But First Jesus

“He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation. For by him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities—all things were created through him and for him. And he is before all things, and in him all things hold together. And he is the head of the body, the church. He is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, that in everything he might be preeminent. For in him all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell, and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether on earth or in heaven, making peace by the blood of his cross.” (Colossians 1:15-20)

 

Due to some recently events in my life, I’ve really been thinking about the centrality of Christ. How does He impact my everyday life? How does Jesus influence my conversations with others? And how does He direct how I interact with those who I am trying to mentor? The past couple weeks I’ve needed to take a step back and look at the end goal of all of my mentoring relationships. And because of this passage I’ve had to refocus my efforts and revaluate if Jesus was central in those relationships.

But First Jesus

In Colossians 1, I see three ideas about Christ that should influence mentoring in the church.

  1. Christ’s power. (15-17)

Jesus is the creator. Everything was created by Him and He is sovereign over all. That includes all thrones, dominions, rulers, and authorities. The power used to create the universe is the same power that breathes new life into the hearts of sinners.

Jesus is central to mentoring, because only His power is strong enough to change a sinner.

  1. Christ’s position. (18-19)

Jesus is preeminent. Jesus is the head of the church. Jesus is completely God. Christ’s position in this world, our churches, and the believer’s heart is supposed to be above all. What Jesus teaches should be above any personal ideology. He should be the reason we gather at church. He is the reason we proclaim the gospel.

Jesus is central to mentoring, because He is preeminent.

  1. Christ’s payment. (20)

Jesus reconciled all to himself by dying on the cross. He made peace with the Father by shedding His blood for you and for me. Jesus paid a debt that I could never pay. And it is only through Him that we can peace with God.

Jesus is central to mentoring, because it was through His blood alone that we can fellowship with God.

Conclusion

Jesus is central to all of the Christian faith, and that includes how we mentor. Because of His power, position, and payment for our sins we should have an occasional pulse check to make sure we still have Christ where He needs to be, at the center.

Here are a few questions that I had to ask myself about my mentoring relationships to help gauge if Christ is where He needs to be:

  • Only Jesus has the power to change men’s heart, so am I mentoring with the Bible or my opinions? If with my opinions, why and are they Scripturally-based?
  • Christ is preeminent, so am I mentoring to encourage all out pursuit of Him or the things of this world?
  • Christ is preeminent, so am I pointing to Him as the goal of sanctification or am I trying to create a little me?
  • Christ is preeminent, so do I spend more time talking about Him or about the latest sports game or political article?
  • Christ is the only way to have peace with God, so do I encourage those that I mentor to completely rely on Him or trust in our own strength to make it through life?

When it comes to mentoring, across all age groups, Jesus must be central. All the strategies, ideas, blogs, and books that are being written and distributed are great, but before any of those can be used effectively, we need to focus on Christ and put Him at the center of our mentoring relationships.

Next time I meet with my mentor or those that I am mentoring, I must think and put Jesus first.

 

 

 

Content with Discontentment

Adobe Spark (32)

We millennials are not a very content lot. We’re the kind that like to stage protests each weekend because we don’t get our way. We’re known as world travelers and major-switchers and job-hoppers who have trouble settling down.

But then again, the older generations aren’t terribly content either. They get upset if any bad press comes out about a person they like or if their views are not held by everyone else. They never can get their “dream house” or “dream job.”

Let’s face it – humans are not very content creatures. I’ve always known this is an area I especially struggle with, but recently the Lord seems to be bringing it back to the forefront of my mind.

In my short life, I’ve moved all over this country to all sorts of towns in all sorts of houses, but I’ve never been fully satisfied with any place.

I’ve been in all sorts of churches, had all sorts of jobs, been friends with all sorts of people…and yet I’ve never been content!

I think I get to a place where the grass is green but every time I get there, it looks greener somewhere else.

Such is life…a series of moves toward fields of green and yet always finding myself in a field of brown.

Why do we humans always find things so unsatisfying? Why do the people who seem to have everything they could have always want still desire more – and ruin their lives to get it? Why are the magazines at the grocery store check-out full of celebrities who gained the world and yet don’t have enough?

The world understands this discontentment. In a song from the hit musical Wicked, Glinda laments that she has gotten everything she’s always wanted…but still isn’t happy.

“…Getting your dreams,
It’s strange, but it seems
A little – well – complicated.
…that joy, that thrill
Doesn’t thrill you like you think it will…
Because happy is what happens
When all your dreams come true –
Well, isn’t it?”

