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Callings – Mentors; I Want to Be Them When (if) I Grow Up!

April 18, 2013

In much of life, the innovators, the people who shape things, other people, trends and culture don’t get much credit (and therefore not much fame or money). Sometimes after they die and not always then. We just lost one, Jonathan Winters. A tortured comedic genius influencing many, he’s become lost in the tides that separate generations. Robin Williams movingly remembered him. Two things stand out; Winters defining impact  on Williams as a child and the acknowledged respect and admiration of his peers that drew them in like little children as well. Winters neither engineered nor aspired to any of this. Williams remembers improvising with Winters. “Sometimes I would sit in but I felt like a kazoo player sitting in with Coltrane.”. We call this mentoring; biblically it’s called discipleship.

Madeleine L’Engle, author of “A Wrinkle In Time”, remarked that most people who become Christians do so because they’ve seen one – they’ve seen Jesus Christ alive inside someone’s skin and said, “I want that.” Paul put it another way. “Be imitators of me as I imitate Christ.”  (I Cor. 11:1) If we follow Jesus Christ seriously, we inevitably will begin to yearn to come alongside others who have gone deeper, who burn with the same fire that’s starting inside us. A wrought iron artist I know travelled to Germany because the best wrought iron sculptors in the world live there. Jesus knows we need this to flesh out His desires for our lives and sprinkles them generously and strategically across our path. Usually they are quite ordinary and humble, without a drop of pretense and burn with a single flame. When they sense we’re serious, they’re willing to share anything they know. I learned jazz from jazz musicians; they love the music and want others to love it too. I never met one stingy with advice or time for anyone who meant business. During a Disney World trip, I ran across a balloon making clown at our hotel who just finished a show for kids. I introduced myself saying I did balloons and he pulled me immediately aside in spite of my protest that he’d just finished work. Visibly exhausted, he came alive as we talked balloons, twists and tools. Jesus has people all around us like that and will take the wraps off them when we’re ready. When we hear an inner voice saying “I want that” or “I want to be them when I grow up”, maybe that’s someone Jesus wants us to know.

Mentors  who sharpen us in our callings come in two different flavors – interior and exterior. Faith On Campus helps us understand and become both with this new resource. Exterior refers to “doing”; most secular and/or business mentoring is only about this. But interior mentoring is far more important because it describes “being”. We never outrun who we are; it always comes to the surface either in strength or in weakness. “Keep your heart with all diligence, for from it flow the springs of life.” (Prov. 4:23) No gifting of the Holy Spirit flourishes for long without a corresponding deep interior work of that Spirit. The inner life and outer expressions of living, serving and ministering all hang as one piece. This often comes ingrained as an unconscious spiritual lifestyle. It’s almost impossible for me to pray for people without incorporating Scripture into what I say. The older Christians surrounding me in my baby step days in the faith did it and I asked why. They pointed out that most authors greatly appreciate being read because it shows someone takes their work seriously. To give God’s word back to Him in prayer gets our eyes off ourselves and shows God we’re earnest about Him and not just our request.  Sometime it only takes a few seconds. A little later, I sat on a platform getting ready to read the Scripture for a speaker. I asked what the Scripture was because I didn’t want to stand up and read the wrong thing. He just gave me a big grin, a one-armed hug around the shoulders and said, “It’s all the Word of God. Just read it, man, it never comes back empty.” I learned to relax a little and let God work and I have a vigorous confidence in the power of God’s Word. We surrender too much to Western culture’s clamor for visible results and measurable success – now. Henri Nouwen felt a big misalignment in a deep place. He left the academic world of Notre Dame, Yale and Harvard to eventually work as a servant to the mentally and developmentally handicapped people of L’Arche (founded by Jean Vanier) outside Toronto. For the first time in his life, Nouwen’s life was not defined by externals. The people he served could never attend the prestigious universities he taught at or understand his award-winning books. They didn’t care if he was a scholar or their janitor; they mentored him in their weakness and Henri Nouwen grew a new center.    Without this internal work, we simply will lack the staying power over the long haul of our lives. We may well burn out, dry up or blow up – disappointing the Lord and ourselves, damaging the Body of Christ or discrediting Jesus in the eyes of people who need Him.

We need exterior mentors as well. Maybe we have a string on what God might be calling us to but how to find Christians who walk ahead of us to help with advice, “how tos”  and avoiding pitfalls? Want to serve a needy group, address an issue or learn a ministry? First, read about it then find out who’s doing it and go hang out with them. We should muzzle our opinions and ask lots of questions. Maybe some Christians who do for the glory of God what we’re exploring have a group or mentoring program online like here.

I speak tenderly with grace when I say that we need negative mentors as well. it’s possible to embrace Jesus Christ and yet do nothing with His grace and allow it to do nothing inside us. I’ve remarked sadly as a pastor that I cared more about some people’s souls than they did. Without the pompous sin of pride, we should prayerfully hold in memory people for whom mediocrity was just fine, content with the shallows or who maybe having run hard after the Kingdom for a time faded to gray invisibility.

No mentors are either perfect or sinless. They’re like a Lego stack unit. I want to pray like this person, have the patience of that person, be able to share Christ like this guy, have a hunger for Scripture like her, be an encourager like them, etc. A great place to find both kinds is in biographies. I love John Wesley’s evangelistic zeal and perseverance (He rode over 20,000 miles on horseback to share Christ.) but he also was a pain to be around, had a terrible marriage and liked to shock the end of his tongue with electricity every morning. I admire Selena of Huntington who shrewdly and enterpreneurly bankrolled the entire Evangelical awakening in Great Britain in the 18th century while losing a husband and dealing with prodigal children. For starters, check out some lives newly in the presence of Jesus, “All Is Grace” by Brennan Manning and “Tapestry” by Edith Schaeffer. Going back, check out “George Whitefield” by Arnold Dallimore. Whitefield was the Billy Graham of the First Great Awakening. Lives shaped in the fires of spiritual awakening and revival demonstrate huge cross sections of the soul, good or not, served up piping hot. Byron Borger will give you 20% off if you say you saw these here.

You’re reading this because someone discipled (mentored) me. In 1969-73, a chiropractor, an owner of a sign business and a couple who ran an auto parts store all thought the Jesus Freaks at Clarion University of PA needed some help. I owe everything Jesus has made me to them. And now I want to be them when I grow up. So I drive over the US and Canada out-of-pocket to challenge students to live for the Kingdom of Jesus Christ. I write books. (My wife says it’s good the publisher handles this because Dave would give them all away. As always, she’s right.) I blog and post Kingdom smelling stuff in a Facebook group called Geezer 1. It’s for students and those who love them.If you’d like to be part of that, just subscribe here or shoot me a friend request or ask to join the group. If if you’d like to share, tweet and all the other social media stuff, I’ll pray a blessing on your emus.

Please return your seats to the upright position and give your infrared night vision goggles to the attendant as you exit to the rear. See you next time at


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