Mentoring – Part Three

Before we look at the elements of mentoring as seen in the life and ministry of Jesus and His relationship with His original twelve disciples (listed and briefly explained in the previous blog in this series); let’s look at six reasons we should all, as dedicated followers of Jesus, be involved in both being mentored and mentoring others.

1> Jesus did it, and He told us to do it as well.

Jesus is often seen as many different things by people of a variety of religions. However, there is no denying that in essence and in action He was a mentor. His mentorees became totally committed to His mission, worked together as an effective team, and through their efforts, the Christian faith (it is not a religion) has spread to the four corners of the world.

His final instruction to us before He returned to His place in Heaven with the Father was what? “Go and make disciples” (Matthew 28:19). He is telling us, “Go and do what I did. Go and find some people who are a little farther behind you on the path, and help them take their next steps, just as I did with My disciples.” His call is universal. Its transgender. It certainly transcends vocations since none of Jesus’ mentorees were church people (nor was He).

2> You will find meaning and fulfillment

In the world today, people spend the majority of their time and money making memories for themselves and their loved ones. And, as we do we draw farther and father away from having meaning in our lives.

Pursuing meaning in our lives does not exclude having great memories, but meaning matters in a deeper and a more long-lasting way. Meaning says that the activity you are involved with is really important. Meaning says that it matters at a deep level. Meaning says the consequences of the activity will affect the people involved for a long time. Meaning says that there is a multiplier effect, that future generations of people will benefit from the thing that has meaning. It is much more than taking and organizing pictures that you took – pictures of your memories that die with you. And then the pictures are thrown out by others because to them they are meaningless as they did not have that experience nor is it a memory that they share.

Mentoring a group of young people for a season gives life meaning and has long-term meaning and effect.

3> It will sharpen you and help keep you sharp

Intentionally getting involved in the lives of young people and mentoring them is a great opportunity for the mentor to learn and to refresh knowledge that he already has. Someone once said, “We teach what we most need to learn.”

As you go through the process of reviewing what you have learned. So as to share it, you will rediscover things you have overlooked or forgotten … skills that are so much a part of your unconscious competence yet have been sitting on the shelf for years. As you share the principles that you have learned over the years from classes, books, and life experiences, you end up learning them all over agin yourself and at a much deeper level.

And, as you share with those you are mentoring you will find that they too have wisdom and understanding that they can share with you. They have knowledge gained from what they are learning and experiences that they have had. And, as they relate to you, they share these truths and insights with you and you grow as well. It is a symbiotic process that breathes new life into the mentor as you share what you know and get your knowledge base expanded at the same time.

More on this next time…

Mentoring – Part Two

Mentoring has become a buzz word these days in the Church world. However, it is not a new concept. Jesus mentored twelve men for three years sharing life and ministry with them on a daily basis. As a result, He had a tremendous impact on their lives – their world perspective, their beliefs, their priorities, their desires and dreams, their understanding of Scripture, as well as their lifestyle. These men then went out and impacted the world in which they lived and, as a result, the Church grew and lives were changed throughout the known world at that time.

Tim Elmore said, “More time with fewer people equals greater Kingdom impact.” After 40+ years in full-time ministry I would totally agree with him. The greatest impact of all the various aspects of my ministry has been and still is found in those I have mentored over the years.

When you look at the way that Jesus lived His life and thus the way He mentored those who were His close associates we see a number of key ingredients:

1> It’s on purpose.

It is all about the Father and Kingdom building. Jesus was on a mission, and mentoring was the key strategy to fulfill His mission.

2> It’s a selfless endeavour.

Jesus mentored out of obedience to the Father. He got nothing out of it personally. He simply responded to God’s call on His life and did what the Father led Him to do.

3> It starts in a group context, not one-on-one.

Jesus knew the value of interaction of group members with one another. The group becomes a community, inextractable from one another. Jesus also accepted and even promoted the ‘group within the group’ that invariably develops. He had favourites, and He didn’t hide it or apologize for it. Yes, there was powerful one-on-one interaction, but it started in the context of the group.