It’s not just Glinda who speaks to common human discontentment. C.S. Lewis wisely observes what may be causing this universal syndrome –

“If we find ourselves with a desire that nothing in this world can satisfy, the most probable explanation is that we were made for another world.”

That’s it, isn’t it? That’s why we’re all so discontent. That’s why no matter where I go, I’m not content. That’s why no matter how many friends I have, I don’t have enough. That’s why no matter how much food I eat, I always want more (or maybe I just need to go on a diet).

Nothing in this world ultimately satisfies. No amount of fame or money or power fills us up. That’s the problem with our human dreams – they either get crushed or they get fulfilled…and we still feel crushed!

Over coffee with a friend of mine of late (a millennial), he rehearsed how a really healthy dream of his was crushed by someone else. And then stomped further into the ground by another friend, leaving him hurt, bitter, and angry.

But the Lord worked in him so that he actually approached these people and apologized for his bitterness. After recounting this to me, he sat back in his chair – I’ll never forget it – and said simply, “And now…I am content.”

Content? Dude, you were just betrayed. Stabbed in the back. Had your heart crushed! How can you be content?

I thought long and hard and tried my very best to do the same – sit back in my chair and look at my life and say, “I am content.” And I thought I was doing pretty well – until the Lord revealed a key area where I’ve been complaining! Oops…

But how can any of us humans sit back and say that we’re content, when so many of our dreams get crushed or end up being unsatisfying?

I think it’s because we see the truth in Colossians 3:1-4:

“If then you have been raised with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth. For you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God. When Christ who is your life appears, then you also will appear with him in glory.”

Look to where Christ is. Look beyond this world. Look to Heaven. Why? Because you died – and your life is now hidden with Christ. In fact, HE IS YOUR LIFE. If He is your life, you won’t long for things in this world. You will find in Him all you need.

He ultimately satisfies. No one else does. It’s a simple concept – but oh, so true and comforting!

Millennials, getting your Master’s and getting a nice-paying job in a big city will NOT satisfy you. Xers, getting that promotion and having seventy grandchildren will NOT satisfy you. Boomers, retiring early and playing golf will NOT satisfy you.

But Jesus will.

It’s not wrong to wish life turned out differently. It’s not wrong to be discontent from time to time with the futility and “vanity” of this world (see Ecclesiastes).

In fact, you’re guaranteed to be discontent in this world. But instead of letting that discontentment drive you to complain, let it drive you to seek something beyond this world that can make you content even with your discontentment.

His name is Jesus.

Take the advice of John Piper as recorded in a recent blog post (that nearly brought me to tears):

“Occasionally, weep deeply over the life you hoped would be. Grieve the losses. Then wash your face. Trust God. And embrace the life you have.”

Embrace the life you have. Sit daily with Jesus. Lean back in your chair and say, “I am content…with You.”

-M@

You Want to Talk About That?

“For at one time you were darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Walk as children of light (for the fruit of light is found in all that is good and right and true), and try to discern what is pleasing to the Lord. Take no part in the unfruitful works of darkness, but instead expose them. For it is shameful even to speak of the things that they do in secret. But when anything is exposed by the light, it becomes visible, for anything that becomes visible is light.” (Eph. 5:8-14)

 

I had the privilege of speaking on this passage in my church’s youth group a couple weeks ago. It was hard to speak on a couple specific verses before these because they were just…well…uncomfortable. But it led to good conversations and I was able to touch on this passage.

Every time I’ve heard this passage preached on, the preacher generally will like to stay with the whole we are child of light part. Which, don’t get me wrong, is truly awesome! I am literally eternally grateful for the fact that I am a child of light through the work of Christ. But I don’t remember ever hearing a good explanation of what exposing the unfruitful works of darkness looks like.

My mind automatically goes down three trails of thought when I read this. First, I think of Scooby and gang pulling of the mask of the villain as they reveal his plan and him saying, “I would have gotten away with it too. If it weren’t for you meddling kids!” Next I think of this tattle-tale kid telling his dad that his brother or sister did something wrong. Or last, to a legalistic-type preacher naming off a list of things he doesn’t like in the world and labeling them as wicked, and thus he exposed the darkness of the world. But this passage isn’t any of those and it’s what so many mentoring relationships need.

So what is it?

