is what you do when no one is watching.  In other words, integrity is what you do in secret.

Everyone’s challenge is to have integrity in all aspects of our life so that what we do in secret matches who we are.  We fool ourselves into thinking we can do this on our own. Christianity was and is a team sport – we need each other to maintain a high moral character.  That’s what mentors are for.

MENTOR TAKEAWAY:  You can be a powerful influence for others by helping them identify their weaknesses that might not have exposed before.  You can also help your mentee to learn to avoid playing to other’s expectations in their actions.

WORSHIP: Amy Grant sings “Better than a Hallelujah” where the lyrics say, “Beautiful the mess we are.”

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.

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#Adulting

 

adultingsunset

Be sure you know the condition of your flocks, give careful attention to your herds; for riches do not endure forever, and a crown is not secure for all generations.  Proverbs 27: 23-24

No, that’s not a misprint. “Adulting” drove my spell check a little crazy when I was editing this post.  Until recently, I thought the word “adult” was a noun. It describes the stage of life that an adolescent reaches by demonstrating that they have matured enough to be economically sufficient to be on their own.

“Adulting” is now a verb, and it describes things that the next generation do which they identify as being something adult.  Something as simple as paying their bills on time, or doing chores That’s considering adulting. It’s a description of doing grown up things.

A recent essay by a new senator to the US Congress, Ben Sasse, entitled “How to Raise an American Adult” amused me with this latest “fad”.  There’s a difference of playing grown up like we used to do as little kids, often with the girls even borrowing their mothers shoes and having tea parties.

No, this is something else.  This role-playing is from the next generation who have fallen into “perpetual” adolescence.  As I’ve noted many times in my posts, the millennials are remaining adolescent late into their twenties and even their 30’s. The demographics studies from Pew, Barna and other researchers bear this out.

Sasse mentions a few culprits that have caused this. While a poor economy is a contributor, so also are social and cultural factors. Among them is affluence – getting accustomed to a comfortable life style as well as not exposing our children to real work.  Millennials have been taken hostage by things digital, resulting in shortened attention spans

When it comes to short attention spans, I came across this startling comparison.  A goldfish has a 9 second attention span, but the average attention span of a millennial is only 8 seconds.   It doesn’t say much about a millennial when they are being compared poorly to goldfish.

While the next generation hasn’t learned to grow up, part of the blame goes to the parents who have forgotten how to teach them to become adults. This trend has been decades in coming going back to the 1980’s.

The urbanization of our culture over the last century has had an impact. In a rural setting, all kids had jobs to perform – often on the farm or around the house. Having jobs and learn to work was eclipsed in our catering to developing our children – getting them to soccer games, dance practice, band practice, and every other extra-curricular activity you can imagine.

There was no time for work, and even the daily ritual of having a family dinner together often got lost in the shuffle. Parents unconsciously catered to their children who grew up with little or no responsibilities.

Sasse, a former college President, goes on to give five suggestions to parents, and one to grandparents. He suggests that parents resist over-indulging their children with stuff, and teach them the difference between what they actually need and what they want.  Bottom line is that materialism is to be avoided.

He recommends that children learn the value of hard work including doing menial chores around the house. To that he adds connecting with older generations and that meaningful travel to other environments.  Finally, parents should encourage their children to read.  Sasse points out that “the average American now reads only 19 minutes a day, and the younger you are, the less you read.”

Literacy promotes creative thinking, which is another theme I have written on before and which is sorely needed by the next generation.

Secondly, let your children experience hard work, even humble jobs like chores around the house or mowing the grass. Learning to work at an early age makes an easy transition later in life. Also, to the extent possible, expose your children to the world by traveling meaningfully.

One suggestion resonated with me – “connect across generations”.  Adolescents generally hang out with other adolescents.  That is also true with those who are over 60. A 2014 study by the Boston Globe found that people over 60 rarely talked to anyone under 36 about things that were important. To me, that is so sad and almost disheartening.

Studies show that isolation (in this case of the next generation) often leads to anti-social behavior.  The next generation can learn about vital social skills from the older generation, and they gain a valuable perspective.

I liked Sasse’s essay. In reflecting on raising our own children, my wife and I managed to follow most of his suggestions.  We continue to incorporate some of them in new ways.  One example is a summer European trip with Sarah, our 11-year-old granddaughter.

We will go to 6 countries in all, and I’ve had her doing research on each destination to find things that she wants to do or see. The trip will accomplish two of the recommendations:  It will provide times for inter-generational discussions, as well as giving Sarah valuable experiences traveling to new places.

The suggestions are all common sense when you think about them.  The challenge is to incorporate them in your life and family, whether you are a parent, mentor or grandparent. I especially want to urge the older generation reading this to become involved in the lives of your grandchildren and the next generation.  Both you and they will be enriched.