This is not to deny that Jesus spent time one-on-one with His disciples. And, in practice today we often see a good deal of one-on-one mentoring as the relationships mature and a specific person stands out as one who could become a leader of leaders with some individual attention. Because of the nature of the personal sharing of life and ministry this can also turn into a life-time friendship.

4> Jesus handpicked those He mentored after much prayer.

The group was made up of regular, normal people, not “church people.” They were a diverse group … and certainly not a holy huddle. The mentor – mentored relationship was acknowledged. It was not a peer-to-peer group; it was a mentor-mentored construct – clear and unapologetic.

5> It was for a short, defined period of time.

Jesus’ mentoring began on time and ended on time. There was a graduation day when His mentors were commissioned and launched.

6> At the core of Jesus’ teaching was Scripture.

Jesus and His mentors knew the Scriptures by heart. The Word guided their decision making. Jesus helped His guys understand and apply God’s Word to their daily life and ministry.

7> Public and private prayer played a big role in the mentoring.

Jesus modelled a prayerful life; He taught the disciples how to pray and prayed with them and for them.

8> Jesus modelled His faith in a very transparent way.

Jesus lived out His life in front of His mentors. They became like family to Him. They saw how He applied His faith, how He struggled, how He handled stress, and how He handled dying.

9> Jesus taught along the way as they lived life and ministered together.

He was practical yet spiritual. Jesus helped His guys with practical situations … everything from taxes to workplace issues, from goal setting to family relations. He was far more practical than hypothetical. They discussed the law for sure, but Jesus taught from His knowledge and experience.

10> They was a mutual commitment, and it was a huge commitment.

They left their businesses, families, homes … all to follow and learn. Jesus never gave up on them, even when they failed and ran away. Ultimately they never gave up on Jesus, giving their lives not for His memory or His teachings but for His Kingdom.

11> It had a required multiplication element.

It produced mature believers and disciple makers. Multiplication was a part of what every one signed up for, and no one was excluded from that requirement.

Together, these elements yielded a group of committed Christ followers.

Mentoring – Part One

As I travel to the many nations the Lord has called me to minister in I see a real lack of mentoring of the next generation. As I relate to many young people in these nations – in person, by various apps and through emails – I hear them crying out for mature men and women who would be their spiritual fathers and mothers. Oh, they might not word their felt need in those terms but after many decades of ministry and relating to young people it is obviously a cry for mentoring.

When you look at the ministry of Jesus as recorded for us in the four gospels you see Jesus investing the majority of His time in building relationally with His twelve disciples. He mentored them. During His three years of earthly ministry Jesus poured His life into these twelve men that He had chosen and involved them personally in all aspects of His life and ministry. Then He sent them out to do the same – find others that they could invite into a mentoring relationship so they could pour their lives into others as Jesus had done for them. This is the essence of mentoring.

Paul, after his conversion on the road to Damascus, followed the same pattern. We hear him mention that he was the spiritual father of Timothy (1 Timothy 1:2 “…my true child in the faith”). He then commands Timothy to do the same with other young men calling him to “pass it on” and duplicate himself in others as Paul had done with Him.

2 Timothy 2:2 “…and what you have heard from me in the presence of many witnesses entrust to faithful men who will be able to teach others also.”

And so, what Jesus began with the early disciples continued and a mentoring movement was begun that Jesus wants continued today. Even Paul went on to mentor others like Titus and Silas to name just a few.

This method of discipling and mentoring as seen in the life and ministry of the Lord was so different that we should be stunned by the simplicity of it. And, within this ‘life process’ Jesus and Paul were able to help these young men integrate their personal faith into every facet of life – not just church life but the family, the market place or business world, the sports world, and into personal friendships and all other relationships. We have often made it much too complicated even transforming something simple and life-giving into a program without life.

Jesus understood a truth that every one of us needs to grasp…

More time spent with fewer people equals greater Kingdom impact

Instead of responding to every need as a leader and pastor I learned that it was much more productive to take the limited time I had available and pour it into the lives of a few. This meant being proactive instead of reactive. It meant being principle-driven and proactive, working into the lives of a select group of young men the truths that God has shown me through my experiences and mistakes and what I have learned about life by applying His Word, the Bible, consistently over the last 40 plus years.

