Ruddering

                                   rudder

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Bill Mann

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

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

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

 

COMMENT:  I would be delighted at comments on this or any other post.  I often don’t get much feedback, yet many who read these have told me they enjoy my posting. You can comment by clicking on the icon at the top of the page, or emailing me at otterpater@nc.rr.com.

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

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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LOLWROF

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There is a time for everything,

    and a season for every activity under the heavens:

    a time to weep and a time to laugh,

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Bill Mann

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

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

WORSHIP:   Listen to Hillsong sing Mighty to Save:

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

COMMENT:  I would be delighted at comments on this or any other post.  I often don’t get much feedback, yet many who read these have told me they enjoy my posting. You can comment by clicking on the icon at the top of the page, or emailing me at otterpater@nc.rr.com.

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

 

 

Non Sibi

 

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

This title won’t make sense to the vast majority of readers, which is OK.  It is a Latin phrase which means “not for self”.  It is one of the principles embraced by my high school – Phillips Academy, located in Andover, Massachusetts.

The head of school of Andover recently addressed the school in an all school meeting and reaffirmed it this way: “We embrace together the idea that thinking and acting for others must guide our lives – not for self.  Andover has stood for this value for 239 years and it will for evermore.”

My years at Andover were not much fun.  It was interesting to attend my 50th reunion with classmates and to hear how miserable many of them were as well.  When I attended, I thought I was the only one who had a difficult experience.  It turns out that even the ones that I thought had it all together had similar feelings.

Yet, years later, we all were unanimous that those years in a challenging educational environment laid the foundation for our later lives and that we all felt that it was one of the best things we experienced in life. To a man, they all said they would do it all over again.  I didn’t think much about Non Sibi while I was at Andover, to be honest. It sounded like a classical platitude that didn’t have much relevance at that point in my life. It’s significance to me came later when I graduated from law school.

Over the years, Andover has produced remarkable people who have led lives of service to others. It includes several Presidents of the United States. Others led careers in the military serving our country. One of my classmates ended up being an Admiral in the Nay.  Still others became leaders in business, education or government, or became authors.

Almost all of them gave back to society and others – whether it was through their profession or through their leadership, volunteering,  or philanthropy.   My eldest son, also an Andover graduate, is “giving back” through his involvement in The Fistula Foundation which he learned about on a trip to Ethiopia several years ago.

The Fistula Foundation provides surgical cures for a condition that occurs in the developing world where medical care for pregnant women is all but non-existent, resulting in thousands of women suffering after childbirth. Their condition can be corrected by fistula surgery but resources are scarce.  Last year, the Foundation provided 5,000 women with a life restoring operation. (www.fistulafoundation.org). I applaud his involvement with the Fistula Foundation.

He is now the Chairman of their Board, and helping them raise money since they do not rely on any government funding.  The Foundation sponsors medical centers in over 20 countries in Africa and Asia, and the Foundation estimates that one million women suffer from obstetric fistula worldwide.

Why is Non Sibi important today?  Well, critics have labeled the next generation – the millennials this way: “They are a class of self-centered, self-absorbed, selfie-snapping 20-somethings” according to Samantha Raphleson of NPR. Of course, that probably could have been said about most prior generations – minus the “selfies” of course.

In a 2013 commentary in Forbes magazine, Dan Schwabel wrote a commentary on “Why You Can’t Ignore the Millennials”: “Even despite a poor economy, millennials strive to give back to society. Eighty-one percent have donated money, goods or services, reports a study by Walden University and Harris’ Interactive. They strive to support causes that align with their values and personal belief system. When Pew Research asked a sample of millennials what their priorities were, they said being a good parent, having a successful marriage and helping others in need.”  Bottom line:  millennials may be described as self-centered, yet research shows they want Non Sibi in their lives – the ability to give back to our society and helping others in need.

That’s good news, but today, it often has no biblical underpinnings. As the Walden University Study shows, millennials support causes that align with their values and personal belief system, which is increasingly secular.  Christianity has stood for the principle of service to others for two millennia, but it is not a topic or theme that gets a lot of mileage.

In fact, I couldn’t think of many songs that have lyrics relating to serving others, and it’s not a frequent sermon topic.  Having said that, the concept of service or serving others is one of the strongest themes in the New Testament. As Jesus was grooming the next generation of leaders – his disciples – He constantly reminded them that serving was the key to leadership in the Kingdom.   His was a model of servant leadership – serving others sacrificially.  His meeting in the Upper Room with the disciples was the crowning lesson when He said “Whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant.”  Jesus was God’s servant here on earth. His life was a life of service and sacrifice for others – for you and me.

Studies on service consistently show benefits to the one serving, not just to those being served. Volunteering has been shown to have a benefit for students in high school: “[It} enhanced students’ problem-solving skills, improved their ability to work within a team and enabled them to plan more effectively.”  “Another benefit of service-learning is that young people are far more likely to remain engaged when they can see that their participation is effecting change.”

