Travel

Then Barnabas went to Tarsus to look for Saul,  and when he found him, he brought him to Antioch.  Acts 25:11

 I have traveled to Africa for several years, usually in connection with a leadership training session or meeting with our African leaders. Each trip has its own story.

My trip to Togo a couple of years ago tops the travel horror story. Our flight was delayed due to storms in the U.S. which caused us to miss our connection on a direct flight to Lomé, Togo.

“No problem” said our airline: we will book you on Air Maroc which flies to Lomé via Morocco. Then our Air Maroc flight was delayed by 2 hours in Brussels causing us to miss our 11 pm connection to Lomé.

That’s when we found out that “customer service” is an oxymoron to Air Maroc. They suddenly turned deaf when I requested another flight on another airline. Only there weren’t any, and we couldn’t rebook our flight for 3 days. By the way, I suggest avoiding Air Maroc at all cost.

We made the best of it, staying at the expense of Air Maroc in a hotel near the airport. It was rated as a 4-star hotel, but I think the scale was actually 4 out of 10 stars, instead 4 of 5.

My traveling companion, a millennial, noted that he had never experienced this kind of travel trauma, although he hadn’t traveled much. I replied that I had been to over 80 countries and traveled millions of miles, but had never experienced it, either.

It was a lesson on adapting to your circumstances which you can’t control. I realized that there were no alternatives other than waiting for the next flight. So I decided to use our time touring nearby Casablanca and hanging out with my mentee.

The lesson to my mentee was one that was caught, but not taught, the same model employed by Jesus with the Disciples.

This post was written while I was in Africa after facilitating a leadership training in Nairobi. It was an instance where I was the one learning. A comment made by a participant at the Nairobi conference made me stop and take stock of my values.

He described his living quarters and didn’t mind living in what we might call squalor. He was content for his family. His explanation astounded me. He said, “After all, Jesus didn’t have a permanent home for the last 3 years of his life”. Profound observation. Our cultural view of a “comfortable home” just got turned upside down.

These are lessons that only come from engaging another culture on their home turf. We might “see” poverty. They see it as living a biblical existence. They are the current day Paul who was content in any circumstance.

Recent studies show that a very high percentage of Gen Z (the oldest of whom are now 22) want to travel. Whether they are using their parents pocketbook or their own, traveling is a high priority.

But their travel model is different. They approach traveling systematically and often spend lots of time searching reviews and finding reasonable digs through Airbnb, instead of a hostel, or hotel chain.

According to Jamie Biesiada in Travel Weekly, Generation Z is the most likely of all generations to travel internationally.

They also want to “live local” as opposed to the taking guided tours. More than a third of Gen Z choose a destination because of social media like Snapchat or Instagram. Marketing to them is different than older generations like Gen X.

They are more interested in the experience than the destination. On my flight home from South Africa, I met a college student on our flight home who had been on a two-week trip sponsored by the undergraduate Business School at UNC.

She said the University’ Business School curriculum includes visiting another culture. They provide scholarships to those who are unable to afford it.

She spent a week in Johannesburg and then another week in Cape Town, South Africa. They spent most of their time outside the city sights and experienced how locals actually lived and were educated.

I told her I was writing a post on this very topic, and she affirmed how valuable the trip had meant to her and that it had changed her opinions on several things. She also confirmed my research showing that Gen Z are “all in” when it comes to travel.

I would add: I am all for it, too. There is an undeniable benefit of learning about another culture. It changes how one views the world, and often fosters an appreciation for your own culture that you may have overlooked.

I have been a supporter of the next generation taking short term mission trips for that reason.  I don’t think I have ever met anyone who wasn’t profoundly impacted by taking a mission trip.

The challenge is that not everyone can afford to travel, although it is reasonably accessible to a large part of the next generation. Still, churches that are committed to missions have ways of assisting those with raising support so that anyone can do it. It can be life changing.

MENTOR TAKEAWAY: Even if your mentee has been unable to travel, you can tell stories of your own travel and let them vicariously join in your experiences. Even better, take them with you on a mission trip.

FURTHER RESEARCH: Travel Weekly on Generation Z.

WORSHIP:  Listen to Glorious Day by Passion.

