Passing the Baton

Every leader needs mentors and models – typically other leaders just ahead of where we are in our growth and our journey. Every leader also needs to be mentoring and modeling those just behind us. This is the only way for discipleship to take on the multi-generational nature described by Paul in 2 Timothy 2:2, “You have heard me teach things that have been confirmed by many reliable witnesses. Now teach these truths to other trustworthy people who will be able to pass them on to others.” (NLT)

In order to both mentor and be mentored effectively, it’s important to see how the relationship between Paul and Timothy developed over time. It unfolded in three phases.

Phase One: Parenthood – In Paul’s first letter to Timothy, he addresses him as “my true son in the faith.” (1 Timothy 1:2) We first meet Timothy in Acts 16 when Paul is heading out on his second missionary journey. He stops in Lystra to pick up the young disciple who accompanies him, assists him, and serves as a sort of apprentice under him. Timothy’s biological father was Greek, but no evidence is ever given that he was a Christian. So Paul filled the shoes of a spiritual father to Timothy.

Phase Two: Pacesetting – The second phase of our ministry mentoring is pacesetting – being the example of what mature ministry looks like. In Paul’s second letter to Timothy, he points out that, “you know what I teach, and how I live, and what my purpose in life is. You know my faith, my patience, my love, and my endurance…” (2 Timothy 3:10-11 NLT) Paul sets the pace with his life and challenges Timothy to learn by keeping up and emulating his lifestyle.

No generation is exempt from the call to fulfill the Great Commission or to serve God’s purposes as fully as possible. The next generation is always watching, so we get to set the pace.

Phase Three: Partnering – In the book of Romans, there is a somewhat obscure reference that Paul makes to Timothy in Romans 16:21, “Timothy, my fellow worker, sends you his greetings.” Timothy has gone from being a son, to a student, and now to being a colleague and a co-laborer. We spend plenty of time desiring and praying for more laborers, but perhaps not enough time investing in those with the potential to become our partners in the mission.

We serve today because of the repetition of this three-phase process for centuries. It didn’t stop with Timothy. The baton has been passed to you who are reading this, and it is our responsibility to be parents, pacesetters, and partners with the next generation until Jesus comes!

[print_link] [email_link] From Rick Warren

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The Jethro Principle

This is a VERY practical story, EARLY in the community life of the recently freed Israelite nation. Do you recall the occasion in Exodus 18 when Moses’ father-in-law, Jethro, paid him a visit and found Moses hard at work? He certainly couldn’t accuse his son-in-law of laziness. He was busy, busy, busy! (Does that sound familiar in your life?) Moses was attempting to “be there” for everybody. He was on call for any and all occasions.

But, since Moses was working from morning until evening (Exodus 18:13) Jethro warned him that what he was doing was NOT good (Exodus 18:14, 17). In time, he was only going to wear himself out. Perhaps he was speaking from personal experience, but in any case, Jethro realized that as leaders grow weary, they risk burnout. Inevitably, we lose the joy of service we once knew.

Jethro’s advice to Moses represents what is known as the Jethro Principle for leaders. That is, no leader is called or gifted to do everything. It’s the wise leader who understands their limits.

The wise leader will ask the question, “What are the two or three things I do that are most valuable to the Kingdom and my church?” Then delegate the rest. The result is we will work out of our strengths while delegating our weaknesses to those whose strength is in that area. I’m not saying I have all this figured out, but it is a worthy goal of all leaders to listen to the wisdom of Jethro.

If you are NOT the leader, how are you stepping up to take the burden off of your church staff or other leadership? (Exodus 18:24-26)

Just because you’re busy doesn’t mean you’re productive or effective. I can look at my busy calendar and at the end of the day still wonder what I did for the kingdom. I want to do things that will yield an eternal investment, not just stay busy. The real return on our life’s investment is realized when we work through our God-given strengths. May each of us find our strengths and allow God to work through us.

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Why We Need Accountability

This is part of my message on God’s Will and the Church. I brought up accountability and ran out of time and said I’d post it here! The question is “Why do we need accountability in the body of Christ?”