No matter how you see Jesus – history shows us that He was a mentor. Those He mentored became totally committed to His mission and the Kingdom. They worked together as an effective team, and through their efforts the early Church saw tremendous growth and spread to every corner of the Roman Empire.

So, for the next few weeks I would like to unpack the model of mentoring Jesus used that made such an amazing difference in the life of His disciples and that helped to change the world one life at a time.

Investing In The Younger Generation

I have been working with young people the last few days as I minister in Western Canada. God is truly moving among young people whose hearts are open to Him and hungry for more. Here, as elsewhere, many young lives have been touched by God’s Holy Spirit and the youth are excited and seriously embracing what God is doing in their personal lives as well as in the region in which they live and the people they relate to.

There is life. There is enthusiasm. There is commitment. There is hunger. There is a willingness to give sacrificially. And, many are totally sold out and willing to go anywhere and do anything that the Lord wants from them. It is refreshing to be working with and relating to them. It is so good to have a small part to play in their growth, development, and equipping.

Young people have a lot of knowledge. They are reading their bibles, they listen intently to teachings – both in person as well as on the internet – taking notes in their personal journals. They apply what they are learning and wrap it into the fibre of their lives immediately after hearing and learning something new. This is good because you really only believe what you apply and live. And, they are believing and applying rapidly.

What young people are often missing is wisdom. And, that wisdom is needed to bring balance into their lives and to help them to not make the same mistakes that older generations have made. Otherwise, they will simply reinvent the wheel. To gain the wisdom that they need, young people need mentors. They need older, more seasoned veterans of the Kingdom to come along of them. They need leaders and mature disciples of Jesus to relate to them, to walk with them, share life with them, to accept them for who they are, and teach them the “unforced rhythms of grace” that are found when yoked with Jesus in the work of His Kingdom.

But, often the older and wiser believers are too busy to help or even, at times, to notice the younger believers. This is sad because often the things that occupy our time are really simply more religious activity which is often unfruitful and of no benefit to the expansion of the Kingdom. It is time for the the wiser, older believers to invest their time in the younger generation and to stop wasting time and energy on often unproductive busyness that is not resulting in the lost being saved. It is time to be focused on “go into all your world and make disciples.” And, in everyone’s world there are younger believers needing discipling and mentoring. It is time to invest your time wisely in those younger than you who are in need of your life wisdom.

It is always exciting to be with young people who are passionate for Jesus and the cause of the Kingdom. There is such life when people are on fire for Jesus and we will share in that life and enthusiasm as we come along side and offer the younger generation an understanding heart and a helping hand.
Who are you investing in?

A Radical Life-Change

Paul the apostle when ministering in the City of Athens (Acts 17) had an amazing message. The centre point of his message was “the unknown is now known, and He is calling for a radical life-change” (Acts 17:30 The Message Version).

Paul is saying a number of things here. First, the things that were hidden for many centuries have now been revealed through the life and ministry of Jesus. As a result God now expects people to respond to the message of salvation and, when they do, to have a radical change in the way they see and live life.

The Christian faith is not simply a set of believes and a list of doctrines. it is an encounter with the living God and this experience will bring with it a new way to see life, a new perspective, and a new set of values and priorities. Life cannot and will not be the same when we encounter the love and forgiveness of the Living God as found only through the death and resurrection of Jesus.

When we encounter the love of God, His total and absolute forgiveness and His acceptance we literally become “new creatures in Christ” (2 Corinthians 5:17). We are transformed and changed from the inside out. First we experience a change in our heart, our attitude, our thoughts … and then this change begins to adjust and alter the way we see and live life. You simply cannot have a valid encounter with God and remain the same.