MentorLink:For more information about MentorLink, go to www.mentorlink.org.

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Why?

why

 As Jesus went on from there, he saw a man named Matthew sitting at the tax collector’s booth. “Follow me,” he told him, and Matthew got up and followed him.  Matthew 9:9

 I joined a friend, Roger Gum,  last night who did an interesting and challenging presentation on discipleship. He played a video by Simon Sinek, one of the most viewed of all TED talks, and it really has nothing to do with Christianity per se.

Instead, it focuses on great leaders – the things they have in common that most of us get wrong. It is called the Golden Circles– there are three of them. In the center small circle is the word “Why”. In the second concentric circle is the word “How” and in the last circle is the word “What”.

So far, so good. Sinek goes on to explain that we usually get stuck on the How and What, but often not the Why. When it comes to Christianity, we focus on what we do and how we do it, but we don’t often focus on the Why.  Yet, it is the Why that makes you do what you do.

For me, the illustration was profound. When it comes to discipleship, we usually focus on the What – we tell the unchurched what the benefits of becoming a Christian: you get eternal life and a relationship with Jesus. We think about How we are going to communicate the benefits as a way of attracting others.

Yet it is the “Why?” that drives leaders.  Why are you a Christian?  If you can’t answer that, then the “How” and “What” are irrelevant, particularly to the next generation. The next generation is highly self-focused – they want to know “what’s in it for me?”

We approach them with the outer two circles, trying to show them the benefits of becoming a Christian. We often skip over the “Why”.

So, what is your “Why”? Roger asked that last night, and it made me think and reflect. The answer to that simple question is really why I do what I do.

When Jesus asked Matthew to “follow me”, we can surmise that Matthew knew “Why” he should follow: Jesus was the Messiah. He didn’t need to ask the “How” or the “What”. He just followed.

We spend so much time on connecting with the non-Christian world in the circles of the What and the How, but seldom dwell on the Why.  Yet understanding your “Why?” gives you a purpose.

Simply stated, my “Why?” is that I believe in the empty tomb.  That Jesus is the Son of God and was resurrected. The evidence is compelling, even to a non-believer. Yet in evangelism, we start with the What and How, asking leading questions like “What will happen to you if you die tonight?”

Answering the Why in your life answers the question of why you follow Jesus and do what you do.  For me, it answers the fundamental question of why I write this blog, or mentor men. Writing the Blog is really a part of the “How” and What”, but it is driven by the “Why”.

It also explains why I will be getting on an airplane today to fly half across the world to Nairobi, Kenya.  I will be speaking on mentoring the next generation, and on MentorLink’s principles of leading like Jesus.

My friend, Bishop Patrick Maithya, asked me to speak at one of his churches in Nairobi.  I have spoken there before, but this time I asked what topic he would like me to teach.  His answer: False Teachers.

There are lots of topics that I would rather talk about – most of them are in my comfort zone.  Ask me to speak on millennials to Africans? No problem. Ask me to speak on False Teachers in Africa?  Big problem.

Which bring me back to the “Why”.  I understand and respect Patrick’s choice of topic, because False Leaders are a major problem in sub-Saharan Africa. It’s actually a cultural thing – many of the problems in Africa, for example, do not exist in India (they have their own problems).

In my preparation, I learned that False Teachers are discussed throughout the New Testament. It appears in every book of the New Testament, except two (Philemon and James).

But it is not taught – either here or in Africa. When did you hear a sermon on False Teachers?  I rest my case.

The challenge here is for you to think about your “Why”.  Once you have that nailed down, you can be strategic with the How and What.  Many in the next generation often recoil when presented with the How and What.  They see a lot of evil in the world. They are not attracted to what we describe as the benefits of being a Christian.

Yet the conversation may change when you introduce the “Why?” of your life.  As Andy Stanley said, I will follow anyone who announces his resurrection and pulls it off. That’s a compelling case that needs to be made to the next generation.

MENTOR TAKEAWAY:  Be sure your mentee knows your “Why”.

RESOURCES:   Simon Sinek’s video on Golden Circles.

WORSHIP: Listen to In Christ Alone by Passion.