We as the redeem children of God were in darkness (sin) and have made light through the blood of Christ. So we should have a desire to live life in a matter pleasing to Him and that’s found in all things that are good, right, and true. So as we live here on earth and have the light of Christ shine through us into other’s lives we see things they might not. Those dark places are exposed by the light of Christ and they become visible.

In summary, it is us being an imitator of Christ as a dear child and letting His light shine through us. And as we do life with our brothers and sisters in Christ, His light shining through us exposes the dark areas in our lives.

That kind of sounds like mentoring. Two or three people pursuing Christ with the help of each other and in that relationship having the light of Christ show them where they need to grow and change to be like Jesus.

Applications

Here’s a couple of ideas to help us get started into harder conversation that could come from this:

  1. Make sure you have the relationship to do this. I’ve seen someone who doesn’t have deep relationship with someone come out of nowhere and say that someone is sinning because of x, y, and z. Generally, the response is not the accused becoming more like Jesus (even if the accusation has merit), in fact I’ve seen it backfire more often than not and the accusation does more damage than good. If you want to know, be proactive and have the conversation of, “if I saw something in your life that I thought was Biblically wrong, would you be willing to talk about?” before you start down this road. That conversation is the starting point.
  2. Come with a Bible. If there’s one thing I know about my generation is we’ll do the research if we don’t like what was said or we can’t follow the logical flow from point A to B. Information is at our fingertips and we’re very good at finding it. And an older generation is well versed in Scripture. So come with the Bible (in context) and let the Word of God “pierce to the division of soul and of spirit, of joint and marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart.” God’s Word carries more weight than ours.

Mentoring relationships aren’t just “let me give you advice on life.” They include hard conversations about sinners being sinners and how the light of Christ can and should change us.

When Your Mentor Ascends into Heaven

Adobe Spark (28)

Sometimes the best way to mentor someone is just to get out of the way.

You can retire. You can move away. You can resign from that position. You can sit in the back row instead of behind the pulpit.

Or, you can ascend into Heaven via a whirlwind.

That’s what Elijah did. He is perhaps one of the greatest examples of a mentor in all of Scripture. We’re going to take the time on this blog to look at a number of mentor/mentee relationships in Scripture, and we’ll start with Elijah and Elisha, the two often-confused prophets to Northern Israel in the reign of Ahab and his sons.

I love Elijah. He’s a raw, gritty guy – hairy with a leather belt, he is described. He’s the kind of guy who grew up in a rough part of Israel and was probably used to a solitary life, especially as the unpopular prophet of Yahweh in an era of Baal.

But even Elijah gets lonely. Following his success on Mt. Carmel, he’s threatened by Queen Jezebel and runs into Sinai. There, the prophet of God complains that he’s the only halfway-decent fellow in the whole kingdom. God corrects him by pointing out that there are seven thousand others who haven’t given into Baal worship yet. Elijah was never that good at math…

But notice what else God tells Elijah in his moment of depression – He commanded him to go anoint three people: Hazael as king of Syria, Jehu as king of Israel, and Elisha as his replacement. God said these three guys would wipe out Baalism.

How many of those guys did Elijah anoint to their positions? Well, look a few verses later in 1 Kings 19 and you’ll see he at least did the last one – his own replacement, a young man named Elisha.

But what about Jehu and Hazael? It seems Elijah never got around to them. Elisha, his mentee, anoints Hazael in 2 Kings 8 and sends a “son of the prophets” to anoint Jehu in 2 Kings 9. This is all after Elijah’s death – er, his assumption into Heaven.

What’s up with that? Was Elijah slacking off? Was he sipping lemonade in Jezreel, confronting Ahab about Naboth’s vineyard when he should’ve been on a flight to Damascus to have words with Hazael?

We can’t be certain. Maybe Elijah disobeyed. Or maybe he never had the opportunity to do so. Maybe God’s plan was for Elijah to train Elisha so he could do it. And then Elisha could train an assistant who could finish it with anointing Jehu. Three generations.

We see in this overlooked account a principle for mentoring – sometimes, those you mentor will be more successful and do greater things than you do.

And that sometimes hurts. But it shouldn’t – it should be cause for rejoicing!

Elijah never got to see the overthrow of the worship of Baal. He never got to see the death of Jezebel. In fact, he never even got to anoint the guy who would run over Jezebel with his chariot (Jehu)!

Instead, he got to train his replacement. His replacement got to see Baal blown to bits out of Israel. His mentee got to do greater works than he did – multiply food, summon she-bears, heal leprosy, etc.