In other words, they can see that they make a difference. I met this morning with a man whose son has struggled with drug addiction.  His son  says that volunteering at a rest home keeps his mind on the needs of others, not on himself. He points to his volunteering as  being therapeutic and helpful in his journey to remain clean. This just illustrates that there are lots of motivations to want to serve others.

I don’t need a study to tell me that most people want to “make a difference” in this world. As noted above, the millennials are no different. Lives of others are made easier when people serve others.  How your service plays out is often tied to what your purpose in life is.  You see, we are placed here on earth to glorify God.  That’s only the beginning, because He has gifted you as a unique individual and equipped you with specific gifts, talents, passions and interests.

That’s what the 1 Peter 4:10 verse is about.  What gets me excited might not do anything to you.  So, how do you glorify God?  You start by loving others – love your neighbor as yourself.    How do you love your neighbors?  What do you actually do?  Well, Jesus says it well – you love your neighbors by loving and serving them.

How do you serve them depends on who you are and where you are? There is no “one-size fits all” template when it comes to serving our neighbors. Not everyone can be on the board of an international charity.  But you can, in some way, no matter how big or small, find something you are passionate about and find a way to be involved.

When I think about the topic of service, I cannot help but think of Mother Teresa who dedicated her life to the poor and dying on the streets of Calcutta, India.  A Catholic nun, she felt led to a life of service at an early age.

Mother Teresa  was born in Albania and moved to India in 1950, setting up a mission which was to care for, in her own words,  “the hungry, the naked, the homeless, the crippled, the blind, the lepers, all those people who feel unwanted, unloved, uncared for throughout society, people [who] have become a burden to the society and are shunned by everyone.” What began as a small mission of 13 people in Calcutta grew to 517 missions in over 100 countries by 1996, the year before she died.

So what does your life of service look like?  That’s where it gets interesting.  You don’t have to be a Mother Teresa to make a difference in the world. You might be led to a “service” profession such as medicine, nursing, fire protection, or even the military.

God needs His servants in every profession – lawyers, doctors, nurses, carpenters, or even salesmen.  I became a Christian long after my chosen profession was already clear. I had no idea what God had up his sleeve for me because I had no idea what it meant to be the spiritual leader of my household, much less what being a Christian lawyer looked like.

Over the next couple of years, a picture emerged which totally changed my perspective. You see, I realized that God wants everyone to serve where they are planted.  That came from a verse in 1 Corinthians 10:31 which should be familiar: “Whatever you do, do it for the glory of God.”  Everything, not just some things. Being a lawyer meant that I had to figure out a way to glorify God. When that passage sunk in, my attitude towards law practice, my staff and my clients changed overnight.

I realized I was to serve them, and I spent time in figuring out how to serve others outside of my law practice.  Soon, I was representing a number of Churches and setting up Christian ministries. Some of the work I did was pro bono (i.e. for free). The rest of it was for fees that were substantially reduced from what I would otherwise have charged. That was my way of giving back.

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

My family has gone in different directions when it comes to service to others. As noted above, one of my sons is involved with The Fistula Foundation.  My daughter has volunteered for something called Young Lives in Raleigh, which is a Christian outreach to unmarried pregnant teenagers who often have nowhere to turn and whose families may have turned their back on them.

My wife volunteered on a ministry that conducted bible studies for over 20 years in the Women’s Prison in Raleigh – a maximum security prison for women who have been kicked to the curb because of something they did which landed them in the prison. Many of the inmates are serving life sentences. The majority of the prison inmates come from histories of family abuse – physical, emotional verbal or sexual – when they were young.

These women have low self-esteem, and finding out that God is a God of second chances regardless of what they might have done in the past is a message that resonates with them.

My youngest son gives back to others by co-sponsoring a scholarship for a deserving underprivileged student in the 5th to 8th grade at the Washington Jesuit Academy, a  a private school in Washington, DC.  All of the students are on full scholarship provided by the generosity of individuals like my son.

The challenge here is to engage and encourage our next generation to live “Non Sibi”.  One of the tasks of a mentor is to help a mentee identify his or her life purpose, and then help them take steps to accomplish their goals.  That includes helping them identify what they are passionate about, which often leads to identifying opportunities for service to others. F

rom the standpoint of both the mentor and the mentee, what develops is fun to watch and our world is better off for it.  If you haven’t mentored before, it is simple act of service to share your life experiences with the next generation and be an encourager of living Non Sibi.

Bill Mann

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

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

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

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

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

COMMENT:  I would be delighted at comments on this or any other post.  I often don’t get much feedback, yet many who read these have told me they enjoy my posting. You can comment by clicking on the icon at the top of the page, or emailing me at otterpater@nc.rr.com.

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

 

 

 

 

 

Outside the Box

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

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

“Outside the box” is an expression most of you have heard before.  Usually it’s “thinking outside the box”, or, in Australia, it’s called “outside the square.”  The phrase is thought to have come from management consultant’s decades ago and it is a metaphorical way of describing creative thinking which may be unconventional or different, or even from a different perspective.