For more information about MentorLink, go to www.mentorlink.org.

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Culture

biology

Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind.  Romans 12:2

We live in a culture, but we often don’t pause to think about it and how it shapes us. Older generations learned their cultural values through parents, teachers, mentors or coaches. Not anymore. The next generation absorbs cultural values through social media or peers.

Culture, broadly defined, is a set of customs, social institutions and achievements of a social group. The next generation is such a social group.

In science, a culture is a neutral thing – it is a sterile controlled environment that an organism grows in.  In our world, culture is not “grown” in a neutral environment, and it is no longer controlled by input from parents.

Which leads me to the millennials, the first digital generation. They are called “digital natives”. With the advent of high-speed internet in the 1990’s, followed by the introduction of the smart phones in 2007, they are unique in what and how they communicate.

They are a distinct and separate culture, not just a different generation. They are learning their values from non-traditional sources in a digital world.

Several aspects of their culture that need to be understood. The first aspect is Google which provides ability to get an answer to almost anything. Millennials and Gen Z don’t need information.

They have almost all information known to mankind in their hand 24/7. As a result, they don’t ask questions. They know they can “Google” an answer, even if the answer is sometimes wrong.

Secondly, these digital natives are strong on individualism.  With different apps, they can fashion their digital footprint to their individual tastes.    They customize their relationships, news and entertainment to what they enjoy.

Thirdly, they are strong on tolerance which is not unexpected in a post-modern and post-Christian world. Tolerance is understanding and respecting other people. This is an issue today because every perspective is treated as equal. They won’t ask hard questions (as noted above) or dialogue with others.

As a result, they are uncomfortable in telling others what to do. Tolerance is the highest cultural value of Generation Z, and millennials don’t lag far behind. A recent report from Barna showed that almost half of Christian millennials believe that evangelism is wrong.

Sharing your faith is a core Christian value.  Jesus commanded his disciples to “share the good news.”  The millennial reluctance comes from their strong sense of tolerance for another’s views. The result: tolerance impedes a willingness to have a spiritual conversation with another non-Christian. They fear that someone might take offense.

Add to that the fact that their communication is less likely to be face-to-face, but via the digital world. That alone is an impediment to spreading the gospel.

The fourth cultural aspect: millennials and Gen Z lack soft interpersonal skills or what is called EQ.  They don’t have soft skills used and needed in face-to-face social settings. They may feel uncomfortable in socializing with others. They don’t know how to make eye contact or even ask questions.

I’ve been writing about the culture of the next generation for years. It takes an understanding of their culture to interact with them. For example, they may have access to information at their fingertips, but they often don’t know how to apply it.

Individualism, tolerance and poor social skills (Emotional Quotient) can be a hindrance to this generation. For a mentor, those values can be an opportunity.   When it comes to information, we don’t need to give them answers, but we do need to focus on how to interpret and correctly apply what answers they get.

When it comes to tolerance, or the fear of sharing their faith, a mentor can lead them to non-offensive ways that they can do that. As I have often said, your life and actions reflect your faith, and sometimes it is the best non-verbal communicator of all.

Mentoring requires person to person contact. It is not done over social media (although texting can supplement it, such as where I will do a follow up text when I think of something that a mentee might use).

Person to person contact requires developing social skills. Time together is worth the journey for your mentee. One of my mentees recently had a bad experience with an employer and wanted to know how to handle it in the future.

He was apprehensive on what to say or not say in his interaction with his manager. I didn’t solve his problem, but I aided his skill set so that he could solve it himself in the future.

We are learning that programs do not conquer things like a tolerant culture, lack of soft skills or overcome individualism. It is a process and it requires more than an event, class or lecture. It requires intentionality, which is the heart of mentoring.  It’s harder work, but it’s worth it.

MENTOR TAKEAWAY: Understanding the culture of the next generation is key to finding ways to engage them in a meaningful way.

FURTHER READINGMillennials Won’t Share their Faith      NCF Giving

Posts on Soft Skills, EQ,Google GIGO, and Wisdom

WORSHIP:  Listen to Michael Smith sing There is None Like You.

MentorLink:For more information about MentorLink, go to www.mentorlink.org.

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