Do you think Elijah was up in Heaven pouting that he never got to do that cool stuff? That he never got to see his work come to fruition? No, I’m sure he rejoiced even more that Elisha had found that the “Yahweh, the God of Elijah” was present with him as well – and powerful!

Recently, a lot of guys I’ve spent time with have “grown-up.” They’ve taken positions that I once held. They’ve gone beyond anything I did. And what sometimes hurts the most, they’ve made all those things way better and been more successful than I ever could have done.

And that hurts my pride. But at the same time makes me proud.

Because it was never about me to begin with! When I go up to Heaven (hopefully by a whirlwind!), I want people to speak more of the “God of Matthew” than about me. Because anything I do, anything those I mentor do, can only ultimately be done by Yahweh.

So I’m going to get out of the way. I’m not going to try to maintain power. I’m going to train a replacement and let him take over. I’m going to let him become more awesome and more popular than I. Rather, I’m going to let God receive even more of the credit as He uses the next generation. I’m going to praise Him more for working in their lives than complain about how He never did that for me. That’s the way the church should work.

May I be the kind of mentor who knows how to get out of the way and watch God do even greater things with the next generation.

Real Christianity

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We millennials want the “real deal.” We want real coffee and real free-range beef and real gluten-free, soy-free, sugar-free cardboard to eat.

Okay, we’re a little weird.

We’re a generation who hates the fake, but we sure do engineer “fake” profile pictures of ourselves on our social media. We decry the lies of politicians and yet so easily fall for the delusions of “fake news.”

When it comes to Christianity, we say we hate the fakers or pretenders of prior generations who put on a suit and tie on Sunday and yet live like Jesus means nothing on Monday as they eat, talk, and act just like the unsaved. And yet, we do the same things, indulging in the sins of our generation (which are many).

Where is the reality? Where is the substance? Where is real Christianity?

I know one place it is – Detroit, Michigan. I spent Spring Break here, touring the city through the eyes of inner-city church planters and pastors.

The pastors and Christians up here are not fake. It’s been a huge encouragement…and a big rebuke.

I’m sick of seeing people who pretend to love Jesus but by their lives obviously do not. I’m sick of being that person myself!

I love to meet people who truly love Jesus. People like the ones up here, of all generations, who gather together in the rough parts of town. Who sit around discussing their various unsaved friends and how they can strategize with others to reach them.

How rarely we talk about such things in my sphere. The older generations preach about it, and the younger generation complains about how we’re not doing it – but is anyone actually doing anything?

Is anyone actually accomplishing the Great Commission?

I love how one of the pastors up here explained the Great Commission in Matthew 28:18-20.

The command of the passage is to MAKE DISCIPLES.

Not “go” (a participle in Greek), which is the context of this command. Jesus assumes we have “gone” into the world ever since he launched the church out of Jerusalem like a flaming arrow in the first century, spreading the Gospel fire around the Roman Empire. We too have “gone” to the world into our various workplaces and neighborhoods (though we could all go further and meet more unsaved people).

But the central command is simply to MAKE DISCIPLES. That’s not a quick-fix, Bible-Belt-strapping thing.

In Detroit, it looks like a Christian having to call an ambulance for a lady who will later curse them out. Or being threatened with a drugged-up new believer who tries to kill them in his delirium.

And yet after hearing about and seeing such things, it’s easy to get on a “spiritual high” up here where things are “real” only to miss out on the reality going on in the Bible Belt. Things may look a little different, but drug addicts and hurting people – indeed, unsaved people in general – are everywhere in this world. The opportunities to make disciples is endless.

But how do we do that? How do we make disciples? Jesus gives two simple processes after the initial command.

  1. Baptize the new converts. This is the important first step. This brings them into the fellowship of a local church for accountability and discipleship. You cannot disciple new believers outside the context of the local church, which makes church-planting so important.
  2. Teach them to obey everything Jesus taught. Notice He does not command us simply to teach them everything He taught, as if we just need to teach a bunch of facts to new believers. As if we just need to have them memorize a bunch of key verses and then they are discipled. Doctrine is huge, but the Bible always connects doctrine to doing. So we teach these new believers to OBEY in day-to-day life what Jesus taught.

There you have it. That’s real Christianity. Churches who do this are real. Christians who do this really love Jesus. It’s simple…but oh so hard!

