Wednesday, July 31, 2013

The Value Of Intergenerational Mentoring

Do You Value Mentoring?
Are You Making Critical Ministry Mistakes Where Having An Intergenerational Mentor May Have Helped?

I preached my first sermon at the young age of 14 under the encouragement of one of the Elders of our church at the time, Davey Bell. He met with me, told me how to prepare, and then scheduled us to go to a small country church about 35 miles away. He said "preach as long as you want and I’ll wrap it up when you are finished". Dave to his credit got up and made my sermon the best he and that congregation had ever heard.
That nurturing had me preaching at least once a month somewhere and by the time I was 20 had been involved in planting my first church. All through that time Davey Bell and some other great Christian Leaders including my dad had been a source of encouragement to me and imparted trans-generational wisdom.
That encouragement had a lot to do with what God has put as a passion of my heart, the development of the next generation of pastors who can literally “change their world for Christ”

There are different kinds of mentoring but the one I see the most is peer to peer. where people like us mentor us. While there is value in that, I have observed that in the effort to have a newer, younger, cadre of leaders for the future the wisdom and insights of older mature leaders is often discounted or discarded. Few young leaders have older mature mentors.

My definition of “young”, for this post, is a young pastor somewhere between the ages of 20-40. It in many ways focuses on persons who are in their first lead pastorate. 

Working Young Leaders In India
It should be noted of course, this categorization varies with each person’s degree of maturity or immaturity. There may even be many leaders aged 50 or older who exhibit some of these same qualities!

This is not meant to categorize every young leader; rather it is meant to illustrate some of the most common mistakes. Not every young leader makes each of these mistakes. Neither is it meant to imply that all young leaders spurn the wisdom of the mature leaders.

Biblically we see it in the pattern of the faith being passed from generation to generation. From the mentoring of Moses came Joshua, from the ministry of Paul came a Timothy. Illustrations of the principle is seen in scripture and in real life. Tommy Lasorda as the aged manager of the Dodgers was revered for the wisdom he had garnered about baseball, Warren Buffet is revered by young finance students for his insights.

I believe it is an issue of pride as leaders when we begin to believe that our gifts and charisma are all that are necessary for effectiveness in the Kingdom. We have bought into the narcissism of the age

Here are some of the most common mistakes I have seen.

Dr. George Mambeleo with some younger leaders
he has been mentoring in evangelism. their commissioning
included the stories of many souls already won
1. Not receiving counsel from older, more experienced leaders
First Kings 12 tells the sad story of when King Rehoboam, son of King Solomon, refused to listen to the counsel of the wise old men who served with his father and instead listened to the advice of his young friends regarding an ultimatum from the people to lighten the tax load on the nation. His refusal to listen to the advice of the older men resulted in the division of the tribes of Israel and Judah!
Often, young people become arrogant and cocky thinking they know better than the previous generation. Thus, they only hang out with their peers instead of having close relationships with those who have already paid the price with many years in the pastorate.

2. Being too dogmatic in doctrine and worldview
I’ve heard it said that none of us should write books until we’re at least 50 years old. This is because when we are younger we think we know it all and we tend to be very dogmatic in our belief systems. We are not very open to dissonance and varying views, but tend to view everything (out of fear and insecurity?) through black-and-white lenses. Truly, the older I get the less I know. My list of the things I am absolutely sure about has shortened.
Many young leaders make a big issue of certain doctrinal controversies that are not considered essentials of the faith. Majoring on the minors. (Examples of essentials of the faith include the divinity of Christ, salvation by faith, repentance, and the judgment to come for the lost.)

3. Having zeal without knowledge and operating in presumption
Romans 10:2 teaches us that people can operate in a passion for God without knowledge. Psalm 19:13 tells us to pray to be delivered from presumptuous sins.
Many young ministers exhibit great passion and compelling vision that is not very well thought out. The result: their work soon flatlines and fizzles out. Vision needs fertile soil and the hard work is never articulating the vision it is preparing peoples hearts to receive it, own it ,and them partner with the leader to do it.
We have to know the voice of the Lord that can only be fully discerned, in most cases, in the context of the church with other trusted leaders who will give the senior leader feedback. Unfortunately, many go from one vision to the next every six months and wear out their churches and discourage their people from trusting their judgment again.

