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.

A Tradition Even Millennials Can Love

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Millennials are not fond of traditions. We hate it when old people get stuck in the ruts of a certain color of pew, singing out of hymnbooks, or having a certain order of service.

But sometimes our witch-hunt to destroy traditions can take us too far.

In a conversation with a millennial friend, we debated whether or not the whole Christmas season was even biblical. American Christianity seems to have embraced the culture of covetousness, materialism, and empty rituals inherited from the Catholics and pagans.

Why do we need to dedicate a whole month (or two or three) to an account found in only a couple Gospel chapters? Why don’t we do the same for the holiday celebrating the death and resurrection? Why don’t we dedicate times to reflect on His earthly life or various other aspects of salvation?

Would God really have wanted us to spend so much time focusing on Christ’s birth and use it as an opportunity to indulge in gluttony and greed?

I was sincerely curious. For years, I have been one of the most Christmassy people around. My room was always the most decorated, and I was always the first to start listening to Christmas music (I waited till October this year!). But was my obsession with the season really motivated by an ethnocentric, Westernized materialism?

Certainly, the overspending and overeating are issues we must repent of. We should find a balance between Black Friday hordes and Scrooge-ness. But I don’t think we should throw Santa out with the sleigh on this issue (though getting rid of Santa may not be a bad idea)…

God obviously enjoys holidays. In Israel’s Law, He instituted several feasts throughout the year to celebrate certain events – Passover for the Exodus, Booths for the wilderness journey, and the Day of Atonement to confess sin. What about these feasts today? Paul dealt with this issue in Romans 14 and declared that we have Christian liberty on the matter of holidays (vs. 5).

Must Christians celebrate Christmas? No. But if we are to be redeemers of our culture and have a witness in our community, embracing the positive aspects of Christmas is a great idea. Like what?

Celebrating the birth of Christ for an entire month is not too much of a focus on a small matter of Scripture. If properly studied, the birth of Christ – more accurately, the Incarnation of the God-Man – spans many, many passages.

There are countless Old Testament passages that speak of Christ’s coming. John 1 and 1 John 1 are as much Christmas passages as Luke 2! Reflect on those passages and stand in awe at the fact that “the Word became flesh.” Study the Pauline epistles for references to His Incarnation (Philippians 2 is a great place to start).

The Bible cannot help but speak about the fact that the God of the Universe became a man. And why not? It’s an earth-shattering concept! He forsook Heaven to suffer as a little baby! We could celebrate that all year round for all eternity and never fully exhaust the wonders of that truth.

I thought I knew the Christmas story after ten years of studying it. I’ve written stories about the night Christ was born and countless poems and blog posts. But every year, I still come away with something new.

This year, I was struck by how often the characters in the story are drawn to worship God because of the news of Christ’s birth. Literally, everyone is drawn to praise!

Why doesn’t the Christmas story compel us to do the same? It’s no empty tradition. It’s a time to worship Christ! If we truly celebrate the Incarnation as we should, we will come away calling, “Oh come, let us adore Him!”

It’ll also cause us to give gifts, not out of materialism, but out of genuine selflessness. Gifts that cost us something, like the Magi. Or better yet, like God who gave up His Son.

It’ll cause us not to be focused on our American traditions but on the world in need of the Gospel, from a Jewish priest to Gentile sages. The shepherd’s encounter with baby Jesus led them to want to “make known” to all what the angels had “made known” to them.

It will cause us to reach out to the poor and needy, since our Savior was born in poverty, without even any room in a guest house for Him.

Christmas can be a time of great spiritual growth and evangelistic drive to the needy. Or it can be a time of empty traditions and ethnocentric materialism. You decide.

I call on millennials to spend less time wanting to disregard a good tradition and more time in redeeming it for the glory of God and the worship of the One born King of the Jews!

Merry Christmas from The Church Accords!

Living and Proclaiming the Gospel

“Because our gospel came to you not only in word, but also in power and in the Holy Spirit and with full conviction. You know what kind of men we proved to be among you for your sake.” (I Thess. 1: 5)

So this post is for me as much as it is for you. One of my pastors spoke on this passage a few weeks ago and it struck a chord with me, because I see what this passage says, and then the church having two extreme parties on either end of a spectrum with each generation leaning to one or the other.