But what if I go to a church that doesn’t seem to have much time for these things? That’s no excuse for us. To you (and me), let me challenge:

  1. Realize that the teenagers within your church and even freshmen college students ARE the new believers. Odds are that anyone under 20 is a new believer in some sense, even if they’ve been saved for fifteen years. In fact, most of us millennials are still baby Christians (some of us are in the “terrible twos”). We need a lot of discipleship.
  2. Stop complaining about how the church isn’t “real” and start acting. You may not be a pastor. You may not have a chance to teach or preach or even sing a special. But there is nothing stopping you from growing the body of Christ. There is no lack of opportunity to be involved in ministry because there is no lack of unsaved people in this country, from Detroit to Greenville. So GO – make disciples in your city. It’s easy, especially for we millennials, to complain about how the church isn’t real. It’s far harder to be real in our own lives and obey the Great Commission.

Matthew 28 is the basis for mentoring and discipleship. In fact, according to Jesus in this passage, making disciples is our whole mission on this planet. We don’t have time for complaining or warring between generations.

It’s time to make disciples.

Does it sound too ambitious? Too dangerous? Too messy to get involved in people’s lives? Too heart-breaking?

That’s why Jesus ended the commission with these words.

“Behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”

Amen.

We Need Each Other

“The eye cannot say to the hand, ‘I have no need of you,’ nor again the head to the feet, ‘I have no need of you.’” (I Cor. 12:21)

I spent a few credit hours during undergrad in psychology classes. One of my favorites was developmental psychology (I was an education for a couple years). I thought it was incredibly interesting how human interaction plays a massive role in the development of children. A simple Google search will give you story after story of feral children. These are kids that developed without any or very little human interaction.

A case I remember studying in class was that of Victor of Aveyron. Victor was a feral child found in the early 1800. He couldn’t speak, didn’t like wearing clothes or taking baths, and acted as if he were an animal. By the estimates of the doctors of his day, he had lived by himself for many years and was just starting puberty when he was found.

A French physician name Jean Marc Gaspard Itard took Victor in and proceeded to attempt to teach him language and essentially tame the boy. By the time Victor died at age 40, Itard’s years of work had gotten Victor to understand basic questions, wear clothes, bathe, and eat cooked meat. But Victor never once uttered a complete sentence.

Years of isolation away from human beings during the most crucial developmental stages of childhood set Victor’s life on course for a very interesting and, to me, a very sad existence.

Christian Development

Victor never had the interaction of humans in his life as he developed as a child and hence his life as an adult. Our churches have many under or undeveloped Christians. They’re the teens in your church that believe in Jesus, but haven’t developed a passion for anything spiritual. They are the young adults that are Christians, but have the hardest time talking about anything spiritual because they just can’t. They don’t know how. They are the adults that can talk Jesus, but can’t give a clear gospel message. They have the appearance of a Christian, but haven’t grown into the full stature of Jesus.

1 Corinthians gives us a great example of how members of the body of Christ are supposed to interact with each other. And with these interactions comes the spiritual development that our churches need.

We Need Each Other

The church is a body. Every Christian is a member. God placed us in a specific role. And we all need each other.

“But as it is, God arranged the members in the body, each one of them, as he chose.” (I Cor. 12:18)

“The eye cannot say to the hand, ‘I have no need of you,” nor again the head to the feet, ‘I have no need of you.” (I Cor. 12:21)

To isolate ourselves from the rest of the body and say “I have no need for them” is foolish and, well, not Biblical. We need each other to grow. When our human bodies don’t communicate within each other and systems start to do their own thing, we general end up at the doctor’s office or in the hospital.

When the body of Christ has members that isolate themselves from the rest of the body, they become spiritual sick and stagnant in their growth. God specifically placed us in the body of Christ to have a specific role and to influence those around.

The Basis for Mentoring

This a foundation for mentoring. The body of Christ united and working together to help each other grow “to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ.” Eyes need the feet to move from point A to point B. And the feet need the eyes to show them the path. So Christians need each other to grow.

We can’t encourage others to live in spiritual isolation and expect full spiritual development. We can’t let those who are spiritual children wander without any interaction with other believers and expect them to lead the church effectively in the future. Paul already told us what happens to isolated spiritual children. They’re “tossed to and fro by the waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by human cunning, by craftiness in deceitful schemes.”

We are a body, placed in a role by God. When we fulfill our role to the best or our ability and help those around us develop in their role, we grow as a church into the stature of Christ.