4. Being driven by ambition and a need to succeed more than serving for the glory of God
Going to a Pastor’s conferences over the years it’s been fascinating to hear pastors talk about their churches. It’s either the attendance if the attendance is larger that the membership or the membership if its larger than the attendance. It’s the desire we have to appear to be a success whether we really are or not
Dr. Billy Kim investing in a new generation
It has been said that during the first half of our lives we are driven to succeed while during the second half we are driven to be significant by pouring into others and leaving a legacy.
Truly, ministers between their twenties and mid-forties have the temptation of accomplishing something great and making a mark in the world! This is because our culture teaches that our self-worth is derived from our “doing” and not out of our “being.” Sometimes it takes years to realize that all of our accomplishments are not really as satisfying as we thought they would be, and that what really matters in the end is what we do for the glory of God that empowers the people of God.

5. Using people as objects to get to the next level
Often, because of their great need to prove themselves and succeed on a grand scale, young leaders view every person in their churches as mere objects to get them or their churches to the next level. We need to be aware that our task is to develop people rather than use people. Building up others is one of the essential keys to greatness. Some pastors truly do not love their people because their view is that people are tools to be used not people to be developed. This displeases the Lord, because every person has value as an image-bearer of God, and because He shed His blood for each and every person in our midst, whether we deem them important to our vision or not! We need to love, honor and respect each and every person whether or not they will ever be used to help serve us in fulfilling the vision the Lord has given us.

6. Rarely living in the present
Do you believe that long term success has a lot to do with doing what God wants done in this moment? Leaders who are driven to succeed are always looking for the next big thing on their agendas. They very rarely enter into the world of those they are speaking to; during the moment they are with one person they are already thinking about the next person they have to meet or the next thing they have to do on their agendas! The work of the moment seems boring or insignificant. This causes great stress and robs the leader of the joy of God’s presence in the routines of each moment of their lives.

7. Preaching what has not yet been personally experienced or encountered with God
Many young pastors and leaders preach what they have not yet practiced in their lives. This makes them open to hypocrisy and compartmentalization.
There are certain subjects in which they will not be able to minister with authority for years to come. This is because of the intense dealings of God that accompany certain messages and/or lifestyles. 
The problem can be compounded with the stresses of the modern pastorate and the increased complexity that comes from many times being the CEO, or COO as well as the pastor. In that stress using the readily available sermons prepared by others may get the accolades of “Great sermon pastor” without us actually experiencing God’s work in us through the hard work and hours of preparation. There are actually books now teaching people how to preach someone else’s sermons. Are we in danger as Dallas Willard points out of being "a mile wide and an inch deep".
Subjects such as successfully raising children to adulthood, emotional health, and marriage should be approached with fear and trembling—not with a calm assurance that comes with dogmatism. In some cases it would be better if a young pastor brought in older ministers to teach on certain subjects that take a lifetime to learn well instead of trying to teach these subjects superficially.
Good preaching can be achieved through the head, great preaching is a matter of heart.
Biblically there are many illustrations of how long God worked with leaders before giving them the mantle of leadership. It is His work in us that gives us the power to lead. When we allow this to happen we move from having positional authority to having spiritual authority.

8. Neglecting emotional health and maturity
Many young leaders spend their formative years focusing only on accomplishments, mission and activities while neglecting their interior lives. Unfortunately, if we do not take time for the proper reflection needed to process pain, disappointment, and failure—and offer up our brokenness to God—then we will experience severe leakage in the future that will negatively affect our families and key relationships, even resulting in moral and spiritual failure!
I have observed that most failures are a result of character not competence. Keeping one’s relationship with God primary and having family and church priorities in order is essential to make the impact that results in a great legacy.

