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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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In Secret


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

FURTHER STUDY:  For a study on altruism which reviews published articles over the past 30 years:

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


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

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