Of my three children, my daughter is the one that comes to mind. I had lunch with one of her college friends and when our conversation turned to her.  I think I said something like “Liz thinks outside the box” and his reply still amuses me.  He said “Liz doesn’t know what a box is!”  I have to agree with him.  Very perceptive.  I have always maintained that Liz has more creativity in her smallest finger than I do in my entire body.

What “outside the box” means is that sometimes it’s important to challenge underlying assumptions, traditions or paradigms. Often, those assumptions go unnoticed, but they do influence our point of view. It also suggests that one should go beyond thinking of the obvious, and go beyond the barriers of conventional norms.

It can challenge of our ways of learning – we often revert to the way we were taught, which for most of us was a didactic teaching style.  A style where there is a teacher telling the pupils what they need to know on a topic.  Teacher/pupil model.  That model, though, actually grew in popularity during the middle of the last century.  Before the classroom model, another model was widely used – that of mentoring, apprenticeships and internships.  Much of the latter was one-on-one or one on a small group.

But for us, we now use the assumption of the didactic teaching style as the best way to be systematic in education.  I would challenge that assumption, and would ask one to reconsider the mentor model, where learning involved a relationship with another. It was the model Jesus employed with the next generation of his leaders – the disciples.

He didn’t plunk them down in a classroom and ask them to pull out their notebooks so they could take notes on his lecture.  He just said “follow me.” He walked beside them and shared their journey, and often extrapolated God’s lessons to be learned from their common experiences.

As far as I know, the only occupation that still uses mentoring is the medical profession. The legal profession used to employ it, but it has been abandoned.  There are now initiatives for voluntary mentoring of older lawyers with younger ones, and I applaud those because just learning “the law” is not enough, and learning where and how to apply the law with a specific client is an art. Interestingly, didactic teaching – the model of the lecture is the least effective method of learning (see my post entitled “Get it, Got It, Good”), where actual learning from a lecture is only about 5% of the content.

On the other hand, learning to do it by practice – the hands on experience – results in a 75% retention.  Even just using a discussion group model results in a five times better learning curve than the lecture model. Yet our educational system scrapped internships and mentoring which had proved to yield a better learning experience.

The point of the above is that mentoring is now considered “outside the box” to conventional thinking.  Even our seminaries fall into this line of thinking.  That’s why I sometimes refer to them as “semetaries”, much to the amusement (or chagrin) of my colleagues who attended them.  Mentoring – in all its forms – is a better model for transformational value transfer.

It can occur in a one-to-one relationship of one older with one younger, a peer mentoring relationship, or even a group mentoring experience.  Mentoring is not easily adapted into a “program” which is what conventional thinking would try to make it so it can be “taught” systematically in a classroom context.  That’s inside the box:  we want to distill learning into a systematic equation where you take steps in a logical progression.

Unfortunately, life is not a logical progression, and certainly not linear (at least that’s my experience).  Life has twists and turns, where sometimes the lesson that the didactic teacher would have you learn is set up for next semester, but you need it now.  You can’t wait.  Where do you turn?   Mentoring isn’t linear either.

I have been meeting with many younger men in my life, and every experience is different because their needs or challenges are all individual and often defy neat compartmentalization.  No one is the same – either in experience, temperament or their place in life.

In his 1991 book, Church Without Walls, Jim Peterson tells the story of having spent several years as a missionary in South America. On his return to the U.S., Jim and his wife settled in Colorado Springs, CO and joined a local church.  As he and his family left his house every Sunday to go to church, he noticed that most of his neighbors were not church goers and were in their yards cutting their grass or just chatting with neighbors.

He decided to spend time with them – in their yards initially, then inviting them for coffee, and ultimately starting a bible study. The reaction by his friends in church was instructive:  he was condemned for not being in church on Sunday. Yes, you read that right.  Although he was doing relational evangelism with his neighbors, he was criticized for not adhering to the norm on Sunday morning.  In his book, he used an analyses of form and function to describe this phenomena. Stay with me here – this is really not all that abstract. Every function ends up having a form.  Worshipping God on Sunday is a function that ends up looking like your typical church service on Sunday morning. That form becomes the tradition and the norm – it’s what is “inside the box” as it were.  Over time, the form of a church service becomes so calcified and rigid that we forget the function which is to worship and glorify God in all that we do, and we are commanded to make disciples. I’m not knocking corporate worship, mind you, but it can’t stand in the way of reaching the lost who aren’t in church.

Jim Peterson was thinking outside the box.  He knew that if he attempted to get his neighbors to church he was unlikely to succeed, but If he met them where they were (i.e. in their yards on Sunday morning), he might have better success.   Just as Jim was thinking outside the box, we have gotten ourselves “in the box” when it comes to discipleship training.

Much of it is didactic – teaching in classrooms, from the pulpit and elsewhere. Given that the retention rate of didactic teaching is the least (5-10%) effective method of learning, one has to wonder if the way Jesus taught could be useful today.