Not only is being born again and becoming a disciple of Jesus a life-changing experience. It is meant to be “radical.” The changes we undergo are not minor nor are they simply cosmetic. They begin deep in our soul and result in a change in the way we see ourselves. Our self-image, our self-worth, the way we value who we are all change and this is seriously radical. To discover who God created us to be and begin the live as this “new” person is simply radical.

This radical life-change means removing, with God’s help, all the religious trapping that have been imposed upon us. It means finding healing for the wounds and hurts of the past. It involves digging out from under the expectations and demands of life that are a result of family, friends, and the way we grew up.

Digging out from under everything that has buried the real you is hard work but rewarding. Discovering the real you is explosive. Expressing who you are becoming, this “new creature in Christ,” is an adventure and seriously radical. This is why Paul said, “the unknown is now known, and He is calling for a radical life-change” (Acts 17:30 The Message Version).

The Growth Of the Early Church – Part Two

We are looking at how the early Church grew. Last time we looked at public proclamation and private conversations. There were two other normal-to-life ways of seeing people hear the Gospel of the Kingdom and thus enter into the Kingdom as born again believers…. Power encounters and the proliferation of new house churches. Let’s look at these two today.

Power encounters: A common feature accompanying both public proclamation and private evangelist conversation was supernatural healing and exorcism, and the moving of revelatory gifts such as a word of wisdom and word of knowledge. These are sometimes referred to today as “power encounters”.

There are several stirring New Testament reports of large groups responding positively to the message brought by Christians because of the miracles that were done by God through their hands. In a typical episode, so much healing and demonic deliverance was wrought through the apostles’ hands in Jerusalem that large crowds were even gathering from neighbouring cities. Some were laying their sick on the ground in the street hoping that Peter’s shadow would pass over them and heal them. Consequently, there was a steady stream of people continually added to the Church.

Planting and multiplying new house churches: Lastly, although never stated explicitly, whenever a house church grew to exceed the physical limitations of the host home, it is safe to conclude that Christians would simply multiply the group into two or send a few people out to start a new home church. This is the most probable scenario because the first-century church never owned any property or constructed any buildings. This can be inferred by the fact that a given town or city (Jerusalem, Ephesus, and Rome) contained numerous homes that hosted Christian meetings.

So, the early Church grew by four basic, regular life means… Public proclamation, Private conversations, Power encounters, and Proliferation of new churches. The same should be true today if we will simply venture forth in faith and “go into all the world” telling others about Jesus and making disciples.

Next time – the first-century Church as a movement

The Growth Of the Early Church – Part One

As I look at the early Church – the Church as we see it in the various books of the New Testament – I see that people came to know Christ through a variety of methods used by the first Christians. The four primary approaches were public proclamation, private conversations, power encounters, and proliferation of new house churches. These were not expensive and highly organized programs or projects dependent on mere human genius, but rather natural, spontaneous, passionate, prayer empowered, and Spirit-led expressions of faith. Thus, the general principle of first-century outreach can best be described as wherever, whenever, whoever, and however.

Let’s look at these briefly…

Public Proclamation: A very common apostolic practice was that of verbal proclamation of the message of Christ in a public setting. The strategy used by the apostles was to find an area in a town or city that acted as a natural gathering place for its citizens, whether it was a riverbank, a synagogue, the Jerusalem Temple courts, a lecture hall, or a marketplace. They would then verbally present the good news of Christ.

Typically, they would tailor their message to suit their hearers, thereby making it seem less foreign. Paul, for example, appealed to the well-educated Greek listeners by weaving into his talk references to Greek religion and poetry as a connection point. Similarly, when talking with a Jewish audience, apostles and evangelists would relate how Christ was the fulfillment of many Old Testament prophecies and was, in fact, the long-awaits Jewish Messiah.

In both situations, anyone who responded positively to the message of Christ would either be encouraged to join an existing house church or, if this was a new work in the area, would be encouraged to open up their own home as the first spiritual beachhead in that town. This approach in looking for a “man of peace” in a new area being evangelized was modelled by Jesus and imitated by both Peter and Paul.