9. Gifting that exceeds character development
Most of society—including the Body of Christ—are enamored with the gifts, talents and abilities of others (for example: American Idol, Dancing with the Stars, etc.)
The Older Rabbi's mentoring young men at
the Western Wall in Jerusalem
Young leaders, more than most, tend to overemphasize the development of their gifts and abilities that sometimes places them in high-pressure responsibility situations that exceed their character capacity. The result is spiritual and emotional meltdowns, and even a dependence on unhealthy things to medicate themselves and alleviate their pressure (for example: excessive entertainment, substance abuse, pornography, overeating, illicit relationships, inordinate amounts of time on social networking websites like Facebook, etc.).
One rule of thumb is to build our lives upon the foundation of character development (2 Peter 1:5-9) and not upon the faulty foundation of gifts and abilities.

10. Driving the church instead of leading the flock
In my 30+ years of ministry I have witnessed many young pastors drive their congregations to the point, for example, of burning out young married couples who are trying to raise their new families to achieve their objectives Their zeal to succeed in their mission has blinded them to the needs of their congregations!
As a general rule, I don’t believe we should expect folks to be out to church more than two nights per week. Those driving their people to attend meetings four to seven days per week will not be able to keep stable people who are attempting to nurture their careers and families. Most importantly they never get the time to spend with the 8-15 people that do not know the Lord that He has strategically and significantly placed in their lives.
A busy schedule will only fit with a ministry of those coming out of substance abuse who also need to avoid boredom so they don’t fall back into their past bondages. In that case meeting 4 or 5 times a week are essential but this is because they are not yet normal not because they are.

11. Sacrificing children and family for the work of the ministry
In their drive to succeed, many young pastors and leaders put so much on their schedules they neglect precious time with their spouses and children. In our attempt to win the world often we lose our very own children and marriages. This is why many children of pastors never want to be involved in full-time ministry and very rarely attend church or serve God once they reach the age of 18.
I tell young pastors to work their schedules and calendars around spending good quality time with their families. Once we have strong families then God can build into us a multi-generational family blessing that will be a model for our churches, which is a family of families. Most importantly it will build a church that is not full of a single generation and in most cases older but a church that spans the generations and will be able outlast us.
The most important lesson in this area came to me when I was in my office one day. The church was growing, people were being saved and the demands of ministry were more than I had ever imagined. I had just had the birth of our 2nd child and remember a conversation I had with God. I told the Lord that the price of ministry would not be worth it if my own children didn’t go to heaven with me. It was the calm assurance that the Lord gave that the demands of ministry are never designed by the Lord to put our families on path to eternal separation from God and resentment of their parents.

12. Not honoring spiritual fathers and mothers
Many young pastor leaders sever ties with their spiritual fathers and mothers when they enter into the ministry because they want to facilitate a different vision or philosophy of ministry. It’s fine to have a different vision but we should obey the fifth commandment (Exodus 20:12) and always honor those the Lord has used to nurture us spiritually and bring us to faith, even if we are no longer under their spiritual leadership. How we treat our spiritual fathers and mothers will be the way our spiritual sons and daughters treat us when they are older because whatsoever we sow we also shall reap!

Reflective Questions

1.   Do I have at least one spiritual mentor who is significantly older than me that I meet with regularly?
2.   Do I listen to the advise of older godly leaders? When was the last time I actually applied something I learned from an older leader.
3.   If an outsider were to look at your calendar and evaluate it what would be their take on your priorities/ What would your children say?  How about your spouse?
4.   Am I really developing people or using people? How would my followers evaluate me as a leader?
5.   Do I have a clear vision? Do I live in the moment? Do I know how to balance those 2 demands
6.   How am I more like Christ today than I was 6 months ago? The answer to that question will tell you if you are growing or stagnating.
7.   Am I over-dependent on others for the content of my sermons? Do I spend quality time in the Word to allow God to speak to me?
8.   Is their an older mature leader who has contributed greatly to who I am as a leader today and I need to say thank-you?

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