  1. Because Walking with God in the Past is no Guarantee of Success in the Future (1 Corinthians 10:1-5). For I do not want you to be unaware, brethren, that our fathers were all under the cloud and all passed through the sea; 2 and all were baptized into Moses in the cloud and in the sea; 3 and all ate the same spiritual food; 4 and all drank the same spiritual drink, for they were drinking from a spiritual rock which followed them; and the rock was Christ. 5 Nevertheless, with most of them God was not well-pleased; for they were laid low in the wilderness.
  2. Because we Underestimate the Evil Desires and Passions that are in our Flesh (1 Corinthians 10:6-11). Now these things happened as examples for us, so that we would not crave evil things as they also craved. 7 Do not be idolaters, as some of them were; as it is written, “The people sat down to eat and drink, and stood up to play.” 8 Nor let us act immorally, as some of them did, and twenty-three thousand fell in one day. 9 Nor let us try the Lord, as some of them did, and were destroyed by the serpents. 10 Nor grumble, as some of them did, and were destroyed by the destroyer. 11 Now these things happened to them as an example, and they were written for our instruction, upon whom the ends of the ages have come.
  3. Because we Overestimate our Capacity to Handle Temptation (1 Corinthians 10:12). 12 Therefore let him who thinks he stands take heed that he does not fall.
  4. Because we can Easily Become Self-deceived:
    1. James 1:22, But prove yourselves doers of the word, and not merely hearers who delude themselves.
    2. Jeremiah 17:9, The heart is more deceitful than all else and is desperately sick; Who can understand it?
    3. Proverbs 20:6, Most men will proclaim each his own goodness, but who can find a faithful man? NKJV, a man basically tells himself, “I’m doing pretty good!”
  5. Because of our Tendency to a Double Standard (Luke 12:1; Romans 2:17-24), In the meantime, when an innumerable multitude of people had gathered together, so that they trampled one another, He began to say to His disciples first of all, “Beware of the leaven of the Pharisees, which is hypocrisy.”
  6. Because of our Need to be Stretched: Philippians 3:13, Brethren, I do not regard myself as having laid hold of it yet; but one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and reaching forward to what lies ahead…
  7. Because God Never Intended for us to go it Alone: Ecclesiastes 4:9-12, Two are better than one because they have a good return for their labor. 1OFor if either of them falls, the one will lift up his companion. But woe to the one who falls when there is not another to lift him up. 11 Furthermore, if two lie down together they keep warm, but how can one be warm alone? 12And if one can overpower him who is alone, two can resist him. A cord of three strands is not quickly torn apart.

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College Ministry Questions

I’ve been reading up on ministry to college students (College Ministry from Scratch: Equipping Kids for Life after Youth Group, by Chuck Bomar) and want to share a little about what I have learned:

It is important to get to know the college-aged people in our ministry, spending time with them and getting to know them is important.