We are the body and we need each other.

Six Ways to Start Mentoring in 2017

To start the year, we have another guest post from Andrew Miller, who’s posted before. Be sure to check out his own blog.


 

“Yesterday is history, tomorrow a mystery, but today is a gift. (That’s why it’s called the present.)”

A quote from one of my favorite animated movies is quite insightful.

So 2016 is history and you might say there are many things about 2017 that are a mystery (and I’m not even going to mention politics…)

There are some things that don’t have to be a mystery though. Like actually following through on resolutions for once… (I’m preaching to myself here…)

Have you made any resolutions? I’ve made a few but they’re pretty insignificant compared to my most important resolution: to invest more into my relationships this year.

I’m going to ask you the same question I asked myself: “Do you think you’ve invested enough into your relationships this past year?”

It can be a difficult question to ask and even more difficult to answer.

If your reply is, “yes I have!” that’s great! If you haven’t, there’s always room this year for improvement (hence why this year doesn’t have to be a mystery!)

No matter how you did LAST year, THIS year gives us 365 more days of opportunities to be encouraging one another.

So if you’re committed to investing in people this year but aren’t sure HOW you go about doing that, here are 6 pieces of advice that might serve you well this coming year.

1. Set the example.

Before you start investing in someone else’s life, you have to start with yourself. Make sure YOU are setting the example for what their life should look like. Are you living Christlike? Is your life a reflection of God’s grace to you? If your mentee’s life looked just like yours, would you be proud or encouraging them in their lifestyle?

The best mentoring comes not from the words you speak but from the way you live your life. We’ve all heard the phrase, “actions speak louder than words.” The more we hear that phrase doesn’t make it any less true.

Remember that the main idea of mentoring is “doing life together.” And that means doing life together in a God-glorifying way. And that starts with YOU.

2. Identify your mentoring opportunities.

The anxiety of finding the “right” mentee is sometimes discouraging. Not every younger person that comes along will be right for you. But there may be more mentoring opportunities out there than you think.

Start by looking around you. You don’t have to travel very far to find people around you that are in need of someone to just listen to them, to care about them. That could be at your work with one of your coworkers/employees or even at school with one of your peers or students.

However, one of the best places to start looking for people who are attempting to seek after God with all their heart is within the church. Look to your local church to find someone who would be willing to be encouraged with this mentorship. That’s one of the reasons the church exists, right? We are to be building each other up as brothers and sisters under the unity of Christ.

I also think there is a false stereotype that a “mentor” is a person of an older age. That’s usually the case due to the fact that people who have lived longer have more life experience and therefore can offer more “life advice.”

However, sometimes there exists a person who is younger that has more wisdom whether that be life wisdom or spiritual wisdom. This may happen when an individual becomes a Christian later in their life and starts seeking wisdom.

So don’t be afraid if you have a younger person giving you advice. And don’t be afraid if someone a little older than you seeks your opinion or guidance on something.

There is something we can always be learning from each other. So let’s start sharing.

3. Set aside time.

This is a type of relationship after all. Relationships take time. Sometimes they take more time than we expect or want them to, but they still take some amount of time and energy.

Sometimes developing these relationships and investing in them take sacrifice.

Be intentional.

If you don’t know this secret about relationships, I’m giving it to you now…

Relationships. Take. Work.

No matter how you slice it, they require time and commitment. Whether it’s a friendship, romantic relationship, or mentorship, you will need to plan to spend some amount of time (on a regular basis) to develop the relationship.

It’s sometimes easy to forget this. We’re all pretty busy people doing fantastic things. We get busy, have other priorities, and just lose track of time.

Even when you’re busy, however, you should still be able to find time.

What’s the loose definition of mentoring? “Doing Life Together.”

One of the greatest mentors I’ve been told about was a pastor named Tom Craig. I unfortunately never had the opportunity to meet him, but it is easy to see the impact he made on the people around him. He was a busy man but he still found time to invest in people.

If he was on a trip to Home Depot, he would call up one of the teens in his youth group to see if they wanted to ride along. If he was out running errands, he would be developing relationships.

Everything he did was centered around serving, developing, and growing people. Everything.

How much of our life is centered around people?

4. Have a plan.

You don’t always have to have something in mind to say as you shouldn’t plan out EVERYTHING you’re going to discuss.

However, it would be helpful at times to have a general idea of what you’re going to be studying/doing/talking about.