Jesus didn’t herd his disciples into a classroom and have them take notes.  That’s content transfer.  Instead, he mentored them – walking beside them and sharing life together. Guess what:  it worked then, and it works today, only we have abandoned His teaching model so that it is now considered “outside the box”.

Traditions often act as barriers to innovation. That’s why it’s important to sometimes step back and take a look at the tradition to see whether or not it is impeding other biblical functions.

Peterson’s book was written about the time that many of our millennials were born. Its message was prescient then, and applicable today.  We have observed the phenomenon of the growth of mega churches in America – churches with membership of more than 6,000.  Their design and model is to provide welcoming place, often providing “seeker” services, as well as Christian coffee bars, Christian exercise classes and even Christian yoga.

Their model is premised on being welcoming to the non-believer.  But studies show that the millennials of today don’t trust institutions of any kind, including religious ones, and therefore aren’t likely to darken the door of the church as their first Christian experience.

Tim Keller, the head pastor of Redeemer Presbyterian Church in New York, has it right when he says: “We don’t need any more churches today. What we need is more Starbucks.”  In other words, evangelism in the new millennium will require Christians to go outside the walls of their fortress church buildings to meet the next generation where they are – often in coffee bars, at work or in the gym. If they won’t come to us, we have to think “outside the box” and go to them, just as Jim Peterson did with his neighbors in Colorado Springs.

What Peterson did was relational evangelism. He built friendships and relationships first, and then shared his life second.  Millennials want authenticity in relationships.  If you have developed a transparent relationship with them and have earned their trust, they will let you speak into their lives and hearts. Without that trust and relationship, you won’t be heard.

While doing leadership training abroad, I have told pastors two things intended to get them to rethink their priorities.  The first is that the average attendee in their church only remembers at most 15% of their sermon, even on the best day.  Other studies show there is only 5% retention. The second is that most ministry does not take place within the four walls of their church.

Ministry takes place in the home, in the workplace, at the market or at the gym – where lives intersect with other lives the other 6 days of the week.  Tim Keller and others have seen this disconnect and are now emphasizing market place ministry.  His recent book Every Good Endeavor: Connecting Your Work to God’s Work is an example of taking Christ into the workplace, not just the church.  Getting outside the box, if you will.

Professors love lectures, and pastors love sermons. Tim Elmore, in a recent email mentions that the Medical School at the University of Vermont is joining other universities by embracing the “flipped classroom” which will eventually eliminate lectures entirely. The Associate Dean for the Medical School said: “If you have the evidence to show one treatment is better than the other, you would naturally use that treatment. So if we know that there are methods superior to lecturing, why are we lecturing at all?”  Wow.  That’s outside the box.  The rub as to why this change is difficult:

Professors like to lecture –it’s what they have always done. Bingo.  Mind you, I am not advocating that Pastors abandon sermons, but I am suggesting that they consider mentoring the next generation of leaders as a method of training. The “flipped classroom”  model involves having the students review content before class and then use the classroom as a discussion model where the teacher acts as a facilitator, not a lecturer.  We use this model in MentorLink in our training of pastors worldwide.

I have been working with the Secretary General of the Apostolic Church in Cameroon. It is a denomination of about 190,000 people and is in 92 countries. My friend, Njie Assam Peter Tabe, has embraced mentoring and the MentorLink approach of leadership development, yet he is having trouble convincing others in leadership because the concept is “outside the box” and not the norm for training their leaders.

The guiding principle of MentorLink is to teach from the inside out, where most leadership training is just the opposite – teaching from the outside in.  What I mean by that is that typical teaching is content transfer hoping that it will trickle down to the heart. Our method starts with the heart knowing that It is “outside the box” to many.

Jim Stump authored The Power of One on One: Discovering the Joy and Satisfaction of Mentoring Others.  Jim mentored students and athletes at Stanford University in Palo Alto, CA for three decades.

The quote that caught me was the following: “You change the world by reshaping hearts and lives from the inside out. By walking with people on a daily basis teaching them how to live by modeling a Christ like life.  You change the world one individual at a time.”  Inside out – that’s where transformation occurs. That’s the Jesus model.  That’s what we’ve been doing at MentorLink since its inception in 2000. We facilitate self-discovery, and it’s wonderful to watch it happen.

The challenge here is to think about what traditions and conventions around you impedes or acts as an obstruction to the Jesus method of teaching through mentoring the next generation of leaders.  He modeled it with his disciples.  It worked then, and it works now, only we have come to view mentoring as outside the box.

All of the recent studies about learning validate that His approach as being more effective than what our seminaries and educational systems have adopted over the past 75 years. If you have never mentored another person, I challenge you to consider it if you want to be more like Jesus.  You might surprise yourself by thinking outside the box.

Bill Mann

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

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

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

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

COMMENT:  I would be delighted at comments on this or any other post.  I often don’t get much feedback, yet many who read these have told me they enjoy my posting. You can comment by clicking on the icon at the top of the page, or emailing me at otterpater@nc.rr.com.

