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

 

Relativism

 

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This is a term that has garnered a lot of use lately.  The term relativism is a world view that has a premise, at its foundation, that there is no absolute truth.  It assumes that a truth, knowledge or morality exists in relation to culture or historical context.

“Relativism, roughly put, is the view that truth and falsity, right and wrong, standards of reasoning, and procedures of justification are products of differing conventions and frameworks of assessment and that their authority is confined to the context giving rise to them.” This quote comes from the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy.

Put another way, if it feels good, it must be OK.  Unfortunately, that belief can lead one into some pretty dark places.

One of the attributes of the millennials – our next generation – is their view of relativism.  I have described it as an Asian outlook on life. Asians don’t often look at decisions from a value base, but look at them from a relative basis.  A decision is determined by some secondary issue such as who might be adversely affected or impacted negatively. In the Asian culture, it is called “save face”.  The decision is not based on any moral truth, which is secondary.

Given a choice between telling the truth or helping another “save face” or embarrassment, the Asian values will often fudge on truth in order not to embarrass another co-worker or someone superior to them.

As a result, their decisions often don’t reflect truth as a basic core value. If a decision will cause harm to someone – in their culture, they call this loss of face – then they will act accordingly, even if the result is dishonest.

I saw this first hand when I represented Japanese clients.  Decisions were made which made no sense to me. My Japanese clients had made investments in U.S. real estate that had turned sour, but instead of admitting it was a mistake, they would pour more money into it and keep them on life support so that no one would have to admit it was a mistake.

The reason for the decision was not obvious to me initially.  Then I realized that the original decision to make the investment was made by some manager higher in the company, and any admission that it was a bad decision would cause him to lose face. Ergo, they ignored exiting the investment, and instead kept it going to postpone what should have been an obvious solution.

The next generation, many of whom have not grown up with any Christian involvement or in a Christian environment, often make decisions or choices in the Asian way.  Since they don’t have any moral absolutes, choices about sexuality, religion or what is right and wrong is something they must figure out by themselves.

I have tried to come up with an example of how difficult this is. One analogy that I came up with was a sports analogy:  what it would look like if you played a sport without any rules. In this analogy, rules are the same as truths.  Take soccer, for example.  There would be nothing stopping you from eliminating any out-of-bounds.

Body contact with an opposing player might be justified if it helped you to gain an advantage without penalty.  Tackling the goal keeper so you could score a goal would be acceptable because you believe that winning is the most important thing so anything you do to win is acceptable.

Or, if you were unhappy with the size of the opponent’s goal, you would enlarge their goal to make it easier for you to score. Or, if you don’t think you can win with the normal 11 players, you could have 13 players if that gives you an advantage. I think you get the idea.  It could or would be chaotic.

But that’s the slippery slope that the next generation is walking on.  They really need guidance in this area. I am dismayed at the lack of the influence of the father on the next generation.  He is either absent physically, or in many cases mentally. In the latter case, they are “too busy” to be involved in their child’s life, preferring to let the schools or others do their job.

As I reflect over the past 50 years, I can see the effect of relativism which has replaced Christian morality and truth over time.  Look at our social conventions.  Marriage in the biblical context was intended to be forever.

Now, the relative view is that if your marriage is not working, it’s OK to abandon it and get a divorce. No matter that the divorce may adversely impact your children.

The important thing is that your personal life is better so if you are unhappy, divorce becomes a solution to your problem. Lest you think this is just for non-believers, the Christian divorce rate is almost identical to divorces for secular people.

Someone close to me several years ago was heading down the road to a divorce. She rationalized it (again a matter of relativism).  She said she knew that divorce was limited biblically, but she said, “those rules are for other people, not me.”

Floyd Green, a close friend of mine used to say: “If it comes to changing your lifestyle, or changing your biblical values, most people opt for the latter because “those rules didn’t take into account my personal situation.” Again, it’s all relative.

Sexuality went down this road, starting in the 1960’s.  It became OK to have sex outside of marriage because it didn’t seem to harm anyone and was fun. Which led to abortion. If you should happen to get pregnant, the solution was to get an abortion to eliminate that “inconvenience.”

No matter that it was a baby’s life that got sacrificed.  Your ability to make a “choice” for your body trumped the baby’s life. If you think about it, the slogan “Pro Choice” says it all.