If you have regular conversations-over-coffee, think about what you’ll talk about. Ask yourself, “what is this individual’s greatest need right now and how can I help them?”

It may require listening to them and understanding the challenges they are facing in their life to know how you can help them.

Or if you’d like to go through a book as well, have a couple books in mind and talk to them about it.

Whatever route you choose, make sure your plan’s end goal is to grow both of you closer to God.

5. Read…lots.

We’ve heard the saying, “readers are leaders.” Not only does reading make you a better leader, but it gives you more to talk about.

Like I said in the last point, going through a book together would be VERY beneficial for both you and your mentor or mentee.

Might I suggest a book on relationships? (Relationships, a Mess Worth Making by Timothy S. Lane)

Or even a C.S. Lewis book? (The Screwtape Letters, Mere Christianity)

No matter what you choose, the book should be challenging your heart and your mind.

6. Be “THAT” guy/girl.

I saw a quote the other day that really captures much of what mentoring is.

quote

Did you have someone in your life guide you to where you are now? Was there someone strengthening and encouraging you along the the way of life?

Maybe it’s time YOU give back.

Maybe it’s time for YOU to become that person in someone’s life.

Remember – it starts with you.

Building Relationships in the Busiest Time of Year

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Welcome to the Christmas season – like it or not.

Welcome to lots of stress, little time, and a fair amount of whining. The schedule is packed with activities as the stomach is packed with pounds.

So where’s the time for mentoring? When can we possibly squeeze in some discipleship? We hardly have time for our wives and kids – how can we find time to invest in some needy person this holiday season?

Here’s a few practical tips for finding time for discipleship during the Christmas season – or during any busy time.

1. Start at Home.

You won’t be an effective mentor if you’re not an effective parent or husband. You can disciple a young-married guy to spend time with his wife, but it will be words of hypocrisy if you aren’t doing it yourself. You can’t disciple guys to respect parents if you have a horrible relationship with yours. You can’t preach proper parenting if you never spend time with your kids. Your mentee will see right through you.

So don’t sacrifice time with family for time with mentees. This doesn’t mean to forsake your disciples entirely – maybe you can find a way to do both in balance. Maybe invite your mentee to join you on a family outing. Sometimes his seeing how you treat your family is better inspiration than hours of time and gallons of coffee.

Besides, your greatest “mentees” will be your wife and kids. Be sure you are discipling them effectively before expanding to others.

2. Don’t Do by Yourself What You Could Do with Another.

Going to buy a tree? Going shopping for your wife? Going on a mid-afternoon peppermint mocha run? Text a young guy to tag along. Teach him how to shop for a woman (no easy feat!). Show a young-married girl how to pick out food for Christmas dinner. Show her how to find the best deals on toys. Spend a few extra shekels on buying them a chestnut praline latte (I’ll take a grande!).

Sometimes you can learn more by just accompanying someone on a task than you can by listening to their advice.

Here’s a key fact: you have to eat. And oftentimes, lunch break isn’t long enough to go home. So instead spend it with a young coworker or someone from church who works nearby and needs some advice.

3. Use the Busyness as a Tool for Discipleship.

You aren’t the only busy and stretched one out there. Odds are, the person you’re investing in is also pretty stressed. Use the crazy season as a tool for showing how to maintain “peace on earth” from Christ in a packed season.

Be the example! They are looking at you. If they see you panicking and freaking out, they will do it themselves. Show them how they can shine like a Christmas light in a dark world.

Show them the attitude of the humbly-born Christ as you celebrate His birth.

Rioting Millennials. Rejoicing Racists. Gracious Christians.

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Christians, in this divisive time, let’s beware lest we be known more by complaining, stereotyping, and gloating than by our loving and extending grace.

Let’s beware lest we become a church of Jonah’s.

Jonah didn’t want to go to the Ninevites because they were different from him – and very, very horrible. But God called him to speak grace to an undeserving people.

We all have our own personal Ninevites: people who are different from us that we think in our self-righteousness don’t deserve God’s mercy.

For me, to be completely transparent, it was the stereotypical Boomer Trump supporter. I was fine with believers who chose the “lesser of two evils,” but I was very frustrated with the world of older, whiter Midwestern people who shocked the world when they gave him the Presidency. The coal worker in Ohio. The manufacturing employee in Michigan whose company moved to China. The blue collar hard-worker in Pennsylvania whose job got replaced by robots or illegal immigrants.