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

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

 

Progress

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

There are a lot of principles in scripture, but this is one that doesn’t always get noticed, or even gets much attention.  Yet I think it is very important because the word “progress” really should be a one-word description of every believer’s journey.  There are other values that I’ve seen – for example “excellence” or “perfection” that often get mentioned.

I shy away from the concept of perfection, even though we are exhorted to become more like Christ, who was perfect in every way.  If you adopt perfection as a value, you will be constantly disappointed because it is not one that you can attain, at least not here on earth.  My friend Paula Rinehart even wrote a book in 1992 entitled Perfect Every Time: When Doing it All Leaves You with Nothing.

The title pretty much speaks for itself because it suggests that a life dedicated to being perfect at everything leads to emptiness and dissatisfaction, or as she says, it leaves you with Nothing.

Instead of perfection as a goal, I always preferred excellence which is a better target to aim at since it does not require perfection.  But even if you aim at excellence in everything that you do, you sometimes may fall short, no matter how hard you try.  So, while aiming for excellence is a good thing, what God wants us to aim at is progressthat our actions, speech and service showconstant improvement.”

In Paul’s first letter to Timothy (I Tim. 4:15), he tells Timothy: Be diligent in these matters; give yourself wholly to them, so that everyone may see your progress.  “These matters” refer to his life, speech, conduct, love, purity and faith. Pretty holistic – trying to make progress in all of those areas of life in order to set an example for others.

I’ve done a lot of mentoring in my life which brings me joy and satisfaction in ways that are hard to describe. My satisfaction comes from have the privilege to invest in another’s life and to see how they mature, which is another way of describing progress.  When I meet with younger men (and one woman in Africa – Anita), I tend to ask questions as to how they are progressing in aspects of their life where I know they are challenged.

We all face challenges and it’s nice to know that you don’t have to face them alone.  One of the men I met with – Mark – recently told me that our relationship has impacted him – not just for what we’ve discussed, but just the relationship itself.  He told me that I probably don’t realize the impact I’ve had on him (and to be honest, I really didn’t) just from the very fact of meeting with him.  Very encouraging to me, although it’s hard to point to one thing I said or did that I could say “this is important to communicate and I should remember it for others.”

That should be an encouragement to anyone who wonders if they would make a good mentor – your impact may not be anything that you actually say but just that you are there to listen.  You don’t have to say wise things or impart deeply profound truths.  You just have to listen and be there.

My own journey has not been linear where I could be seen as constantly making progress or improving, and sometimes my own progress has flat lined.  Those times of horizontal movement – where my spiritual life just seemed to go nowhere – often were when times were good and things were going well.  Go figure!

You’d think when things are going well for you professionally and with your family that you would experience some growth.  Well, that’s not my experience.  My times of growth usually came at times when things were not going well.  I’ve always thought that I learned more from life when things were hard and difficult, then when things were going well.

That might be your experience, too.  I sat down with a friend of mine who is doing a bible study for new believers this morning, and made that same statement, and everyone at the table nodded in agreement.  Tough times result in more growth, and therefore more progress.

My toughest times came in the late 1980’s when I faced financial ruin due to the recession and the collapse of the real estate market post 1986.  We skated on thin ice daily – wondering how we would survive another call from one of my creditors demanding more money than I had or could get. I was liable on some $55 million due to real estate projects that had floundered when the economy went into recession. It took me almost 10 years to work through it, and it exacted an emotional toll in the process.

I burned out from the constant stress and strain – not once but twice.  You’d think I would have learned from the first experience of burnout, but apparently not. At the end of the day, the banks that I owed money to ended up being my clients over the next decade.  Bankruptcy was always a possibility, but I preferred to stick it out.  It was not fun.

How did I survive?  First, I found a new and deeper faith in God, realizing that I could lean on Him. My wife was instrumental in all of this, and we learned to communicate at a level that we’d never been able to before. And last, but not least, I had several close friends who met with me weekly checking my “progress.”  Those meetings and conversations were as important to me as getting oxygen, water and food is to sustain my body.

I wouldn’t wish tough times on anyone, much less myself or my family. But it is those difficult times of life where we have to face the reality that life can be hard and that we don’t have all the answers and we need to know that Abba Father is on our side. It is through those difficult times – whether they be financial, relational, or health, or anything else for that matter – that one comes to the realization that we need God so that when we call for help, He is there.

When we finally realize that we need God as much as we need oxygen, food and water to sustain us, it is a turning point in our lives. We also need friends – those few Godly people or mentors who come alongside us sometimes at our point of greatest need and partner with us in our journey. While they can’t always solve our problems, they can help us attain a balanced view of our circumstances so that we have a perspective that is not short-term.

I attribute my financial disaster 30 years ago and its accompanying burnout to having left an indelible fingerprint on my life because I learned that God is in control of everything, and conversely, I was not.  Once I was able to pry my fingers off the steering wheel of my life,  I realized that He is real and is a better driver than I could ever be.

