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.

 

 

 

Moms Make the Best Mentors

 

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Moms are pretty fantastic. I highly recommend them.

Especially mine – she’s incredible. And my awesome mother-in-law too. The very best of the best!

You know why moms are so awesome? Because for almost everyone on the planet, the #1 mentor in their life has been their Mom.

Think about it – what makes a good mentor?

Somebody who does life with another. Somebody who goes to every game, every concert, every graduation. Somebody who throws themselves at a person to seek to grow and mature them. Somebody who gives up countless hours to do acts of service for them. Somebody who loves them no matter what and never stops praying and pursuing if they wander away.

That’s what makes a good mentor. And that’s what moms are!

No one has gone to more concerts and ceremonies for me than my Mom. No one has spent more time eating with me – from the time she had to spoon-feed me to the times she still has my wife and me over for Sunday lunch.

No one has been a bigger fan of me. Probably no one has prayed more for me. Probably no one has admonished me more when I strayed.

My Mom is my mentor. And if you stop and think about it, your mom probably was too.

And yet sometimes, this “mentoring” of moms can be a negative when they try to over-protect their children from every slightest danger. But I have found that the best moms – mine included – will let their kids explore far and dream big and make bold prayers for them and see them answered. Even if it pains them in the process.

Think of some biblical Moms. Think of Hannah, Samuel’s Mom, who prayed long and hard for a son. But when God finally gave her one, she willingly gave him entirely over to the Lord. Yet, she didn’t give up on him. Year by year, she brought him a “little robe” to wear (1 Samuel 2:19).

Think of Mary. She had no need to “mentor” her son (Him being the Son of God and all). And yet she was always there for her Son. At one point, she seemed to try to call Him away from ministry (see Matthew 12 – she was perhaps thinking of the time it was prophesied that a “sword” would pierce her own soul), and yet at the end she quietly watched Him suffer and die on a tree. The little baby she once held was now dying for the sins of the world.

Moms are a big deal to God. They are a big part of His plan for discipleship. It’s no wonder that so many heroes of the Bible and church history were greatly influenced and even brought to Christ by their mothers. It’s little surprise that so many influential people attribute their mother as the one who influenced them the most.

It’s no shock that the Apostle Paul himself would compare his own discipleship endeavors with being a mother. 1 Thessalonians 2:7 describes Paul’s gentleness with the Thessalonians like a mother with her nursing child. He travailed for the Galatians like a mother in a labor (4:19).

Mentoring is a lot like mothering because mothers make the best mentors.

So thank the Lord for godly mentors in your life. But when you do, never forget who was probably the best, most loyal, most faithful mentor ever – your own mother.

Thanks, Mom!

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.”

Sanctified Nosiness

pexels-photo-41135-largeA typical conversation at church:

Me: “How are you?”

Person: “Great! And you?”

Me: “Great! How’s work?”

Person: “Great! How’s school?”

Me: “Great! How’s the wife?”

Person: “Great! How’s the fiancé?”

Me: “Great! It’s been great talking to you!”

Little do I realize…that person is not really doing great – his youngest threw a temper-tantrum in the restaurant last night and his oldest won’t even speak to him. He and his wife are having marriage problems, and his job is not looking that secure.

And little does he realize what I’m going through. He doesn’t know that I’ve had a rough week fighting sin and stress. That I’m struggling with a long-distance relationship or that there aren’t a lot of people my age to hang out with this summer. That I’m confused about my future direction and unsure of how I’m going to provide when I get married. That I’m burdened for the kids I’m ministering to and wondering how in the world to invest in them.

Behind the many “Great!”s lie many problems, heartaches, burdens, and maybe even secret struggles.

Perhaps all we need to do is add one little word:

“How are you really?”

“But I don’t want to be nosy!”

Fiddlesticks! A little nosiness never killed anybody. But shallow relationships in the church – sin being covered up, hiding things, not confessing faults, ignoring the problems we see others having – that kind of “respectable distance” among church members has led to great suffering.

What we need more of in our church – particularly between generations – is a little of what I like to call “sanctified nosiness.”

Where we purposely try to enter people’s lives, develop trust with them, and go down to the deepest level we possibly can with them. You can call it discipling, mentoring, iron-sharpening-iron, investing in others – pick your word or make up a new one!

It looks like one man sitting down for coffee (or tea, if you prefer) with another man and telling him his struggles – all his problems, pain, temptations, failures, and dreams. It looks like coffee and confession mixing together. It looks like a little spilled mocha and a lot of spilled heart. And it looks like every week over a long period of time with the same drink order, same Bible, same problems, and same God.

It may look like a daily text message: “How did you do today? Did you maintain purity? Did you talk to your wife? Did you share Jesus with that coworker? Did you ask for forgiveness from your parents? Did you delete that app?”

Above all, it looks like Hebrews 3:13: “But exhort one another every day, as long as it is called ‘today,’ that none of you may be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin.”