As parents and mentors, our role is not done unless we have equipped and educated the next generation about the importance of the biblical view in their life.  Our challenge is that the culture has now taken hold so thoroughly that it is an uphill climb.

We must articulate that God’s way of life is the best course for our mentees. The church can help, too.  Our church is now doing a series entitled “Love, Sex and Marriage.”  I suspect that a series like this some 50 years ago would have been considered unnecessary.  Not anymore.

MENTOR TAKEAWAY:  The next generation has grown up in cultures that has sold them lies based on relativism. You need to probe their worldviews on a number of topics to be sure they have firm grounding. Many of their values may have been influenced by a culture steeped in relativism.

FURTHER STUDY:  Relativism: https://plato.stanford.edu/entries/relativism/

WORSHIP: Listen to Chris Tomlin sing “We Fall Down

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

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

 

The Veil

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At that moment, the curtain of the temple was torn in two from top to bottom. The earth shook, the rocks split 52 and the tombs broke open. Matthew 27:51,52    

This is Passion week. The time between Palm Sunday and Easter. All around the world, Christians are remembering the events from two thousand years ago. One of the things that struck me this year as I listened to the Passion story was the above passage. We often skip over it in the total context of Jesus trials, crucifixion and his resurrection.

I have often thought about the veil being torn form the top to the bottom at the moment of Jesus death on the cross. The veil was approximately 60 feet high. From Jewish tradition, it was about 4 inches wide and, according to Exodus, consisted of blue, purple and scarlet material including linen.

The veil in the temple being torn is a big deal.  It should not go unnoticed.  It happened. It is a historical fact.  It’s significance and importance should not be ignored. The veil in the temple was not just a simple cloth that separated the inner Temple – the holy of holies.

The holy of holies was the room which was initially to house the ark of the covenant which contained the tablets of the covenant. This was where God resided to the nation Israel until its destruction by the Romans in AD 70, as predicted by Jesus.

Only the high priest could enter the holy of holies, and then, only once a year on Yom Kippur, which was the Jewish Day of Atonement. All others were forbidden to enter, and the veil kept all other people out.  The Jews only had indirect access to God through the high priest.

This is a historical fact, yet most point to the empty tomb as the demonstration of the deity of Jesus. What surprises me is that the Disciples lost it after Jesus died. For three days, they were in disarray, having forgotten Jesus’ promise to return.  They somehow ignored what happened in the Temple other than their belief that Jesus was dead.

They forgot He said he would return three days later. They ignored the tearing of the veil which was in the temple close by Golgotha. They had obvious problems with their short-term memory, although the older I get, the more sympathetic I am to faulty memory.

Not only was the veil torn, but it was torn from the top to the bottom. If it had been torn from the bottom up, one could argue that it was torn by human hands.  But it was torn from the top down, which demonstrates that it was not torn by human intervention.

The earth quaked and the rocks were split.  Seems to me that it is kind of hard to miss all of this, but somehow, the Disciples missed it.  They thought Jesus was dead. Period. Until John saw the empty tomb three days later, they lost their faith. John had a eureka moment when he visited the empty tomb. Jesus was alive after all.

We’re like the Disciples at times, including our memories. We forget the temple veil was torn. We forget that the physical separation of us from God was removed once and for all.  We don’t have to wait for one day a year to approach God.  We have 24/7 access. The Old Covenant has passed, and the New Covenant of access to God through Jesus emerged.

Our challenge is to remember that Jesus death and resurrection was surrounded by historical events that often get overlooked. We are often like the Disciples who were so focused on the crucifixion that they lose sight of Jesus predictions from obvious evidence. Jesus died for us but was resurrected.  He is Alive!

MENTOR TAKEAWAY:  Be sure your mentee understands the historical facts surrounding the events of Passion week.  The tearing of the veil is a historical fact, and symbolizes our ability to know God directly.

FURTHER STUDY:  The significance of the torn veil: https://www.gotquestions.org/temple-veil-torn.html

WORSHIP: Listen to Travis Cottrell sing “In Christ Alone/On Solid Rock

 

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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Miracles

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 God did extraordinary miracles through Paul, Acts 19:11

 One of the topics that always seems to escape a lot of attention is miracles. Not just the ones that Jesus and Paul performed throughout their ministry, but miracles in the here and now. Things that have happened without any logical or rational explanation. I know people are often unwilling to ascribe some experience as a being a “miracle”.