So, the challenge here is not to have tough times, but to use those times as a period of growth and to always see His hand in all of our circumstances.  Surround yourself with mentors or Godly friends who will lift you up when you are down, who will carry you when your energy is spent, who will encourage you when your courage is lacking, and who will pray for you when you need it most.

When that happens, you will find that your spiritual life will become one of constant improvement and progress.  If you haven’t invested in someone else’s life as a mentor, think about it today.  Your hand in their progress is the return on your investment and it is eternal and priceless.

Bill Mann

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

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

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

COMMENT:  I would be delighted at comments on this or any other post.  I often don’t get much feedback, yet many who read these have told me they enjoy my posting. You can comment by clicking on the icon at the top of the page, or emailing me at otterpater@nc.rr.com.

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

Values

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But if you just use my words in Bible studies and don’t work them into your life, you are like a stupid carpenter who built his house on the sandy beach. When a storm rolled in and the waves came up, it collapsed like a house of cards.  Matthew 7:24-25 (The Message)

Have you ever thought about why you act in a certain way?  Or, why do you say things or respond to things in a particular manner?  The answer is that you generally act and speak out of a set of imbedded values – things that are important to you that often are the unseen guidelines  as to what you say, think or how you behave.

These imbedded values often aren’t even articulated when you act or speak. You don’t ever say “I am going to answer this question this way so I can be consistent with this value that I think is important.” They have become second nature.

I started to write this as a 5,000-foot view on what values are and why they matter some time ago.  I didn’t realize how big and complex a topic this is.  It’s easy to say something like “values are important” and “you should have some if you are concerned about your character.”

But the how and why is a little more complex.  Bear with me, then, as I tackle this. Values may be abstract concepts, but they have a real impact on what we say and do.

One of the things that is missing today – a proverbial hole in the donut – is a lack of core values by the next generation.  As I have noted elsewhere, they are Asian in outlook which means that their choices and decisions are driven less by core values than by what “feels good” at the moment (see my post entitled “Honesty”).

I need to be precise here – it’s not that they don’t have any values, but their values are not anchored in anything that prior generations recognize, and are often self-centered. We even often refer to the millennials as the “Me Generation”.

Unfortunately, what feels good today may not feel good tomorrow, resulting in decisions that are often almost whimsical, irrational or lacking logic.  In the Christian context, our basic values are based on biblical truths, but we are living in a post-modern and post-Christian era where those values are largely not articulated nor observed by the next generation.

For two millennia, Christianity provided a moral code that had rights and wrongs – think of the Ten Commandments.  You don’t lie, you don’t steal you don’t murder, etc. These are what I call black/white principles – there is no grey in whether you lie, steal or commit murder.

Jesus really simplifies it to just two commandments:  Love God first, and then love your neighbor as yourself.  Easier said than done. On the other hand, if you ask a millennial if it’s OK to lie, you might get an answer like “it depends on the context.”

So, what is a value? Well, it’s definition is pretty straightforward:  Values are a person’s principles or standards of behavior; one’s judgment of what is important in life.  In essence, they are the principles, standards, convictions and beliefs that people adopt as their guidelines in daily activities.  Culturally, those values form the basis for laws and ethics in the culture. Most laws and legislation are shaped by human values.

The Pew Research conducted a study in 2015 indicating that the public is becoming less religious in the United States.  This is partly because of the existence of the “Nones” who are those who indicated they have no religious affiliation of any kind.  “Altogether, the religiously unaffiliated (also called the “Nones”) now account for 23% of the adult population, up from 16% in 2007.”

As a result of this trend which is only increasing according to my futurist colleagues, the foundation of our values is starting change rapidly, and it’s having an impact in some very startling ways.  The rapid acceptance of same-sex marriage in the past ten years is a prime example.  Public opinion switched very quickly on this one issue alone, leaving many in the Christian community confused and confounded.

This increasing lack of values is not just an American phenomenon. Anita Etanga, who adopted me as “Dad” a year ago,  mentors teens in Limbe, Cameroon.  When I asked her what their greatest need was, she did not hesitate and she said that they have no values.

These teens are our future – this next generation will become leaders of tomorrow, and if they have no values, it’s going to be hard for them to make consistent decisions, or even good decisions. If the lines between right and wrong begin to blur, it will be difficult if not impossible to distinguish a good from a bad decision.

Religion and philosophy have played a role in developing values over the ages, and such development may be different in other cultures. As Hollinger wrote in a recent treatise: “What is right, or normal, or perceived to be good may not be right, or normal, or good to those with different beliefs.”

A simple example is the difference in Sharia law which is predominant in the middle east, which has very different values when it comes to the role of women as well as their punishments than most western cultures.

Those differences collide when those who come from a culture that believe in Sharia law emigrate to a country where those are not mainstream beliefs or law.  You need only to look at the difficulties of the mass immigration of people from Africa and the middle east into Europe to see the clash of these cultures, which is really a clash of values.