Here in 1 Thessalonians Paul is explaining how the gospel was proclaimed in Thessalonica. We learn that the Gospel wasn’t just proclaim, but it was proclaimed with the power of the Holy Spirit and backed with the full conviction of the Apostle. Then afterward this gospel was determined to be genuine by the conduct of the Apostle among the people. In the words of my pastor their Gospel message was:

  • Word-filled
  • Power-enabled
  • Holy Spirit dependent
  • Sincerely genuine

Here’s the reason why I bring the topic of Gospel preaching/witnessing up: because I see two different parties, with very few people landing truly in the middle.

Party 1: The Tract-Giver

Let me first state that I do believe that God’s Word does not return void and tracts can be a good way of sharing the good news of Jesus. But, I will also say that I have seen those simple pieces of paper destroy months of work in a mere matter of seconds. I’ve watched as my co-workers received a tract instead of a tip and launch into a rage about the jerk that says the news on that piece of paper is worth more than the $1.00 tip they could have left. My gospel efforts completely destroyed in a matter of seconds.

Tracts are Word-filled and therefore power-enabled. But guess what, unless you’ve made contact with that person over and over again the chances of the message being considered sincerely genuine are slim (notice I did not say impossible, because God can still use tracts even without a consistent Christian testimony in someone’s life). Paul’s message was made more powerful by his life with the church at Thessalonica.

Party one-ers are people who only proclaim the Word with no attempts at making sure the message is being perceived as genuine by consistent contact and  Gospel-living. This is the stereotype of the older generation. Younger generations see many older people in their church passing tracts to everyone, but without making an attempt to make a connection that so many in a younger generation crave and need in order for the message to be perceived as genuine. There’s no proving what manner of men they are.

Party 2: The Bible-Liver

People in this party are those that use the “by your fruits you shall know them” to get away with never once sharing the gospel in word to anyone. They focus solely on “living for Jesus.” They think that if a passerby would just see them reading their Bible in public, watch them volunteer at the local children’s home, or hear them praying and talking about how much they love Jesus with their friends it will be enough for that passerby to engage them in conversation. Now I can’t deny that this doesn’t happen. I’ve been that person praying with a friend and have someone come up to talk to us specifically about the Gospel. It does happen, and when it does it’s an amazing work of God.

But I must say that throughout Scripture there is a lot of proclaiming of the Gospel for it to change lives, not just living with hopes of starting conversations. Here in 1 Thessalonians the Word was preached and then received because of conduct of the proclaimer. We see in Romans 10 that the proclamation of the Word of God is vital to the spread of the Gospel.

“How then will they call on him in whom they have not believed? And how are they to believe in him of whom they have never heard? And how are they to hear without someone preaching?”

This party is the millennial stereotype. We like to be involved with lots of ministries, we want to serve, we like to talk about Jesus and what He’s done, but we’re not the best at speaking the Biblical gospel. We feel more comfortable serving on mission fields by feeding the hungry and fighting sex trafficking, than we do sharing the gospel with a neighbor or going canvassing with our church.

Party 3: The Bible

The Bible is pretty clear that it takes both. First we must proclaim, like actually talk and speak the Gospel. When was the last time we actually spoke the Gospel to an unsaved person? The Word needs to proclaimed and be heard in the ears of the unsaved.

Second, we must live a life worthy of the message we proclaim so that message will be received as genuine.

“so as to walk in a manner worthy of the Lord, fully pleasing to him, bearing fruit in every good work and increasing in the knowledge of God.” (Col. 1:10)

It is by our actions the message we have been given to proclaim is determined as genuine or not. We need to start living the Gospel out to those around us. And we must engage in questions over time that lead to deeper, more eternal-focused discussion.

We need to leave the extremes and join the middle. We need to have the words of the Gospel genuinely proclaimed by Spirit-filled people whose manner of living are worthy of the calling that we have been given.

 

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!

When Your Kids Don’t Agree

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It’s no secret that young people have trouble respecting authority. Any parent knows this to be true.

Maybe your hair is frazzled right now from your toddler’s amazing impersonation of a tornado. Maybe the bags under your eyes feel like a thousand pounds because your baby decided to pull an all-nighter (and not for prayer and fasting).

For others, perhaps the weight is a little heavier than loud cries or rowdy behavior. Maybe for you, it’s a child who’s left the home to sow “wild oats” and broken hearts. Maybe it’s a millennial college student who comes home from Thanksgiving with a significant other of the same gender and a new atheistic faith to match.

Those sorts of things are incredibly hard – and far too incredibly frequent.

Open Relationships

I’ll admit it – we millennials are leaving the faith at a quicker rate than ever before. And Generation Z after us looks to continue that trend.

I don’t pretend to know how to stop that flow. Only the Spirit of God can change hearts. Even the best parents have encountered this sad reality. However, I do think that if more parents read carefully the words that Caleb posted last week, this would be a less frequent occurrence.

Being open to discussing beliefs and current issues is absolutely crucial to building inter-generational relationships, especially with your children.

I have no right to advise parents on how to raise their millennials and Generation Z, but I am deeply concerned about a trend I have noticed with some friends.

It’s one thing for millennials to not be able to discuss doctrinal issues with their parents. But it is quite another thing when millennials cannot even discuss the debatable issues with their parents for fear that their parents will get upset or angry.

Music

For instance, I know many millennials who hold different beliefs about music than their parents. But most are too afraid to tell their parents that. Their views are not unbiblical in the least, and most have really thought it through prayerfully and with the advice of older mentors.

And yet, they must keep their views on music hidden from their parents.

Politics

Millennials cannot tell their parents who they are voting for – or if they are voting at all. I hate to bring up such a controversial subject – okay, I actually enjoy it. But many millennials absolutely dread when older people bring it up. They cringe when they see a “Lock it up” status from their parents on Facebook. In this election in particular, millennials are discovering that many of the principles their parents raised them to hold to – such as standing for morality, respecting those of different nationalities, refraining from foul language – only apply outside the realm of politics.

This is not just anecdotal among my friends. Research shows that evangelical millennials are much more likely to oppose the Republican nominee – and his numbers are abysmal with millennials as a whole. This truly is an inter-generational conflict this election cycle.

But to confess to their parents or grandparents that they are considering not voting for the Republican nominee – or not voting at all – would be just as hard as confessing some heinous crime.

A Plea

Parents, I plead with you – on both these issues and many more – do not let your child feel like they cannot disagree with you! On matters that are eternal and founded in the Word of God, do not budge an inch. But be open for your children to come and ask you about the “debatable matters.”

If they cannot come to you to discuss those issues, why would they come to you to discuss their doubts about key doctrines? Many parents are in the dark about what their kids believe until it is too late.

I am so blessed to have parents who are open to discussion. We do not agree on all points, but I know that I can discuss the political race with my Dad – and believe me, we do OFTEN! There’s nothing better in the world than knowing that I can have an open discussion with my father and mother about politics and music and so many other issues. Will we always agree? Hardly. Will I respect their position even if it goes against mine? Yes, because they gave clear scriptural principles – and so did I.

We simply choose to live in the confusing land that is Romans 14. That’s the best place to land on these issues. That’s the place where open discussions can happen about these issues.

That’s the place where the Spirit works to make the faith of my fathers the faith of me.

Can We Talk About This?

I’ve found, in my relatively short life span, that the best way to carry on a conversation is to come to an understanding of terms. It keeps both parties honest in how they use them and they will come to a mutual understanding of each other’s statements. Matt and I have thrown this term around a few times and I’ve heard it come up in conversation as I’ve discussed our blog with people in the community around me and my church. The term I’m referring to is “open relationship.”

What does that mean? How can we have them in our churches if we can’t put a definition on the term? Here we go, let’s try to define a very trendy, but very important phrase in our churches.

Let’s start with a definition that I got from a medical journal article that a friend sent me.

“An ‘open’ relationship system is one in which an individual is free to communicate a high percentage of inner thoughts, feelings, and fantasies to another who can reciprocate.”1

To my knowledge the author of this article is not a Christian, but this doctor was able to capture in a sentence what I know many in our churches very desperately need and want.

We need relationships that will allow us to share our inner thoughts. What are the questions that are plaguing our minds at night? What are the “issues” that we are trying to come to an understanding of? The church is facing many cultural issues now that it didn’t have or didn’t talk about 20 years ago and we need to be able to have conversations about them. Like what do I do when my professor is flagrantly anti-Christian? How do I treat my sibling or close friend that just came out as gay or transgender? How can I feel like I live in a community, when I don’t understand what true community is because I’ve never seen it in my own family? How can I believe God is good, when my entire childhood is riddled with sexual abuse? Realities that need Bible answers.

We need relationships that let us ask Bible questions. The church was the center for learning theology at the beginning of Christianity. They didn’t have Christian colleges to send kids to in order for them to learn the fundamentals of their faith. Doctrine was taught in the church and by their members. The church needs relationships that let those in them ask the hard doctrine and Bible questions. They need to be able to ask what does it mean to “be all things to all men in order that I might win some” in our culture today? How was Jesus both completely God and completely man? How can what I read in my Bible and what read in my science textbook be so different? Which is right? If God were love, then how can He condemn someone to hell? How did we arrive at this standard on (insert standard here) Biblically? Where does the Bible say that?