Private Conversations: Individual believers also had private conversations with and prayed for people in need on an individual basis. These were not programmed or planned endeavours, but rather spontaneous interactions during the daily ebb-and-flow of life, sometimes referred to as ‘lifestyle evangelism’. Whether they were walking by the roadside (Philip and the Ethiopian eunuch), languishing in jail (Paul and the Philippian jailer), visiting someone’s home (Peter and Cornelius; Ananias and Saul), or when a non-believer visited a home meeting, ancient Christians were always awake to the opportunities of sharing Christ with others in a natural unforced conversational way.

More tomorrow…

New Insight – Part Three

Many believers – true disciples of Jesus – are living life in a way that requires little faith and even less effort. This is not what Jesus planned for those of us who are born again Christians. Passive has never been a character trait of those who follow Him. Passion is. Jesus wants this passion (extreme love for Him) to be aggressive and actively engaged in winning the lost. And, you cannot do this if you want to be safe, secure, and comfortable.

Many believers – true disciples of Jesus – spend all of their time ministering to other believers. or, worse than that, being ministered to by other believers. Instead, they should allow the Great Shepherd, Jesus Himself, to help and deliver them from their self-centred, egotistical issues, hurts, and pains so that they can focus on the lost, the least, and the last. Believers need to push past their “issues” and move forward with the call of God on their lives to “seek and save the lost” as they “go into all the world and make disciples.” As they do what Jesus has commanded us to do they will find healing and wholeness. It is always more blessed to give than receive – but, in giving and focusing on others you will receive.

Many believers – true disciples of Jesus – are not actively engaged in expanding the Kingdom and helping Jesus build His Church. They are either doing little to nothing at all for the Kingdom or they are actively engaged in building their own reputation and ministry. Jesus states that His Church will storm the gates of hell and rescue the lost. In fact, He has told us that “the gates of Hell will not prevail against the Church.” Remembering that a “gate” is not an offensive weapon – it is defensive. So, Hell is protecting itself from the onslaught of true believers who are winning the lost – and the gate it has built will not prevail. Attack the gate and it will open. Doesn’t sound passive to me – sounds seriously aggressive and like lots of fun.

Many believers – true disciples of Jesus – have not taken seriously the words of Jesus. He said, “Since the days of John the Baptist until now, the Kingdom of God has suffered violence; and the violent take it by force.” We take the Kingdom into the world and help in its expansion (as it pushes ‘hell’ back) if we are “violent.” This means we are called to be active, engaged, involved, aggressively telling others about Jesus and thus walking in His presence, His power, and His peace that passes all human reason and understanding.

Many believers – true disciples of Jesus – are being “light in the light.” It is much more fun to be light (Matthew 5:14) in the darkness. It is time to take seriously the call of God on each believer’s life … Jesus said, “Follow Me and I will Mae you fishers of men” (Matthew 4:19). If we are not fishing then we are not following. We are simply deceiving ourselves and fooling no one.

Church Life Today

I enjoy reading the Book of Acts. It is the story of the birth of the early Church and its growth as it spread into the majority of the Roman Empire over the first several decades. And, each and every time I read through this exciting account I see more about the life of the Church and Church life in the beginning. And, I gain fresh understand and admiration for the early Church recognizing that we today have much to learn from them if we want to become a viable option for the younger generation today.

The first Christians allowed their beliefs to determine their behaviour. Their function determined their form. And, their mandate determined their method. Let me unpack that a bit….

The early believers lived what they believed. In fact, they made life choices on the basis of their beliefs. Every day, according to Acts 2:42, they met daily and during these times learned the basic doctrines of the Christian faith – the “apostles doctrine”. Then, they lived out their beliefs in every day life. For this reason people joined with them in their faith and became members of their community of faith. This was a daily occurrence. The saints in Jerusalem sold their real estate holdings and gave the money to the Church so that the poor could have their needs met. They were sharing their faith daily because they actually believed that people went to hell if they did not have a personal relationship with the Living God through Jesus Christ (Romans 6:23b and John 17:3). They lived what they believed.