Ultimately, beliefs and values results in behavior, and behavior that is consistent with a set of expressed values results in credibility.  Said otherwise, one has to walk the walk, not just talk the talk.  Integrity in your actions and core values are the sine qua non of integrity.

Without integrity, leaders undermine their credibility.   I need only cite examples of moral failures of leaders, politicians and pastors – we know them all too well.  Once it happens, their credibility is gone, and their ability to be restored back to leadership is often impaired or eliminated.

Christian values, unlike others, are based on the acceptance of Jesus as one’s Lord and Savior, and these become the cornerstone of our social values.  They are anchored in biblical standards which do not change and are based on truth and love. Jesus reserved particularly harsh words with the ruling elite of his time – the Pharisees – whose actions and speech did not match.  He called them hypocrites.  That’s when your speech and action are disconnected.

So, getting back to the question I first raised:  Why do values matter?  To me, to you, and to our culture?  Again, I am talking about from a Christian perspective.  The answer is pretty simple, actually.  Values – those principles and beliefs that we hold personally important – will dictate our decisions and our actions.  If, for example, you hold truth and honesty as a core value, then you will make decisions based on that and do things consistent with that value.  You won’t need to consider the context of a situation as to whether or not to be truthful or whether or not it would be beneficial to lie.

Truth is not relative in context.  In fairness, we often soften an answer to not appear being judgmental or harsh so as to avoid causing emotional damage to the listener (telling your wife that her dress looks awful could be replaced with a suggestion that maybe there is a better color that suits her, for example).  Or, if she asks you “am I fat?”, she really doesn’t want you to say yes.

More importantly, having a set of core values really helps in making decisions or determining the correct course of action.  Values provide a grid through which you can screen an issue or situation and help you arrive at the best answer.

It also helps you in your evaluation of others – do they operate out of a set of values, and if so, are those values consistent with yours?  To a certain extent, the phrase “birds of a feather stick together” actually has some validity. If your friends have compatible values, your likelihood of having the relationship grow deep is greatly enhanced.

The challenge here is for each of us to look at what we value – what are our core values?  If it is integrity, for example, then you should be concerned about your credibility – do you really act and behave consistent with your core values?  Do your actions reflect those values?  Admittedly, there are situations where you can find yourself conflicted.

Life is not always a black or white matter where actions and answers are clear.  I often described it as living in the grey area – where there are not clear right or wrong answers where you have to actually dig in and think through a specific path by critically thinking about the consequences.

We turn to God in those times of need – asking Him to give you wisdom.  But it’s also those times when you need a sounding board – a mentor or close Godly friend to turn to go through the pros and cons of your decisions. If you don’t have a mentor or a friend to turn to, then my challenge is for you to find one.

Proverbs 15:22 says it best: Plans fail for lack of counsel, but with many advisers they succeed.   As the Matthew passage above suggests, you don’t want to be a stupid carpenter living in a house of cards.

Bill Mann

FURTHER STUDY:  You can explore a list of 24 Values and how they act out in life:  http://changingminds.org/explanations/values/via.htm

For the Pew Study in 2015 about the decline of religion: http://www.pewforum.org/2015/11/03/u-s-public-becoming-less-religious/

Thomas D. Hollinger  – Placing Christ at the Center of Christian Leadership Values: https://www.regent.edu/acad/global/publications/innerresources/vol2iss3/hollinger.pdf

For an article discussing same-sex marriage and the Church: http://www.jennieallen.com/i-believe-in-us-church/

WORSHIP:  Listen to Kari Jobe sing Healer: https://video.search.yahoo.com/search/video?fr=yset_safari_syc_oracle&p=healer+kari#id=5&vid=339940fd004e22d7776efdb5e37604a6&action=click

COMMENT:  I would be delighted at comments on this or any other post.  I often don’t get much feedback, yet many who read these have told me they enjoy my posting. You can comment by clicking on the icon at the top of the page, or emailing me at otterpater@nc.rr.com.

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

 

 

Four Times

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 For the word of God is alive and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart. Hebrews 4:12

What is a post entitled “Four Times” about?  Four times what?  What’s the significance?  Well, it comes from the question: Are you going to go with life, or grow with life?  With three score and twelve years under my belt, I can candidly say that life is not linear.  It has twists and turns that are unexpected, and often we feel like we are being carried along by the winds and storms of life.  How do we remain anchored or grounded when we feel blown here and there by those winds?  The answer, of course, is Four Times, as you will learn below. Read on!

In a post last April, I wrote “Charge It” which provided the analogy of charging our spiritual life as often as we charge our mobile phones.  We know that a cellphone that loses its battery doesn’t work, and it’s similar in the spiritual life. We need a regular charge to our spiritual life in order for it to operate.  I don’t know about you, but I find it hard to do a daily bible study.  My professional life for 45 years as a lawyer often had me on deadlines that precluded normal routines such as doing a devotional every day. Much as I tried, and as disciplined as I’ve become, I still find it hard and so I’ve stopped beating myself up over my failure.  I must admit, though, it’s easier than ever because I have apps on my phone that permit to do a bible study on the run, but still there are days when it just doesn’t get done.