We need relationships that let us share our feelings. That felt so weird typing that. I’m a guy that takes a while for me to be willing to share how I really feel about something, but once I know you a bit be prepared for an outpouring (my brother-in-law will attest to this). Our church members need someone to be able to share our sorrows, frustrations, joys, and victories. It’s only in these types of relationships that we can truly share our feelings and fulfill Romans 12 and “rejoice with those who rejoice, [and] weep with those who weep.”

We need relationships that allow us to dream both spiritually and personally. I know I’ve enjoyed a mentoring relationship that where my mentor supports me in my dreams both spiritually and professionally. He gives me guidance in my professional career, but also helps me grow in my spiritual walk as well. I have a close friend that knows where I want to be in the future spiritually and prays that I will someday be there if God directs and permits. Our churches need to be filled with relationships that will help push each other to our next goal and next step toward Jesus.

Doesn’t that sound amazing. Hopefully you can see the need for this type of relationship and maybe you’ve experienced it. How different would your spiritual walk be if you had that type of relationship? I know my walk with Jesus would have been much different than it was in college and high school if I had someone that I felt I could have been completely open with.

I want to give just three ideas that can help you start these types of relationships with someone in your church. These are ideas that I’ve come to cherish in a couple of my mentoring relationships.

Listen.

Don’t listen to answer. Listen to hear what’s really being said. Let them vent. Let them talk, and eventually they’ll really say what’s on their heart. You’ll be amazed at what someone can work out on their own if someone were to just listen in silence. Listen to hear and understand, not to answer.

“If one gives an answer before he hears, it is his folly and shame.” (Prov. 18:13)

Share Bible. Not preference.

If there is one thing I’ve had the privilege of having is a mentor that shares more Bible than opinion. I’m pretty sure this is what Paul had in mind when he wrote “but as for you, teach what accords with sound doctrine” to Timothy. After you’ve listened to hear and understand within the next minute whatever you say should have SCRIPTURE in it, not your opinions on the matter. God’s Word will not return void, I can’t say the same about our opinions.

“But as for you, teach what accords with sound doctrine.” (Titus 2:1)

“Let the word of Christ dwell in your richly.” (Col. 3:16)

Point to Jesus.

When Paul addressed the church at Corinth he could have made his knowledge of Scripture known. Instead he pointed to Jesus. He preached Jesus to them, and let the Spirit do the rest.

“For I decided to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ and him crucified.” (I Cor. 2:2)

 

I hope that I’m a person that can have an open relationship with those in my congregation. I want to be able to talk about the hard things and point to Scripture and Christ. I pray the Church can start having more open relationships and conversations and grow closer together by asking the hard questions.

 

1 Bowen, Murray. “Family Reaction to Death.” 335–336. Print.

Battle Buddies

military-men-departing-service-uniform-40820

The soldier comes off the battlefield and collapses into his bunk. His buddy glances across at him and notices something horrible. His right leg has been blown off.

“Dude!”

“Man, it was a hard battle, but I’m all right. No scratches.”

“What?!”

“Yeah, I had some close calls, but I did not fall. In fact, I’ve never fallen in battle. Always come away perfectly fine!”

“But your leg – ”

“I’m great!”

How ridiculous! It’s hard to imagine how a soldier would receive such a major blow and not tell his fellow soldiers.

Yet it’s very easy to imagine in spiritual warfare.

In the barracks of the Christian life, no one talks about their injuries. Sure, they talk about the small stuff – the inconveniences of warfare. But no one ever acknowledges the wounds they got from the past week of warfare.

Fighting in the Same War

In 1 Peter 5:8-11, Peter tells us to suit up because we have a fierce, lion-like enemy on the prowl. He says to resist him, and then tells us something we can know for sure in this battle:

“…knowing that the same kinds of suffering are being experienced by your brotherhood throughout the world.” (vs. 9)

We have a brotherhood. Not a brotherhood around a pick-up game of basketball or a round of golf. This is a brotherhood of battle.

You have fellow soldiers in this fight all around you. That old man in the pew in front of you – yes, the one with the hearing aids. That lady who sings far too loudly and operatically behind you. Even that super-annoying junior higher that plays too much Clash of Clans.

If they’re in God’s family, they’re in God’s army. Even if they’re a thousand years older or younger. All generations are in the battle – together.

Covering Our Battle Scars

Let’s stop pretending to be super spiritual. We’re not. Let’s stop pretending to have perfect families and perfect marriages and perfect jobs and perfect morality. We don’t.