  1. What Commitments Do You Want to Shape Your Life? This question is good to ask for a number of reasons.
    1. First, it helps college-age people think through commitment. Some never commit, some over commit, while others commit without realizing the implications of that commitment. So asking this question gets the idea of commitment to the front of their minds and hopefully forces them to move from one stage to the next.
    2. Second, this question gets down to what they desire. College-age people are trying to figure out what they want. Many people are asking them what they’re going to do with their lives, but they don’t move toward that until they figure out what they want. In other words, this question will help them with a thought process they’re already in. It’s helping them figure out what they want to be committed to. Notice that I didn’t say what they are committed to. Once they figure out what they want to be committed to, we can help them differentiate those things with what they are committed to already. Most likely they’re currently doing things that undermine the very things they want in life. And it’s at this point of the conversation that discipleship really begins. Our desire is to get them to the point where they want their commitment to God to shape their lives. What we commit to today will shape our lives tomorrow. So the key is getting them to a point where they’re aligning their commitments with what they desire. It might take a dozen meetings to discuss this question fully, but it’s worth the time.
  2. How Do You Know You’re a Christian? This is a bit of a loaded question. We often ask questions like, “How did you become a Christian?” or even “When or how did you get saved?” but it’s different to ask a question worded this way.
    1. This is a great question to get people thinking theologically, and it can launch you into a very long, yet healthy and fun conversation. The goal of asking this is to help them gain a sense of confidence in their salvation.
    2. But beware: The opposite might happen first. And this is where it gets fun. Most of the time their response will have something to do with a time they remember praying. Challenge this. Ask them something like, “So, you know you’re a Christian because you prayed one time?” You’ll likely witness some intellectual gymnastics at this point. They might flounder around a bit, struggling to find an answer. But this is healthy. Although it might get a bit uncomfortable for them, we’re actually helping them toward being more confident in who they are in Christ. Eventually we can guide them toward:
      1. Seeing the fruits of the Spirit in their lives (Galatians 5:22-23),
      2. Seeing the transformation that’s taken place (Romans 12:2),
      3. Seeing their obedience to Christ (John 15:10), and
      4. Seeing the love they have for other believers (1 John 5:1). But letting them discover these things for themselves by asking them questions is a great and natural way of helping them get there.
  3. What’s the Difference Between a Faith and a Conscience? So many college-age people, especially those who’ve grown up in the church, have more of a religious conscience than they do a personal faith. This question can take some explaining on your part, so I’ll help you out here.
    1. The bottom-line difference is that we’re not saved through a conscience; we’re saved through our faith (Ephesians 2:8). Helping college-age people differentiate between these two things is very important. A conscience is gained by receiving information. What we’re taught shapes our conscience. So it’s possible to do certain things—or not do them—simply because we grew up being taught that way.
    2. College-age people are at the point where they’re reevaluating all of the assumptions they grew up with. They’re trying to figure out what they personally believe, versus just assuming something to be true because their parents believe that way. So, this question is just another way of helping them think through what they’re already processing. It gets to the core of what they believe, and it’s a natural way for us to join in on that journey.
  4. Who Are You? This question gets to the core issue of college-age people: Identity. Identity is not an issue; it’s the issue that college-age people are thinking through. This might seem like a simple question, but it’s not.
    1. It’s a great question because it forces people to think about who they believe they are, who they believe they’re perceived to be, and possibly even who they want to be.
    2. Perhaps most importantly, this question gives us clues as to how much their faith factors into their sense of themselves. For the most part it doesn’t. Most will initially respond with personality traits, career pursuits, or likes and dislikes.
    3. The final stage of natural identity formation in college-age people is the Theologian stage. I’m not saying they need to be seminary-trained; I’m simply suggesting that their sense of identity is seen in who they’ve been made into through Christ. The theologian would answer this question by saying something like, “I’m a child of God.” They not only verbalize this, but they seek to embrace it. Now, embracing our identity solely in Christ is an ongoing process for all of us—one that’s never fully embraced here on earth, unfortunately. But we want to help people get to the point where they desire to embrace this truth and are pursuing it. And we can make them aware of our continuing process in this area as well. It’s a fun conversation to have with someone, for sure. But most importantly, we can learn how we might assist them in discovering their spiritual identity before anything else.
  5. What Do Others Want from You? The biggest reason I ask this question is that it allows me to see the pressures they’re feeling from other people. The college-age years are filled with pressure, but every person experiences different challenges and handles them differently as well.
    1. This question might give us insight into their relationship with their parents, a boss, or even the pressure they put on themselves.
    2. It can lead the conversation in dozens of directions, but it helps them think through what’s weighing on them and gives us insight into how we might be able to encourage them. Ultimately, of course, we can guide this conversation toward what God wants from them. And helping them focus here, possibly negating all other pressures, is the place we want them to get to.
  6. What Do Others Want for You? This question is a great follow-up to the previous one. For instance if they feel pressure from their parents, then this question might help them see past the pressure and into their parents’ motivations. Most parents just want what’s best for their child. This can be a healthy thing for a college-age person to recognize and articulate. This can even help relieve some of the pressure they feel. Plus, it can provide a great opportunity for us to encourage them and potentially walk with them as they seek to articulate their feelings to their parents. We can let them know that our desire is to see them get where they want to be and that we want to help them get there. And along the way we can help them discover what God wants for them, too.
  7. What Makes You Unique? This question really helps self-awareness. It naturally causes college-age people to differentiate themselves from everyone else, which is a crucial step in identity formulation. This can obviously give us insights into strengths they have, but it could also lead into struggles they’re facing. They might feel disconnected, like nobody cares, or just completely different to the point that they have a hard time finding a sense of belonging anywhere. Again, this can provide a great opportunity for encouragement and help us discover a place where our voices can have an impact in their lives.

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