MENTOR TAKEAWAY:   While you may not be able to travel with your mentee over long distances, even an hour in the car together will go a long way to deepening your relationship.

FURTHER STUDY:  The Wall Street Journal article by Ben Sasse on raising an American adult:

https://www.wsj.com/articles/how-to-raise-an-american-adult-1493995064

WORSHIP: Listen to Matt Redman sing “You Never Let Go”:

 

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.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

MOTIVES

 

guidance

 

“Be careful not to practice your righteousness in front of others to be seen by them. If you do, you will have no reward from your Father in heaven.” Matthew 6:1

Has anyone ever challenged your motives?  Sometimes it is annoying. At other times, it is helpful for us to consider why we are doing something.  If left to our own, we usually think we act altruistically.  That’s a big word which describes a motivation which appears good for others and is applauded by our culture.

Altruism is the unselfish devoted attention to the welfare of others.  It is the opposite of egoism, which refers to the motivation to increase one’s own welfare.  There have been lengthy philosophical discussions on whether anyone can be truly altruistic.  Some argue that any action, even if primarily purposed to help others, gives one back an intangible benefit.  It makes us feel good.

Everything we do or say is motivated by something.  Motives for our actions can be good, bad, or, in many cases, mixed.  By that I mean that actions which were motivated with good intentions can also have other selfish motivations.

Jesus had a lot to say about motivations. It was his primary objection to the Pharisees and Scribes of his day. They did all the “right” things outwardly, but their motives were for self-gratification and self-aggrandizement. He called them hypocrites.

Lots of examples come to mind if how a well-motivated action, when examined closely, satisfies a subtle personal and perhaps not so good motivation.  We have an innate drive to have a sense of purpose in life.  We want our lives to matter. Often our actions are motivated by an altruistic motive to help others, yet the same action satisfies our own need to feel like we are making a difference.

In the church, we often see selfish motives being superimposed on kingdom motives. While it is a worthwhile purpose to build God’s kingdom by building their church, often we see pastors more focused on building their kingdom.

Pastors pay attention to the number of their members because it gives them satisfaction that their ministry matters. Most denominations measure church growth by those kinds of metrics – how many members you have, how many baptisms, how many confessions of faith, etc.

They even unconsciously compete – often seeing the size of their church as the proper yardstick of how “successful” they are.  There is a level of pride that can sink in, seeing that a large membership means they are more successful than a small church down the road.

In the mentoring arena, two things about motives strikes me.  First, the mentors’ motive should always be on helping the mentee succeed.  The mentee’s growth and success is paramount.

From the mentee’s standpoint, a mentor should always probe at the motivation of a mentee when he or she is facing a challenge.  Challenging your mentee’s reason for a decision often aids them at arriving at the correct path.

Recently, I have been meeting with a young man who is part of Generation Y, also known as the millennials.  One of the characteristics of the next generation is that they tend to procrastinate in making decisions about careers and life decisions. As a result, the typical Gen Y person often has extended adolescence until their late 20’s or even early 30’s.

This young man was between jobs, and searching for a meaningful career.  We spent time considering his different options.  He wrote me an email that a friend had invited him to hike the Appalachian Trail.

The Appalachian Trail extends from Georgia all the way to Maine and is a wilderness trek that takes months to complete by foot. He said he always wanted to do this, and asked for my input.

I didn’t challenge his desire of wanting to hike the trail. In fact, I affirmed it since it was obvious that he was at a point where he had freedom to take time off.  But, I did challenge his motive.  I asked him the question as to whether he was using the hike to postpone deciding about a career. I challenged his motivation but in a kind way.

He opted for hiking the trail. Ironically, after he had been on the Trail for over a month, he found a computer along the way and sent me an email.  He said that he was not “loving” the hiking, and was going to end his walk early.  He said he had spent a lot of time reflecting about his next step in life.

A challenge for all is to consider your motives when making a decision. As mentors, our role is to ask probing questions.  Challenge your mentee’s thinking process, and make sure he is clear in his real motivation for an action or making a decision.

Left alone, a mentee might not challenge his own thinking and would tend to “go with the flow.”  Input from someone who has wisdom can be the guiding force that keeps him on the path.

 MENTOR TAKEAWAY:  One of the roles of a mentor is to challenge your mentee both as to his reasoning behind a decision and his motivations. An action might appear to be well motivated, yet really is based on something else.

FURTHER STUDY:  For a study on altruism which reviews published articles over the past 30 years:  http://www.vipoa.org/journals/pdf/2306389068.pdf

 WORSHIP: Listen to Matt Redman sing “Help From Heaven”

 

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.