In the early Church their function determined their form. In the early Church the people had their needs met by other members of the Body of Christ. There was no official ruling class of priests or pastors. Everyone had a ministry. The five-fold ministers (Ephesians 4:11-12) had the task of “equipping the saints for the work of the ministry.” There are 59 “one another” verses in the New Testament and, as Paul explains in 1 Corinthians 12, the various members of the Body ministered to the other members of the body. The clergy-laity (expert – amateur) divide did not yet exist. And, the five-fold ministry team would help to “equip the saints” for this ministry.

So, the early Church was both inwardly focused helping their own members without neglecting the outward focus of telling others about the Lord and seeing the lost saved.  In fact, their form and function enabled them to influence and impact the unsaved.

They lived in “community” and were involved in each other’s lives on a daily basis. They were connected, supportive, and involved. Transparent, vulnerable, and accountable. They were literally the “body” of Christ in their world. Because of this form they were known to unbelievers as “those who loved one another.”

Thirdly, their mandate determined their methods. The early Church understood their mandate. It was “to go into all the world and make disciples” (Matthew 28:19). It was to continue and complete the task that Jesus came to do … “seek and save the lost” (Luke 19:10). The mandate was a large determining factor in the way they lived (see above) as well as in their methods of outreach.

They understood their culture; they were connected to the real world in which they lived; they were in the world but not of it … they were not so different from the world as to be strange and “separate.” They did not speak “Christianese” but related to others in the working language of the day. They were naturally supernatural and not strange, spooky, super-spiritual, and scary like a lot of believers today. They simply lived life with a new focus or perspective, new values, and an attitude that allowed them to fulfil their mandate.

The first Christians allowed their beliefs to determine their behaviour. Their function determined their form. And, their mandate determined their method. We would do well to study to Book of Acts and see exactly what they did and how they did it … and then think deeply about what you (we) do and how you (we) do it. Maybe as a result we will change and become more relevant than we are, touching our communities with the love of God as found only in Jesus.

Beliefs determine behaviour.                                                                              Function determines form.                                                                               Mandate determines methods.

Very pragmatic but it worked… as the early Church impacted, influenced, and changed the Roman Empire.

New Insights – Part Two

In Paul’s letter named Colossians we read, “So then, just as you received Christ Jesus as Lord, continue to live your lives in Him” (2:6). If you read that as a command to live for God, you are not reading it right. It doesn’t say live FOR Him. It says live IN Him. Big difference.

It is an invitation. God isn’t saying, “If you claim to know Jesus, you had better live LIKE Him.” He is saying, “If you know Jesus, you get to live WITH Him. It’s a privilege and a relationship. And, careful, the verse ends with the phrase “in Him.” It doesn’t say IN IT; it says IN HIM. The Christian life is not an it. It is a Him. It’s not a principle to base your life on – it is a relationship with Jesus. It is not a program – it is a person. It’s Jesus.

So, when things don’t appear to be working out … then maybe you have stopped living life “in Him.” You are walking in your own wisdom. You are relying on your own strength. You are moving forward with human understanding. You are following a program (weight loss, financial budget, how to get ahead and be a success) and not a person – THE Person, Jesus. It is about focus.

The author of the book of Hebrews (New Testament – Bible) states, “Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God (Hebrews 12:1-2).

Remember Jesus. Focus on Jesus. Rely on His truth and His grace (John 1:14). How will we finish the race as believers? By looking to Jesus and living life in Him. He is the pioneer and initiator of our faith, and He is the perfecter and finisher.

This sound too simplistic? A little abstract? But really, it is as simple as focus. If your thoughts are on how far you have to go, your steps will feel heavy and uncertain. But if your focus in on how far God has already brought you, the energy and spiritual strength to continue and endure will be yours.

“Finish what you started,” the world says. But God says the opposite: “Just continue what I have already finished, Enjoy what I have already won.”

Jesus died for you, and He rose for you, and He declared that you are forgiven and free. Keep walking. Do another lap. He’s teaching you. You are growing. You are getting closer to Him. You are not perfect yet, but you’re in a process and on a journey with Jesus, and that is what matters most. Live life IN Him.