I love that word “exhort” – parakaleo in Greek. It means to “call to one’s side.” It speaks of the idea of calling someone to walk with you down the path of godliness. Paul uses it frequently in his letters to “exhort” or “encourage” his readers to love Jesus and hate sin. It can have the idea of “comforting” – used as a name for the Holy Spirit (Paraclete, our Comforter). It can also have the idea of “urging” – in this verse, urging fellow believers not to be hardened by deceitful and dangerous sin.

And we’re to do this every day. There doesn’t seem to be much room in Scripture for the whole come-on-Sunday, live-however-you-want-Monday-to-Friday Christianity. Scripture calls for believers to hang out regularly – to communicate beyond the confines of the church’s building and parakalize one another (I need to copyright that word).

Every. Single. Stinking. Day.

We have no excuse in an age when we can communicate with anyone around the world with the click of the “Send” button. Texting or messaging is no replacement for face-to-face contact, but it is a great supplementary tool to keep in contact with fellow believers. To get updates on their lives. To get prayer requests (and actually pray for them). Or, best yet, to set up a time to meet for coffee and conversation.

Not for shallow conversation. Deep conversation.

It may not happen at first, but as you get to know one another week-by-week, you’ll start to develop trust. And gradually, you’ll open up more and more. It may take some awkwardness – the best parts of life always do. But don’t shy away. Don’t hide. Don’t put on a mask of piety in church when you know good and well that your life is in shambles.

Most of our lives are. And you never know – by opening up, you may find a fellow sufferer who has good advice for your struggle. Or, you may find someone you can encourage with what God’s taught you in your messy life.

Maybe your conversation at church can look more like this:

“How are you?”

“To be honest, I’m struggling. It’s been a rough week…but God is good!”

“Amen. You wanna catch some coffee this afternoon and talk about it? I have some issues I’d like to run by you as well.”

“I’d love to!”

3 Relationships We All Need

I was sitting in church last week and I’m pretty sure the speaker read my ideas list of blog posts and then decided to speak on one of them, then mention the rest. As I’m sitting and listening to his sermon he mentions in passing three relationships that everyone should have (the list from this post). They caused me to think and research a little bit more than what he presented. It started with Barnabas and ended with Paul.

Paul is probably the more well-known of the two. He was led by God to help found the church in the known world. He led four mission trips to spread the gospel, had a miraculous conversion, survived a shipwreck, snake bite, stoning, and threats. He was the epitome of a cross-cultural missionary, and was a multiplier within the church. But he wouldn’t have been able to start without a risk taken by Barnabas.

1. Paul and Barnabas

We often think of Paul and Barnabas as the missionary companions that eventually split apart because of some young, immature missionary name John Mark. Well yes, that’s part of their story. But their story actually started right at the beginning of Paul’s Christian life. See Barnabas was the reason Paul got an audience with the Apostles. The Apostles knew Paul as Saul and how he persecuted the church and was killing Christians because of their faith. They also knew that he had been “converted” and now wanted to preach the gospel. So they had good reason to be extremely hesitant to bring him into their fold. Well, Barnabas took the risk. He welcomed Paul into his company and presented him to the Apostles and trained him. He equipped Paul by doing ministry with him. Barnabas was the older, more experienced companion to Paul. He was Paul’s “in” when it came to ministry. Barnabas was able to look passed the history and differences, and see the potential for the advancement of the kingdom. And guess what? When Paul and Barnabas decided to part ways, Barnabas did the same thing he did with Paul with that young, immature missionary named John Mark. It appears that this was a habit of Barnabas.

The church needs this type of relationship. We need to be either the older generation willing to take a risk on the younger despite our differences of opinion, methods of accomplishing ministry, or personal history. Or we are the younger generation and need to be willing to learn from the older, even if their methods, opinions, and person history are different than ours. That generation has been doing ministry longer than us, so yes we can learn from them. But the goal on both sides, like Paul and Barnabas, is to encourage Christlikeness, unity, and advance the gospel, not create another you or change a generation to be like another.

2. Paul and Silas

Everybody needs a Silas. Paul’s relationship with Silas is best described by a scenario. I have a very unique relationship with one of my brothers-in-law. We try to go grab coffee once every other week or so. And our conversations generally entail deep life questions and concerns. Like the struggles and joys of work, church, home, and personal lives. They’re filled with transparent answers and questions and both of us leave with burdens lifted off our shoulders and hearts because of the encouragement of the other. I feel like this is the kind of relationship Paul and Silas had. They spent three years traveling together on their missionary journey, doing ministry with each other. They did life together and shared each other’s pain, burdens, and joys. They endured jail, earthquakes, and death threats together. They had this life on life relationship that we all need. It was the two of them encouraging each other as they both worked to advance Christ’s kingdom here on earth. It was not necessarily one mentoring the other, it was iron sharpening iron.