Last weekend, I attended a North American gathering with our Canadian counterpart, MentorLink Canada in Toronto, Ontario. I’ve found that from every conference I’ve ever attended – whether professional or otherwise – I always end up with a “takeaway” – some idea or principle that I latched onto that I captivated me or I thought was important to remember.  This conference was no different. Marvin Brubacher, the head of MLI Canada, and I had a discussion in which he alluded to a study done by Back to the Bible, an Nebraska-based parachurch organization dedicated to encouraging Christians to learn and study the Bible.  After the conference, I emailed Marvin requesting the link to the study, and he sent it to and it’s available on www.gotandem.comThe study involved interviewing over 100,000 people in 20 countries over a period of 7 years.  They crunched the answers from the interview to distill the results to come up with what was the key to personal growth spiritually?

Marvin emailed me to let me know that goTandem research went on to reveal that 60% of evangelical Christians read their Bible 0-1x per week; 20% read it 2-3x per week; and only 20% read it 4x per week or more. Marvin concludes: “No wonder our lives, our marriages, our families, our churches are in trouble or not vibrant.” I agree with him.

The key from the study:  People who are “engaged” in reading the bible at least four times or more a week were growing spiritually. Every other factor was not relevant, including church attendance, involvement in a small group, tithing, or even being involved with a Christian band.  This was a quantitative analysis – just the number of times of being engaged with the bible was important.  The qualitative measure – how much you read it or what you read was not significant. What was important, and the only thing that was important, was whether you read your bible four times or more a week.  If you did, you were spiritually growing and had a vibrant relationship with Jesus.  If you read it less than four, well, let’s just say you’re not growing spiritually.

When I wrote “Charge It”, I didn’t know about this study, nor its conclusions. It surprised me that one could come up with a clear benchmark or standard to aim for.  Consistent with Marvin’s email, a 2012 study identified as the Transformational Assessment by Lifeway research, only 19% of Christians who go to Church read the bible on a daily basis. “While it may be possible to become a “better person” by attending church, it is not true of spiritual growth. New life in Christ, the sanctifying work of the Holy Spirit, and regular Bible engagement is evident in the lives of growing believers.”  The bottom line here is that if you want to be growing with life, you need to be engaged with the bible at least four times a week.  Doing a bible study four times a week is an achievable goal.  You don’t have to be perfect and do it every day.  Just four times a week. That’s really just every other day. If you do that minimum, chances are you are growing with life, not just going along as the wind blows.

The Lifeway study identified six different factors that influenced an increased Bible engagement, including reading other books about increasing spiritual growth, praying for unbelievers, confession for their wrongdoings and asking forgiveness.  The sixth factor didn’t surprise me: “[Being] discipled or mentored one-on-one by a more spiritually mature Christian.” There it is again:  the power of the other in your life can be a key to spiritual growth (among other benefits).

The challenge here is personal – are you biblically engaged at least four times a week?  Secondly, and just as important, if that has characterized your walk, are you mentoring others in their walk and encouraging them to meet this same benchmark?  Four times a week is not a huge target and well within the grasp of everyone.   It’s a minimum, but the research says it’s the minimum that matters for spiritual growth. If you’ve struggled with daily bible study, then relax your goal and aim for four times a week.  It’s an easier goal to attain if you are serious of wanting to grow with life, not just go with life.

Bill Mann

FURTHER STUDY:  For a video of result of the Walk Through the Bible Study, go to www.gotandem.com and watch a 4-minute video.  Go to Resources, and click down to the second option with a white board video on being engaged in the bible.

https://www.gotandem.com/messages/29488

Research in 2012 showing less than 20% of church goers read the bible daily: http://www.christianitytoday.com/edstetzer/2012/september/new-research-less-than-20-of-churchgoers-read-bible-daily.html

For a similar study where only 20% of church goers indicate that they think about biblical truths through the day: http://www.lifeway.com/Article/research-survey-bible-engagement-churchgoers?carid=jhowe-stetzer-bible-20120913

NEED HELP WITH DAILY STUDY?  You can download the YouVersion bible app which has a daily study: https://www.youversion.com. YouVersion has 180 million users and is the most popular bible app.  If you google “daily devotionals” you can chose one which will land in your email every day.  One I suggest is by Boyd Bailey called Wisdom Hunters  which you can get at http://www.wisdomhunters.com which also has an app or you can sign up for a daily email.  Anne Graham Lotz does a devotional  which you can subscribe to at http://www.annegrahamlotz.org/category/messages-from-gods-word/joy-of-my-heart/

WORSHIP:  Listen to Christ Tomlin sing Jesus where the lyrics say “There is a voice that calms the storms that rages, Jesus.” https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cEbQswNB6Wc

COMMENT:  I would be delighted at comments on this or any other post.  I often don’t get much feedback, yet many who read these have told me they enjoy my posting. You can comment by clicking on the icon at the top of the page, or emailing me at otterpater@nc.rr.com.

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