On Sunday mornings, we are not like immaculately-groomed dogs arriving for the dog show. We are ravaged wild dogs who hobble in with a limp because of a fight in the dark alley the night before.

The lion has prowled this week. Some of us have scars from his claws. But we hide them with a three-piece suit and bow-tie.

We desperately hope no one notices that we’re missing a leg.

How silly. No, how stupid.

Opening Up

We are all facing the same kind of trials, Peter says. We might as well be open about it.

No more fake smiles on cheeks that were stained with tears mere hours before. No more “I’m doing great!” from the same mouth that yelled at your wife and your God on the ride over.

It’s time for honesty with our battle buddies.

A quote hangs on the wall in my church’s youth center:

“Be kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a hard battle.”

Let’s rephrase it slightly,

“Be open about your struggles, for everyone you meet is fighting beside you in the same hard battle.”

Doors Open – Windows Down

 

mafe

This is another guest blog post – this time from Mafe Quijano of Mentor, Ohio – a likeminded millennial passionate about intergenerational relationships in the church. Enjoy!


I’m back home in the suburbs of the nice, and posh Mentor, Ohio. I’m out in the driveway packing my car to leave for school. I see my neighbor outside walking his dog, and he notices me. Oh no! Now I have to say hi!

I have two options: I can wave and go back inside quickly or I can actually say, “Hi” and have a conversation with him. For many years, I waved, smiled, and went back inside. One day, I chose to actually stop and have a conversation with him. My neighbor is not a Christian, but we became friends and have had many conversations about life. The fact that we chose to actually get to know each other has given me many opportunities to share what I believe with him and actually built a friendship between us!

If that can happen with someone who doesn’t believe what I believe just because I stopped and took the time to get to know him, imagine what it could do for the local church. What would happen if we had a culture of windows rolled down, open doors, and honesty? A culture where we encourage one another as long as it is called today (Hebrews 3:13)? A culture of discipleship?

The truth is, we are not like that naturally.

We are used to being individualistic and independent. “Me, myself and I”

The problem with isolation is that it hides the darkest parts about you. The problem with isolation is that it keeps sin from being exposed.

And what is the biggest excuse that we make for not being vulnerable with one another?

Well…it’s just awkward.

We, the people who have been given all things for life and godliness through the knowledge of Christ (2 Peter 1:3); the people who have received power from the Holy Spirit to speak God’s testimony (Acts 1:8); we, the people who have been called to fear God and not man (Matthew 10:28); we cringe at the idea of vulnerability because we think is AWKWARD. Both introverts and extroverts alike struggle with this.

Let me propose an idea to you. I agree with you. It’s very awkward. It’s not easy to get to know someone. It’s not easy to invest. It’s not easy to let them see the real parts of us. It’s not easy to show our faults. It’s not easy to be selfless and be there for someone who is as messed up as we are.

So yes, it’s awkward. But how about instead of running away from the awkwardness, we embrace it? Most people run away from the awkward and difficult. Let’s do something hard and embrace it.

We need to know, love, and make an effort to pursue other believers, even though being vulnerable may be hard.  Even if investing in them takes us out of our comfort zone. Even though we might get rejected.

Why?

  1. God wants us to. Just look up “one another” and see how many verses God uses to encourage us to invest in each other. (Colossians 3:13; 1 Thessalonians 5:11;  Ephesians 5:19 to name a few)
  2. God sacrificed His only Son for other believers too (Romans 5:8, John 3:16). That’s how valuable they are to Him. That’s how valuable they should be to us.
  3. Every Christian, no matter their age, their social status or personality has the potential to serve God (1 Thessalonians 5:14).

Being vulnerable is hard and awkward sometimes. But it doesn’t matter. I am called to have my windows rolled down and my door open.

Regardless of what others may think.

Regardless of how they look,

Regardless of my opinion about them,

Regardless of their opinion about me,

Regardless of my fears or insecurities,

And regardless of my assumptions.

Because it’s worth it. Because God’s glory is worth it. Because the local church is worth it. Because discipleship is worth it.

God gives you opportunities to get to know and to pursue other Christians every day. Are you going to do the comfortable thing? or are you going to embrace the blessedness that comes with fellowship with Christians?

Therefore, confess your sins to one another and pray for one another, that you may be healed.” (James 5:16a ESV)

Beneath the cross of Jesus, His family is my own

Once strangers chasing selfish dreams

Now one through grace alone

How could I now dishonor The ones that You have loved?

Beneath the cross of Jesus, see the children called by God.