Jesus healed the sick, the lame, and restored sight to the blind. He walked on water, changed water into wine and raised Lazarus from the dead. But when we are asked about our faith, we revert to theological analysis. We often point to the resurrection – the empty tomb – as evidence of Jesus deity, leaving all of his miracles in the dust.

In our world, we often think of remarkable experiences in terms of luck, although I have distanced myself from the word “luck” because it has the same root word from which we get “Lucifer”.    I guess I’ve always associated “luck” with the dark side ever since.

I have two stories to tell.  Both are personal, so I can say, without contradiction, that I didn’t get these from someone who told them, who got it from someone who told them. These are first person experiences.

One happened this week. I was finishing a 30-mile bike ride out in the country, and was hit from behind by a car doing 35 miles per hour. Now, that is an invitation to trauma, even for someone who is not 72.  All I can remember is the noise and impact and then lying in the road taking inventory of my body. Most things appeared to be working.

A volunteer fireman, who witnessed the accident, helped me up and over to the side of the road where I sat until the ambulance came. I felt a little woozy on my feet, so they took me to the Emergency Room where they observed me, took x-rays and a CAT scan to be sure that I wasn’t bleeding internally.

The EMS told me that he was amazed I wasn’t hurt more.  In his experience of cars striking persons on bikes, they don’t end well for the bike rider. He said the last collision was between a biker and a golf cart, and the biker ended up being airlifted to Chapel Hill with head injuries that required specialty treatment at a trauma center.

The ER doctor told me that anyone who is 72 and is hit by a car doing 35 must have something wrong with them, and he was committed to finding it.  All tests were negative. No broken bones, no internal bleeding.

After 5 hours, they released me and I walked out of the ER with nothing more than a couple of abrasions (one on my right knee that a Band-Aid could cover, and one on my left elbow).  Admittedly, I was a little sore from where the car struck me.

The other story occurred about 6 years ago when I had just been diagnosed with Prostate cancer.  I was attending a ministry dinner for the MentorLink board members and their spouses which precedes our board meetings the next day. I revealed my recent diagnosis, and the gathering put me in a wing chair to lay hands on me and pray.

Included in the group praying for me was Diana Green, a board member’s wife. She arrived at the dinner with a black ace bandage on her elbow.  She explained that she had damaged her funny bone in her elbow which she described as not very funny, and in fact, very painful. She couldn’t even hold a dinner plate with it, and her husband, Floyd, had to help her through the buffet line.

Wonderful prayers for healing and encouragement ensued.  When it was over, and everyone said “Amen”, Diana stood up, wiggled her hurt arm a couple of times, took of the bandage and exclaimed that it her elbow didn’t hurt anymore. She never had a problem with it again.

What do these two stories have in common?  Well, the latter one is the power of healing demonstrated through prayer. For the record, my treatment for prostate cancer went well, but it was not as remarkable as Diana’s healing.  I’ve known her for 35 years, and can attest that she isn’t one to make something like that up.

As for my accident, all I can say is that God protected me in a remarkable way. Put another way, He’s not done with me yet. Driving home from the ER, Sis said she had a premonition that I had an accident, and wasn’t sure whether she would be planning my funeral on the next day. The accident shook her to the core.

That puts the accident in perspective:  being able to walk out of the hospital with not much more than a couple of bruises and small abrasions is hard to explain after being hit by a car doing 35 mph.

Why am I writing about these two incidents? Well, for one thing, we often don’t share stories about our miracles, which is part of our testimony.  When someone comes up to you and is skeptical about your faith, we often think about saying something that is biblical that will keep them open to the gospel.

We quickly forget the miracles which happen to us and all around us.  Miracles demonstrate God’s power and intervention in our lives.  Why do I believe in God?  Well, for one thing, I know when God’s hand is on me.  Yesterday was one of those times when I was protected.  You don’t have to be a bible scholar to tell what God has done for you.

Our challenge is to remember the miracles in your life. Be sure to share them with others as a testimony of God’s goodness which is so undeserved. That’s what grace is all about.  One thing that has struck me is that God’s grace is there in every circumstance, even a bicycle accident.

MENTOR TAKEAWAY:  Share miracles in your lives with your mentees. It will be an encouragement to know that God is real and that He is in the miracle business today.

WORSHIP:  Listen to Chris Tomlin sing “Your Grace is Enough”:

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.

 

 

 

 

One Another

                                           footwashing

Now that I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also should wash one another’s feet. I have set you an example that you should do as I have done for you.  John 13:14-16

Years ago, I noticed a number of passages in the Bible which referred to things that we should do in relationship with others.  I started marking passages in the margin of my bible with “o/a” which signified “one another”.

The passages mostly come from the New Testament where we are given guidance on how we are to live out our faith in community with others.  The first four books of the New Testament emphasize our vertical relationship with God through Jesus.

The rest of the New Testament has a greater focus on the horizontal – how we live with each other, our family, friends and community.  It makes an interesting study.

Here’s a partial list that I developed – both verses and content. I came up with over 30 of them.  There may be more.

  1. Love one another.  John 13:34-35, Galatians 5:14
  2. Wash one another’s feet.  John 13:14
  3. Encourage one another.  Hebrews 3:13, 10:24-25, 1 Thess. 5:11 and 4:18
  4. Pray for one another. James 5:16
  5. Build up one another.  Romans 14:19, 1 Thess. 5:11
  6. Serve one another.  Galatians 5:13
  7. Teach and admonish one another.  Colossians 3:16
  8. Confess your sins to one another.  James 5:16
  9. Don’t judge one another.  Romans 14:13
  10. Carry one another’s burdens.  Galatians 5:13
  11. Submit to one another.  Ephesians 5:21
  12. Forgive one another.  Colossians 4:13, Colossians 3:13
  13. Comfort one another.  2 Corinthians 6:12
  14. Do not provoke one another. Galatians 5:26
  15. Be kind to one another.  1 Thessalonians 5:15. 2 Corinthians 6:12
  16. Be kind and compassionate with one another. Ephesians 4:32
  17. Bear with and forgive one another. Colossians 3:13
  18. Spur one another on to love and good deeds.  Hebrews 10:24
  19. Do not slander one another. James 4:11
  20. Offer hospitality to one another. 1 Peter 4:9

This list of “one-anothers” is very practical. It amplifies how loving one another looks like.  If you do all the things on this list to others, you have learned to love them in very practical ways.

But it’s a long list of “to do’s”.  Jesus simplified the list with an overarching set of priorities. He made it simple for us.  We are to first love God and then we should love one another.  Simple.  Straight forward.

To Jesus, you love one another by serving them.  In John 13:12-17, Jesus gives this remarkable statement:  “Now that I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also should wash one another’s feet. I have set you an example that you should do as I have done for you.”

Love serves.  Love does.  It results in an action of serving others in a variety of ways. That’s how we “one another” – “one another”.  We serve them.

So, how do you best serve others?  That’s going to be different for every one of us.  It depends on your gifts, your talents, your passions – how you are hard-wired, as it were.

God made each of us is different (my wife is glad of that). One of the roles of a mentor is to help the mentee to find his purpose in life – what God intended for that individual.

It takes time and patience for some of us to figure it out, but the mentor can aid the discussion by providing a sounding board and asking questions.  It is not a science – it is more like art.

It takes time for the mentor to help the mentee figure out his strengths/weaknesses and his gifts and talents, and then help guide them towards figuring out the vision for their life. (Note: it is not the vision of the mentee, not the mentor,  that is important.).

The challenge is, and has been for two millennia, to learn to love and serve one another. One role of serving that has dropped through the cracks of our culture in the past century is the role of mentor in others’ lives.   It’s a way that you can serve the next generation.

If you have some gray hair, you need to realize that the next generation around you are looking for your input, but you may not have noticed.  Take time today to invest in someone else’s life – to wash their feet, as it were, by your spending time with them and helping them become all that God wants them to be. That would be a good way to serve “one another”.

MENTOR TAKEAWAY:  You can serve the next generation by coming alongside them.  It’s not hard and certainly not complicated. It’s what Jesus did, and you can do it too.

WORSHIP:   Listen to The Power of Your Name where the lyric goes “I will give with the life that I have been given, and go beyond religion to see the world be changed by the power of your name

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.

 

 

Multiplication

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 This is how we know we are in Him: Whoever claims to live in him must live as Jesus did.   1 John 2:5,6

This may be the most unused topic in Christianity. Think about it: how many times have you heard a sermon on multiplication?  I’m willing to bet the answer is none.  One of the keys to Christianity is multiplication. It is a kingdom principle, yet it is a one that is largely ignored by most mainstream churches.

When I was growing up, one of the things we had to learn was the multiplication tables. We started out with 1 times 2, and worked our way up to 9 times 9. We did it repetitively until we finally mastered them.  This was basic to learning more complicated things in mathematics.

Multiplication, of course, is different from addition.  Before we learned multiplication tables, we had to learn addition, then subtraction.  It was just another arithmetic process in order advance our mathematical skill for more complicated functions later.

Pastors in the world think “addition”, but not “multiplication”. They think about adding one plus one, usually in the context of growing their congregations which becomes their metric for their “success”.  They don’t think about adding one who adds one, who adds one, who adds one, etc.   This is commonplace with pastors in the developing world.

Many pastors in the developing world haven’t thought about duplicating leaders – bringing and training up a replacement for example.  As a result, if something happens to a pastor in a church, the church often dies or is weakened.

Pastors are not the only ones who ignore the multiplication principle.  It applies to every believer for we belong to the “priesthood of believers.”  One of the things a believer should do is follow Jesus in our lives, and make His priorities our priorities. As the passage says, if we are in Him, we will live as Jesus lived. Seeing how He built the Kingdom should be instructional to us.

Jesus didn’t mass produce leaders or disciples. Instead, He intentionally focused on a small number of them.  His model wasn’t to rent an auditorium and have large leadership classes. Instead, He developed close personal relationships with promising men and women and invested time with them by mentoring them.

But his mentoring had one goal which included the concept of multiplication.  He took on a small number of disciples, who took on a small number of disciples, who took on a small number of disciples, and the results were exponential.

We use the following illustration to get people to realize the difference between multiplication and addition. Imagine that I have a $100 bill in one hand and a $1 bill in the other.  I ask my audience: Would you rather that: (a) I give you $100 a day for 30 days, or (b) I give you $1 a day doubled every day (so day two you would get $2 and day three you would get $4)?

Without thinking, many have chosen (a) – which results in $3,000.  They often focus on the fact that $100 looks like real money, and $1 seems so small. If, however, you had chosen (b) – i.e., getting $1 a day doubled for 30 days, you would have chosen well. It would be worth $536,870,912.  Just a little more than $3,000.

Jesus was in the disciple making business, but His principle was to have disciples making disciples, not for him to do it. He only spent three years with his disciples, knowing that His time on earth was short. In Matthew 28, He exhorts us in the Great Commission to “Go make disciples of all nations.” He understood the power of multiplication.

My illustration shows is the difference between addition and multiplication. It has a huge implication on how you approach ministry. You might think that mentoring one man or woman (or a small group) may not be significant, but if you instill in them the kingdom principle to mentor others, you start down the path of how Jesus built His kingdom.

The absence of this principle in modern-day Christianity can have catastrophic effects. As I have noted before, France was 75% Christian two generations ago.  Now it is 5%. I’ve heard the saying that Christianity has been one generation away from extinction for 2000 years. That’s a simplification, but there is an element of truth to it.

To those out there who have a ministry to small groups or even just one-on-one mentoring, the multiplication principle must be instilled in your audience.  It’s not enough for your audience to just soak up your investment in them. As the passage above suggests, “if you are to have Jesus in you, then you must live as Jesus did”.  Note the word is “must”, not “should” or “might”.  It is an imperative, not an option.

How did Jesus live and build His kingdom?  He lived by selecting a few disciples, and mentoring them over three years. They, in turn, mentored others (Barnabas, Timothy, etc.).  That’s how Jesus did it. That’s how he wants us to do it. We need to think multiplication, not addition.

The challenge here is to be aware that the kingdom principle of multiplication must be passed on to the next generation.  They need to own it and take responsibility to pass on what you are teaching them to others. This kingdom value that must be instilled in all that you mentor or minister to.  Without multiplication, you end up with $3,000 instead of over $536 million in the illustration.  A big difference, but quite achievable.

MENTOR TAKEAWAY:  Be sure to instill in your mentees a mindset of multiplication. Get them to live as Jesus did by mentoring someone else who mentors someone else, and so on.

FURTHER STUDY:  For your kids or grandkids, you can go online and have them learn multiplication with flash cards:  http://www.learninggamesforkids.com/math_multiplication_games.html

WORSHIP:  Listen to Chris Tomlin sing “God of the City” where the lyrics say, “Greater things have yet to be done in this City”:

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.

 

 

 

Learning

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Guardrails (Part II)

guardrails

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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