God’s love surely doesn’t extend to them! They are so ethnocentric. So unconcerned about morality in their choice of a candidate!

When Wednesday morning came, I woke to a new morning. And a new reality.

Drain the Swamp

There are a lot of needy people in the Midwest. Without a Savior. Looking for someone to make their lives great again.

These people need the grace of God. Not my hipster millennial judgment.

I’ve been so caught up in my own little world, going from coffee shop to coffee shop, fixated by tweets and hashtags. Talking only to millennial friends about a “bigoted” candidate that surely couldn’t win.

I’m happy to share the Gospel with fellow millennials in coffee shops. Go to an African-American or Latino neighborhood and extend love – no problem.

Show compassion to Muslims – easy. Show compassion to Trump supporters – no way!

I was blind to a whole host of people in desperate need of some grace.

That’s the lesson I learned from this election cycle.

Who are your Ninevites? For you Boomers, it may be those Muslims that you are excited about barring from the country. Or Hispanics you want to put on the other side of the wall. Or the millennials in downtown New York that you think are just sore losers. Or your Democrat friend on Facebook who is #stillwithher. For we millennials, it may be that older family member who won’t stop posting about draining the swamp. Or our neighbor with the Trump hat.

God’s grace is not content to stay in one people group. Or one voting block. Or one community. It knows no limits. It breaks through our prejudices and racist remarks and self-righteous judgments and hashtags to reach to individuals in rural Wisconsin and Rust-Belt Ohio and inner-city Chicago and Muslim-heavy Detroit.

Make Christians Gracious Again

It’s time for Christians to forget about the 2016 election cycle and start thinking about sharing the Gospel.

Let’s face it – there are some real hurting people out there right now. Imagine being the illegal immigrant mother who now thinks she will be deported with her young children. Think about the Muslim child who is fearful for his life at school in the Deep South. Think about the Trump supporter who’s been out of work for as long as Obama has been President. Think about people who just got a little bit of hope that things could change.

America is divided – but it has one thing in common: it needs the grace of Jesus.

America will not be made great by Supreme Court nominees or a wall. America’s greatness is directly dependent on the grace of God. I certainly hope for some policy changes and pray for the new President’s success. But what I’m most concerned about is not America’s greatness but my personal graciousness to those different from me.

Millennials. Boomers. Rioting on streets. Partying in the streets. Whatever you’re feeling from the election, it’s time to move on. It’s time to extend the grace of the Gospel to all people. While millennials are rioting and racists are rejoicing, may Christians of every generation be showing grace.

Quotes from a Mentoring Weekend

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Caleb and I just finished helping with the Men’s Retreat for our home church – Calvary Baptist – this weekend. The theme was basically what this blog is all about – relationships, and particularly mentoring/discipling the next generation. It was a refreshing and inspiring time. Believe it or not, the conference was entirely run by millennials – and it went great! If more churches would trust millennials with responsibilities like this, I believe they would not be disappointed.

For our post this week, we thought it’d be good to just include a few quotable highlights from the weekend. The three speakers were Dr. Sam Horn, Pastor Ben Ice, and Scott Taylor. All three sessions were excellent, and the panel on inter-generational relationships was equally impactful. Here are a few tweet-able nuggets:

  1. “Discipleship is about glorifying God – causing other people to come to right conclusions about who God is and what He’s like.” -Sam Horn
  2. “Be one. Make many.” -Sam Horn, referring to disciples
  3. “Depend on one. Serve many. Mentor a few.” -Ben Ice
  4. “Mentoring starts with an invitation, continues on with sacrificial investment, and activates intentional influence.” -Ben Ice
  5. “Mentors pray together, speak words of grace, and challenge their thinking with Truth.” -Ben Ice
  6. “Mentoring is not a program to implement but a life to imitate” -Randy Pope, as quoted by Ben Ice
  7. “Mentoring is one intentionally and vulnerably sharing his life with another.” -Ben Ice
  8. “I’m not doing anything alone. If I’m going to Home Depot, I’m taking a teen with me.” -Scott Taylor, referring to Calvary’s former Youth Pastor Tom Craig’s philosophy of discipleship
  9. “Pick your spots. Not every moment is a teaching moment. Sometimes, you just listen.” -Scott Taylor
  10. “I don’t know what he taught me, but I love Jesus more because of him.” -Scott Taylor, referring to a friend’s quote about Tom Craig
  11. “Home is not the place to relax.” -Scott Taylor

    We hope to have the audio posted soon!