Joseph, a Levite from Cyprus, whom the apostles called Barnabas (which means “son of encouragement”), sold a field he owned and brought the money and put it at the apostles’ feet. Acts 4:36,37
What does encouragement look like? Better yet, what does encouragement mean? Well, it’s definition includes giving support, confidence or hope to someone else, or even providing advice to someone so that they will “do or continue to do something.” At one level, that’s what every mentor does. It’s part of his genetic makeup to influence (in a good way) his mentee to action. At a recent conference, I heard this quote: “Life sucks courage out of us; we need to en-courage others to restore it.”
We all need a Barnabas in our lives, or, alternatively, we can be Barnabas to others. One of the roles that mentor plays is to be an encourager – a Barnabas as it were – in the lives of his protégés. When a mentee faces a major decision, he often is unsure of his or her choices and it’s good to have a sounding board. “Sounding board” is a term that one of mentees said of my role in his life. When I look at the mentors in my own life, I saw people who were interested in my progress, not necessarily my success, although that followed in time. They were interested in helping me walk first, knowing that learning to run was the next step.
Recently, I sent an email to a pastor which referred to some of his sermons that I thought were beneficial, and I provided a link to finding them on-line. He wrote me back the following: “Thanks for the encouragement, Bill. I really needed it this morning!” Wow. I had no idea it would reach him at a time when he needed encouragement. Just a small word of affirmation goes a long way.
Larry Crabb, in his book The Silence of Adam: Becoming a Man of Courage in a World of Chaos, said that what the next generation is looking for is someone who can communicate three things: i) “It can be done.” Ii) “I believe in you.” and, iii) “You are not alone.” Simple stuff. Not complicated. You don’t need to be a cheerleader shouting cheers on the sideline or learning complicated routines. You need to quietly be a force in other’s lives, helping them to make their own decisions and plot their own destiny. Just taking the time to invest in their lives with your time is an encouragement that speaks louder than words.
Regi Campbell of Radical Mentoring, has described the process of mentoring as a simple process of pouring what is in your cup into the cup of your mentee. Having done that, the outcomes are not important. You see, the outcomes are in God’s hands, not yours. You cannot control the outcome of your mentee. God wants to see breakthrough; you want to see progress. In this simple act, your role as a mentor is not to tell your mentee what to think, but how to think, using your life experiences and biblical worldview as a guide.
People who have not mentored try and complicate the process and make it more difficult than it really is. If you show up in someone else’s life and do the three things that Larry Crabb suggests, you will be a great mentor. You need no additional training. Your life experiences have provided you all the training that you need. Some of those experiences were good; others, not so much. I’ve always felt that my difficult life experiences left me with better lessons to pass on than my successes. As Albert Einstein is quoted, “Experience is a hard teacher because she gives the test first, and the lesson afterwards.” Mark Engelthaler, an executive pastor, related his personal experience in mentoring younger leaders, and is quoted as saying: “Mentoring is simply pointing them [your mentee] in the right direction and walking with them on the journey.”
The challenge here is clear – identify someone who needs a Barnabas in their life, and reach out to them. Take the initiative to be an encourager to someone else. The next generation is desperate for the Barnabas’s of the world to invest in their lives. The process is simple – don’t over complicate it. Listening goes a lot farther than talking. If you are younger, seek out someone who can be a Barnabas in your life. You may be enriched beyond your expectations. I hope this post is an encouragement to you to step up and get involved in someone else’s life.
FURTHER STUDY: A good site for mentoring material is located at https://radicalmentoring.com/recommended-books/ It contains a library of books and materials which are time-tested. Read some anecdotal stories of pastors involved in mentoring from Lesa Engelthaler: http://www.christianitytoday.com/pastors/2006/summer/8.84.html
WORSHIP: Listen to Amanda Cook singing “You Make Me Brave” https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6Hi-VMxT6fc
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