I’ve been a Christian for 38 years yet I still need a discipler.
I’ve been married for 33 years yet I still need a mentor.
I’ve been a Dad for 23 years yet I still need a mentor.
I’ve been in ministry for 34 years yet I still need a mentor.
What’s the difference between a mentor and a discipler? Mentoring is about involving yourself with a protégé to help them discover, develop, dedicate and display the skills or talents they either possess or want to learn. A good mentor encourages and prepares the way for his protégé’s skill.
A discipler on the other hand walks with a follower of Christ to help them grow into a passionate follower of Christ. I will write about this next week.
The first pastor I served took time to mentor me as a young husband. One day he came into my office and said “let’s go to the cemetery.” We went and then we visited the church where President Woodrow Wilson’s first wife Ellen grew up. He told me you’re working too many nights and gone to much. You never know when your life is going to end or when Becky’s is going to end. You fail in ministry if you fail as a husband. When you have children you fail in ministry if you fail as a Dad. Your first priority is your family. Your first responsibility in love and discipleship is your family. If you are going to be my youth pastor you are going to model this to our teenagers. Pretty blunt, huh? He blessed me. At the time I didn’t know this was mentoring.
When I became a Dad, I sought out men who had raised children that loved God, their parents and their church.
When I became responsible for a bankrupt church and school, I sought out pastors who had successfully navigated similar ministries. As a result of the huge problems my little congregation was facing the tail began to wag the dog. I was fund raising, administering a school, building a building, making new contacts for the church and following up on them, but I wasn’t growing as a preacher of the Gospel.
I was eating barbecue with one of the executive officers of my church denomination. He suddenly stopped eating and in very normal tone of voice without going weird said, “Dennis, more than anything else you do in ministry practice preaching. Study preaching. Work on your preaching. Give preaching the best of your time and work.” He recognized the supreme value of preaching in persuading people to commit their lives to Jesus Christ.
Taking this godly and experienced leader’s advice to heart this was a skill that I sought out mentors for. One of them was homiletics (the study of preaching) professor, another was a Bible scholar and some experienced pastors. I also asked a journalist’s input. Their encouragement, help and suggestions have been invaluable over the years.
Once after preaching on the subject of hell. One of my mentors said to me, “You didn’t weep.” He proceeded to help me understand you were not ready to preach about that subject unless your heart was broken for lost people. Even now as I write these words sitting in a surgical waiting room at one of our local hospitals, my emotions are stirred with sadness.
The building got built, the school grew, the debt was being steadily retired, the church grew but not because of the school or debt retirement or visitation but the preaching of the gospel. The message preached touched lost people’s hearts and the rest of really began to grow in our faith.
Mentors help you identify how the skill you want to develop fit within your life’s purpose. He/She will encourage you to experiment with different things to see how they affect the roles you play in life. Also they will want to see where you succeed and fail the goal being assisting you become more confident in your life.
How do you find a mentor? Well, simply look for people who possess the skills you would like to develop. They should have what the Bible calls fruitfulness or most people would call productivity as a result of their skill set. It’s important to know that some people are very effective but not very efficient.
If you discover that this person is not very efficient don’t discount what you can learn from them. Simply look for someone who can teach you how to get more done in the time you have. Also there is a helpful book on that subject by David Allen “Getting Things Done.” But I digress.
Ask for help in finding mentors from your pastor, employer, friends, family, teachers, and colleagues. They know others who possess the skills you want to develop.
I still need my mentors. But I also need to be a mentor. Tomorrow I’ll write about protégés.
Peace and Joy in the Holy Spirit!