4 Posts from July 2009

Marks of a Mentor: Trust

We pastors think of ourselves as those who mentor others. For a moment, however, put yourself in the shoes of someone being mentored. If you had a positive mentor somewhere in your past, think back to what that relationship meant to you then.

When a mentor believes in you, trust comes along with it. He trusts you when he is not around. I’ve always appreciated how Paul applied that trust to Priscilla and Aquila:

Paul, having remained many days longer, took leave of the brethren and put out to sea for Syria, and with him were Priscilla and Aquila. In Cenchrea he had his hair cut, for he was keeping a vow. They came to Ephesus, and he left them there.

Acts 18:18–19

Paul didn’t stay; he “left them there.” A mentor who believes in you trusts you when he’s not around. Do you know the benefit of that? Those being mentored become more responsible. They have to!

The mentors we admire are like the bosses we love to work for: they are not controlling people. They trust you when they’re not around. They give you an assignment and they rely on you to follow through. They’re not peeking in your window. They don’t squint through your keyhole. They’re not checking up on you through a friend or putting spies on your tail. They trust you.

You find that even when they’re not there—because they’ve trusted you—you really want to step up. It makes you feel responsible. The flip side of being trusted is proving yourself to be trustworthy.

Paul left Aquila and Priscilla in Ephesus, and the result was wonderful. Because they were trustworthy, they helped to shape the local church during its formative season. It’s a wonderful feeling to know that you’re being trusted.

It’s a wonderful feeling.

Now reverse the roles again. Do you trust those you mentor? If so, do they know you believe in them?

Have you told them so? Go there.


Marks of a Mentor: Taking the Long View

Ours is a world that demands immediate gratification. From instant downloads to instant mashed potatoes, we want what we want when we want it . . . and that’s usually NOW!

A mentor isn’t like that. He takes the long view toward those he mentors.

What does that look like in everyday terms? A mentor hangs in there. He has staying power.  He isn’t restless.  He doesn’t run.  He isn’t a fair-weathered friend.  He doesn’t give up when there’s criticism. That takes immense maturity in relationships with others. Look how Paul expressed it:

We urge you, brethren, admonish the unruly, encourage the fainthearted, help the weak, be patient with everyone.
1 Thessalonians 5:14, emphasis added

Taking the long view applies, regardless of the situation. That means a faculty member doesn’t step down because there’s difficulty in the school. A husband or wife doesn’t walk out because it gets rough. An elder doesn’t get his shorts in a wad because his idea isn’t accepted. Does that mean that we never walk away? Not at all. But most of the time we head for the exit far too quickly.

As a pastor, you stick it out. You take the long view. Paul himself modeled this mark of a mentor. After he was viciously opposed in Ephesus, his response may seem surprising:

He settled there a year and six months, teaching the word of God among them.  
Acts 18:11

You’re probably facing a tough time right now. If you are, believe me, I understand. The ministry can be brutal to its shepherds. It has gotten hard for me in every place I’ve served the Lord . . . and the reason I didn’t run? The memory of my mentors.  They didn’t run either. I never have forgotten that. When a mentor hangs tough, what’s the benefit that comes to those being mentored?  They cultivate perseverance. They too learn to take the long view.

Before you consider resigning, let me remind you of Paul’s exhortation to Pastor Timothy. Read each word carefully:

Preach the word; be ready in season and out of season; reprove, rebuke, exhort, with great patience and instruction.
2 Timothy 4:2

As preachers, we tend to gravitate toward the words, “reprove, rebuke, exhort.” But let me urge to you reflect on that last phrase: “with great patience and instruction.” That tells us how. There’s no instant gratification in that phrase.

Take the long view towards those you mentor.


Marks of a Mentor: Caring Up Close and Personal

For the next several posts, I want to share with you what I call “the marks of a mentor.” These are the characteristics I have discovered in individuals who leave a positive, lasting impression on the lives of others.

I’ve already introduced you to two of my mentors in my two previous posts. These men, among a number of others, have permanently marked my life by the presence of their lives. Not just their words. Their lives.

The first mark of a mentor? They are caring. They get up-close and personal in the lives of those they influence and guide.

The apostle Paul was like that.

We tend to think of Paul as a writer of doctrines and great letters. We think of Paul as a preacher. Even a tent-maker. But all of these served a higher purpose . . . especially toward his fellow-believers. Paul was a mentor.

Paul lived in Corinth with Aquila and his wife Priscilla for a year and a half (see Acts 18:1–11). Can you imagine Paul living in your house? What a privilege!

Now, don’t misunderstand. A mentor has involvements that go beyond time with those individuals he or she is mentoring. Paul had more to do than sit around and talk about spiritual things with Aquila and Priscilla. He worked as a tent-maker and also spent time in Corinth evangelizing Jews and Greeks. When Silas and Timothy came to town, Paul carved out time to devote to those long-time friends. But what stands out to me is when Paul found this married couple, he came to them, and he moved in with them. He came up close and personal. He cared.

Let me amplify that truth for you as a pastor. A mentor doesn’t keep his distance. He doesn’t operate in an aloof or secretive manner. The door to his study is rarely closed. He opens his life . . . he doesn’t run and hide. He pays attention to little things in the lives of others. He takes a personal interest in their areas of concern and need . . . for encouragement and improvement. He passes along helpful and practical techniques because he stays up close and personal.

A caring mentor isn’t afraid to mention his own failures or pass along lessons he’s learned the hard way. Every mentor I’ve had has always told me stories of failures, faults, flaws, struggles  . . . the things they’ve learned the hard way. We learn to do that from our mentors who come up close and personal.

Only when you open up your own life do you earn the trust to be heard. You can’t do that from a distance. You’ll never do that on a CD or on a tape. You can’t do that over the phone or in a pulpit. You have to do it face-to-face, up close and personal.

Why? Because you care.


The Value of a Mentor, Part 2

Webster defines a mentor as, “A trusted counselor or guide; a tutor, a coach.”

This describes a mentor I had during a vulnerable time in my life as a young man. I was serving in the Marine Corps, stationed on the island of Okinawa . . . separated from my newlywed wife for about seventeen long months.

To my surprise, Bob Newkirk, The Navigators representative, took an interest in me as a person. We regularly played handball and racquetball together. I stayed in his home on occasion. I spent holidays there when I was off duty on liberty. Bob and I traveled together. At gospel meetings, I would lead singing, and Bob would preach. We ministered as a team. I went through an advanced Scripture-memory program, thanks to Bob.

He loved me. He confronted me. He pointed out blind spots. He built into my life.

That is mentoring.

I’ve discovered when individuals are gifted and young, the most common tendency is to fall into arrogance, and sometimes, raw conceit.  Almost without exception when I detect conceit in an individual, I say to myself, They haven’t been mentored. I have never met a self-important individual who has been mentored. Truth be told, arrogance doesn’t survive mentoring. A mentor will point out blind-spots and will reprove you appropriately when you need to be confronted about your pride. 

As a result of being mentored, you learn the value of being vulnerable, open, unguarded, honest, and ideally, a person of authenticity. 

I still have mentors in my life. I welcome them. Why? Because I need them.

So do you.