3. Paul and Timothy

Timothy was the project child. He was the kid that Paul saw had a gift and just grabbed hold of him and mentored. He encouraged him to use his gifts even though he was young and told him don’t let anybody despise you because of your age. He put him in positions that he was forced to grow spiritually and make decision that were well beyond his years while being discipled by Paul.

This is a prime example of mentoring. This was a cross-generational, transparent, gospel-focused relationship. From what I’ve seen in Scripture, Paul wasn’t trying to make a little Paul out of Timothy, he was trying to encourage a little Christ. He gave principles drawn from Scripture to guide Timothy. He helped draw doctrine-related lines, but encouraged practical conversations (think eating meat offered to idols). He guided, was supportive of wise decisions, and gave advice when needed. I’m pretty sure Paul and Timothy didn’t do everything the same way, because they weren’t the same person. But they were both striving for the same goal and that’s what they focused on.

Don’t You Forget About Me

“And he gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the shepherds and teachers, to equip the saints for the work of the ministry, for building up the body of Christ,” (Eph. 4:11-12)

Ephesians 4 has become something special to me. In fact, this entire chapter has become a rally cry for me personally. It’s a challenge for those older than me and a call to action for those in my generation. So let me exegete why out of this passage.

The first part of this passage is all about unity. We have one faith, one Savior, one baptism, and one God. We, the body of Christ, the church, are unified around our Savior.

Here’s a problem that I see. We’ve divided our churches into groups intentionally or not. We’ve split our church by age and life-stage and then used those benchmarks to determine who can serve in certain capacities within the church. You’re either too young, too immature, too old, too old-fashion, single, or not willing to serve in certain capacities.

All these unspoken benchmarks have left me wondering why is it that we don’t see many, if any, twenty-something-year-old deacons or elders, or why don’t we see a twenty-six-year-old woman leading a bible study for the church. Not necessarily because there isn’t anyone in the church that’s willing or able, just we make the mistake of not thinking cross-generationally.

It may be because I’m in this age group, but I see this mindset especially targeting millennials. We’ve been put in the category of too young for the position, too immature to handle the responsibility, or too inexperienced (our favorites excuse) to make good decisions.

My response to all those excuses and misconceptions is Ephesians 4. The first few verses state that we should be unified. Yes, dividing into groups is great for administration or for focus groups. But there are areas of church life that shouldn’t require an age or marital status to serve in. Putting unnecessary barriers up for service only adds to the disunity that so many churches are experiencing.

As we continue reading we learn that God has equipped each person with a unique gift (verse 7). The purpose of these gifts were meant to be used in the context of the church. We get this in verse 16. Each part using its unique gift to help the body grow into the mature image of Christ.

So we all have a gift and it’s meant to be used within the church, but here in Ephesians 4 we get a different type of list than what we received in Romans and 1 Corinthians. This list of gifts are gifts to the church. Christ gave the church the gifts of apostles, prophets, evangelists, and shepherd-teachers. We also find out the purpose of these gifts: to equip the saints for the work of the ministry and for the building up of the body of Christ.

So here’s my hang up. If we all have gifts, we are supposed to be unified under Christ, and the gifts of pastors, evangelists, and shepherd-teachers are for the equipping of the saints for the work of the ministry, why do we fail so often at equipping and building up? It’s like we’ve missed the point of our gifts and decided that equipping consists of preaching a sermon on Sunday or listening to a Sunday School lesson. If we model our relationships after the Great Shepherd, equipping is both preaching and one-on-one discipleship. Then sending that disciple out to do ministry, either within your church or in another church because of the equipping they received from others.

Yes, this idea of equipping and mentoring is risky. But it’s well worth the risk. Look at result of Paul equipping Timothy. We need more Pauls and Timothys in our churches. 

So pastors, evangelists, shepherd-teachers don’t you forget about me. Don’t wait for us to hit the life-stage benchmarks. Forget the fact I’m twenty-something and equip me; fulfill Ephesians 4 in your church; let me be your Timothy. You’ll find all the results of your actions listed in the rest of the chapter, and they’re pretty awesome. We’re talking things like unity of faith, knowledge of the Son of God, spiritual maturity, and sound doctrine. Disciple the millennials in your church. Imagine being able to focus on feeding your flock because you’ve equipped someone in the work of the ministry. Now both of us can fulfill what God planned with our gifts: unity and growth within the body of Christ.

Now everyone else, read verse 16:

“From whom the whole body, joined and held together by every joint with which it is equipped, when each part is working properly, makes the body grow so that it builds itself up in love.”

We need to do our part. We need to ask. We need to serve. We can’t just pass the puck up, point fingers, and say, “It’s all their fault that we aren’t serving in certain capacities.” And we can’t not be involved because we think everyone is too old fashion or stuck in their ways. We need to do our part by using our gifts in the church and help our local body grow in Christ. We need to strive for unity, be involved, and be imitators of Christ ourselves and the result will be that other generations will follow.

Ultimately, I’m asking that those with these gifts don’t you forget about us, the millennials; instead equip us and let’s grow in unity of the faith and to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ.