The mentoring thing...whispers
They're not exactly the secrets of the kingdom, the five things I often whisper to younger pastors. In the main they're just realities about spiritual leadership and church ministry that most of our cohort don't like to talk about, the stuff of winks and nods among the brethren. The whisper isn't to dramatize those unspoken matters but is simply the realization that every morsel doesn't need to be in the church newsletter or on the congregational grapevine. It's minister to minister stuff, the voice of experience offered to someone adjusting to a new role.
Communication is important in the mentoring thing. As I'll discuss during the week, some matters can be spoken or related out in the open, common misconceptions or misunderstandings about church life that can hinder spiritual leadership. In the same way, there are topics that I actually scream to younger pastors and ministers because missing them can be fatal to ministry. Still, there are five items that I usually whisper or relate in a more private setting. These include the following---
1. There is a center of the universe and you're not it. Neither is anyone in your
church. Being central to the vision and mission of a local church can easily
translate to a prideful spirit. At the same time, aligning with groups or weighty
leaders in the church can convey favoritism that misappropriates and
misapplies your spiritual influence. Humility is a spiritual grace that places you
and others in right dimensions in guiding the mission of the church.
2. You learned a lot in your college and seminary training. But, you didn't learn
everything. Spiritual leaders are life-long learners. Your role as a pastor or
church staff member is most often conditioned by your teachable spirit
throughout your ministry. I remember one professor warned us about recent
seminary graduate syndrome, the attitude that we had learned everything in
our formal education. Communicating a learning heart to the congregation lets
them know you are learning with them.
3. Churches specialize in ADHD systems. Stay focused.
Those early months of pastoral leadership often confounded and frustrated me
about my role as their leader. Early on God gave me a Life Verse, Ministry
Verses, and a Passion Verse as sure guides for my spiritual leadership. They
were framed and posted over my desk for thirty-five years as constant
reminders of my calling and what God expected of me. Focus in ministry was
much clearer with these in plain site every day.
4. Your greatest temptation will be to aim at the wrong audience.
One consistent struggle in ministry is the age old dilemma of confusion about
the ultimate aim of ministry. As we were taught in formal training, churches
often view the congregation as the audience, the pastor as the performer, and
God as the encouraging inspiration. In reality, God must be the audience, the
congregation is the performer, and the pastor is the encourager. Keeping this
priority guards against the temptation to be man pleasers rather than God
5. Circle one in the concentric circles is your primary disciple making
responsibility. Of course, circle one in the concentric circles of concern is your
family. As Paul reminded Timothy (see 1 Timothy 3:4,5, 12-15)) spiritual leaders
must lead their households in Christian discipleship as a measure of their
character to lead the household of faith. And, the temptation most ministers
experience is to overlook the discipleship of their own family.
We all know that experience is the best teacher. But, someone has added that the experience of others reduces the pain and high cost of learning. That, of course, is the value of mentoring relationships, learning from those who have already been there. These fast paced times of exponential change, especially in an increasingly secular environment, make these relationships even more critical. And, there are the less visible but more crucial elements that are best offered in a trusting, quiet way, sheltered in some ways from the public arena. That's the reason for the whispered things. Often they are overlooked and become reality only when they're ignored.
Paul's letters to Timothy, Titus, Philemon are those whispered matters, personal topics reserved for the private communication from a mentor to those under his guidance. It is the whispered things today that can provide what many new spiritual leaders need to become effective leaders in their fields of service.
Be a mentor. Learn the things that should be whispered.