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.

 

 

 

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.

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.

Come and See

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“How did you meet your wife?”

I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been asked that in the past three weeks. (Yes, I got married. That is, Matt got married. Not Caleb – he just got a dog, which is not the same thing as a wife.) It seems everyone wants to know how the two of us met. It’s a pretty interesting story, and I must admit, I don’t mind sharing it.

Here’s a more important question though – “How did you meet your Savior?”

How did you come to know Jesus, the Son of God? It’s a different answer for each one of us. Some, like myself, were led to Christ at a young age, perhaps through a pastor’s message or parent’s talk. Others came to Christ later, maybe through a friend, spouse, or family member. Others perhaps got saved by simply reading the Word of God or a tract or falling under conviction in a service.

However it happened, one thing is true for all of us: there was a moment we became followers of Jesus. Or you could say, we became “disciples” of Jesus.

That’s where we get a word we use often on this blog – “discipleship” or “discipling.” Sometimes we call it “mentoring” or “life on life relationships.” That’s what this blog is really all about, particularly in the area of intergenerational discipling. And that will never change.

But this year, we want to get into a deeper discussion of what that actually looks like BIBLICALLY. You know our opinions on certain practical matters. But recently I was hit with this question – what does the Bible actually say about discipling and mentoring? What does it command? What do healthy intergenerational relationships look like according to Jesus?

In 2017, we at the Church Accords want a lot less opinions and a lot more Bible.

So let’s dive into the Bible and start with the Gospel of John. It doesn’t take us long to find discipling there. John 1, in fact!

I love that chapter. You start with the very beginning of time, eternity past, the Word with God…and end with that same God interacting one-on-one with dirty, smelly Galilean fishermen. If Jesus, the Word of God incarnate, who created all things and IS GOD, can stoop down to take flesh and disciple guys…what’s our excuse again?

Anyway, we see in the end of John 1 the various ways people become disciples. If we’re going to study what the Bible says about discipling, we should probably start at the beginning. You can’t make disciples if you aren’t one yourself. But if you are a disciple, as Mark Dever points out, you WILL be making disciples.

How does it all begin? How can someone meet Jesus?

John gives us a couple of ways.

  1. Through preaching the truth of Jesus (35-39). John the Baptist was standing with some of his guys and saw Jesus. He pointed at Him and said, “Behold the Lamb of God!” And two of his guys left him to follow Jesus. Jesus asks them what they’re looking for. They say they want to see where He’s staying. I love Jesus’ reply – it’s one that every disciple-maker can use: “Come and see.” Some people become disciples of Jesus through hearing someone else proclaim Him as the Savior. This doesn’t diminish one-on-one relationships. In fact, preaching should always go hand-in-hand with personal conversation. The Bible puts a premium on solid, biblical preaching, but it also emphasizes discipleship. We must do both.
  2. Through someone else’s invitation (40-42, 45-51). Andrew, one of those guys from before, goes and does what every good disciple-maker should do – he brings someone else to Jesus. Specifically, his brother Simon Peter (heard of that guy?). Then a couple verses later, Philip is finding his buddy Nathanael and bringing him to Jesus. Notice what words he uses: “Come and see.” I love that! The disciple has taken up the words of his Master, inviting people to experience what he’s experienced. This is discipling!
  3. Through a personal experience with Jesus (43-44). Some people are drawn to Christ on their own. Sometimes, Christ captures someone’s heart not necessarily through a person, but through His Word and Spirit directly. Philip was approached directly by Christ and called to be a disciple. From the following conversation with Nathanael, Philip seemed to have been studying the Old Testament and knew what Moses and the prophets wrote. Maybe through his own study of Scripture, Philip’s heart was prepared for an encounter with Jesus.

There are a variety of ways people come to meet Jesus. We all have our stories. For some it’s a radical, life-jarring event where Christ drags you out of a life of sin. For others, it’s as simple as a young child’s prayer kneeling next to their Mom. Either way, a miracle has occurred! And we must never forget that. For if we realize all that Jesus has done in calling us to Himself, we will feel compelled to go out and tell others to “come and see” Jesus.

You met Jesus. Now it’s time to introduce Him to others.

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.

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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.

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.

A Generation of Jerks

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Millennials could be called the “Jerk Generation.” Always finding something wrong with everything (sorry, Rio Olympics). Always criticizing one group or another. Always insisting that our way is best.

With that in mind…come invest in us! Come mentor us and take us out to coffee every week and pour your lives into us! Doesn’t it sound exciting? Aren’t you pumped?

No one ever said mentoring millennials would be easy. Human beings are very messy creatures. And when you make the determination to invest in someone, you’re setting yourself up for a whole lot of disappointment.

Some Warnings

So you make the decision to develop an inter-generational relationship with someone younger than you. Awesome! Let me offer you some warnings:

  1. We will be ungrateful. This is one of the most disheartening things about investing in people – never getting recognized for your hard work…not even by the person you’re investing in! In fact, oftentimes I’ve found that the “mentee” is the very last person to recognize all you’re doing for them. Millennials are quick to complain, particularly about the older generation, but not quick to appreciate when the older generation takes steps to help them. If you’re deciding to invest in someone because you want to boost your self-esteem, you’re in the wrong business.
  1. We will show very little progress. People don’t change – at least very quickly! You can throw everything and the kitchen sink at a certain sin problem you see this young person facing. You can fight against it for years, with delicate prodding and compassionate pleas. And still, nothing happens. Many people talk about the stubbornness of old fogies – when in actuality, millennials can be just as stubborn. Or worse. If you’re looking for something to use as a success story on your resume, don’t waste your time mentoring millennials.
  1. We will break your heart. Every Paul has a Demas. Though relationship-building has been proven to help address the problem of millennials leaving the church, it does not fully solve the problem. You will have traitors among your Timothy’s. You will open your heart to this guy – be extremely transparent – only to have him gossip to the world about your sin problems. As CS Lewis so wisely stated, “To love at all is to be vulnerable.” If you want a line of work that is low-risk and high-reward, consider the business world – NOT the relationship world.

The Jerks of Corinth

Now that I have you sufficiently depressed, let me offer you some small level of comfort – you’re not the only one who’s experienced pain in relationship-building!

The mentor-in-chief himself, the Apostle Paul, experienced it to the greatest extent in his ministry. And there was no church more of a jerk to Paul than the one in Corinth. Read 2 Corinthians in its entirety if you’re feeling discouraged in mentoring. You’ll find common cause in Paul.

At the end of that letter to a church full of jerks, Paul writes, “I will most gladly spend and be spent for your souls. If I love you more, am I to be loved less?” (2 Cor. 12:15)

Hang that verse on your wall if you’re going to be a mentor. You will pour out of your emotional bank account, with very little return on investment. You’ll get tired. You’ll get discouraged. You’ll feel like giving up.

But don’t.

Some Blessings

Lest I totally defeat the entire purpose of this blog – to develop inter-generational relationships – I want to end by sharing just a few of the many blessings of investing in the next generation:

  1. Eventually, they will recognize what you’ve done. And it’ll mean more than anything. As I look back on my short life-span, I’d say the biggest blessings have come when someone says, “Thanks for all you’ve done for me. I probably don’t say it enough…” I’m not guaranteeing it will come – and it will likely take months and months and years and years of investing to even get one thank-you. But when it does come, it will mean the world.
  1. Occasionally, you will have the joy of seeing God change someone. There is nothing more amazing in this world than watching God do a work in someone’s life. It’s the greatest miracle in the world. Darkness to light. Sin to freedom. Problems to grace. Is this guaranteed to happen if you spend a certain amount of time with someone? No. God moves in mysterious ways – we don’t know how He will use our investment in others. Maybe it will mean radical repentance before your very eyes. Maybe it will mean years down the road, getting an email from a changed mentee. Or maybe it will mean a meeting on gold streets to talk about what an influence you were on them.
  1. For every Demas, there could be a Timothy and Titus. You don’t know how their story is going to turn out. And it’s not for you to try to find out! Your job is to simply give your all for the people God’s placed in your life. Yes, Corinth had a lot of jerks. But it also gave Paul Aquila and Priscilla, who would become lifelong friends and partners in ministry.

Stay in the fight. Don’t quit. Yes, millennials are often jerks. Yes, people are messy – but as Tripp says, they’re a “mess worth making.”

The Accords: An Introduction

No, this blog has nothing to do with Honda – although, if they’d like to sponsor us, they’re welcome to send a check.

An “accord” is not something you hear about very often. It’s a fancier – and cooler – word for a peace treaty. Maybe you’ve heard of a “peace accord” – like the Camp David Accords or the Oslo Accords. Or more likely, you’ve heard of the Sokovia Accords: an agreement signed by 117 nations after the destruction of the nation of Sokovia to rein in the actions of unrestrained vigilantes.

It sounds pretty great – unless you’re on #TeamCap and believe in freedom (‘Merica!). Go see Captain America: Civil War to find out what I’m talking about.

Well, the accords we’ll be talking about will not involve 117 nations or even Tony Stark (although Caleb sometimes acts like him). Instead, we want to address the need for “accords” within the body of Christ.

There’s been a split in the church that’s been growing wider over the years. We’ve noticed it in our home church, and I’m sure you’ve seen it in yours.

Historically, this shouldn’t be surprising. The church has always struggled with unity. From the days of #TeamPaul vs. #TeamPeter at Corinth, the people of God have always tended to form factions.

If you’re a church history nerd like myself, you can study the various church councils and see major splits on points of doctrine. Then you get into the Middle Ages with bishops and popes excommunicating one another until Luther came around and made it even worse by starting a Reformation. Yet even the Reformation saw its divisions, with Luther vs. Calvin and later Arminians vs. Calvinists.

Lincoln was right: “A house divided against itself cannot stand.” Oh wait, Jesus said that. And His words ring true to this very day.

The reason divisions happen so often among believers is because Satan knows this is a great way to distract the church. He can make a church ineffective simply by stirring up controversy over this or that.

Now, some divisions are good. I’m all about separating from heretics. But unfortunately in the era of church-splits or church-hopping, many divisions are not over vital doctrines but over personalities and preferences.

In our modern era, the split in the church is not between Peter-fanboys and Paul-lovers, or between Arius and Athanasius.

Rather it’s a generational battle – old vs. young. Millennials vs. Boomers/Xers.

And it’s developed into outright war. We even call it the “worship war.” But the battles are beyond just music – the old and young seem divided on practically every issue.

Our goal is not to say who’s right. God’s Word has plenty to say if people read it, and many of the issues that divide us are trivial at best and downright ridiculous at worst.

Our goal instead is to attempt to bridge this widening gap and speak to both sides. To do that, we’ll need writers from all different ages (if you have a two-year-old who’s good at writing, please let us know). At first, Caleb and I (Matt) will write back-and-forth each week. But we’d like to start including different voices to speak to this subject.

What will it take to end the inter-generational struggle? What do we need to do to address this growing divide between millennials and the “old people”? How can we seek to understand each other? How can we develop inter-generational relationships? Can we be as Paul exhorts the Philippians – “in full accord and of one mind” (Phil. 2:2)? It’s these questions we hope to address on this blog.

And hopefully, by the end, we can have the “Church Accords,” signed and ready to go. Without any need for a Civil War.

Lay down your electric guitars and hymnals. It’s time to come to terms. Come to the negotiations table.

It’s time to embrace a God who knows no age.