By Mark Lubbock
“Whoever walks with the wise becomes wise, but the companion of fools will suffer harm.”
“Mentors” . . . I first came across this concept in the early 1990s. It was new to me in every way.
My father died when I was a child and my grandfathers had also died. So I never had anyone show me the way that a man should go, either by instruction or by example. Mother raised us to rely only on ourselves, rejecting outside help.
So. the concept of a mentor was alien to me.
In Seven Promises of a Promise Keeper, Dr. Howard Hendricks, states that every man should have in his life an older mentor, a spiritual peer, and a younger man to whom he can be a mentor. He describes this in a “cord of three strands” ––a “Barnabas, Paul and Timothy.”
Armed with this concept, I set out to identify men to be my mentor, my peer and a man whom I would mentor. Admittedly, this was more of a grand experiment than a life plan. Yet as these relationships developed they became integral to my spiritual life. From 1993 through today, I remain in these relationships.
When I was in my 30s, men took me under their mantle and led me. Over the years, the faces have changed, yet I’m still meeting with incarnations of Paul, Barnabas and Timothy.
As I’ve watch men in various stages of their spiritual journeys it is clear to me that the only men who were are truly growing spiritually are men in these types of relationships.
The beauty of the “cord of three strands” is that we rebuild the failing church connection when we are faithful to the process!
Experienced older men have much to offer, but they are rarely invited to do so. When we invite the mature Christian to serve as a mentor, this experience is passed on to the next generation. Likewise, when we reach out to a younger man we build a bridge between generations!
Almost daily I hear men’s leaders lament about how younger men do not participate in the activities and the organization populated by greying elders. But, what if you and I would personally ask a younger man to meet for coffee once a week. Not to “fix” anyone or to suggest they are in need of our expertise, but for the sole purpose of making a new friend?
Over time this friendship could develop into trust, and that trust opens the door for mentoring. Understand this: We do not have to be experts at anything. We just need to be open to God, and allow Him to flow through us into another person. God will share through you the wisdom He wants the younger man to receive – you don’t have to worry about coming up with something.
Personally, while I may temporarily reach periods of contentment where I am happy to stay in the spiritual state I find myself, inevitably I become aware of a need to grow beyond this point. I believe you too sense a need to grow in your spiritual life. Let us make a commitment together then, to take some steps that will allow this to happen.
Here then are some suggested actions:
- PRAY – Ask God to bring you into contact with the Paul, Barnabas and Timothy whom He wills for your life.
- ASK – Ask God for a man to mentor you; ask for men to be your peers in a small group, and ask God for a younger man to mentor.
- SEEK – Look for these men. Believe that God is answering your prayer.
- FIND – Invite the older man to meet with you regularly. Invite the peer group of men to meet weekly with you in a small group. Invite the younger men to meet for an hour a week for coffee with you.
DO NOT GIVE UP! God will allow you to speak to men who are not ready and who will decline your invitation. This has a purpose. By asking a number of men, three things happen.
- Other men see in you someone who takes their discipleship seriously, and that will inspire them.
- By asking many men, you are planting seeds. Only God can grow these seeds, so don’t worry if the men are not ready to meet with you. God will take your invitation and use it to prepare the men for a future time that is right down the road.
- You exercise your faith by being intentional to press forward and God will reward this faithful outreach. He will give you a testimony to share about how He made this work in your life. Just as I and dozens of my friends have our stories to tell of the way that God connected us one to the other, He will do so in your life.
If you are concerned about the way things are in your church, in your home, in your life, this step will go far towards remedying things.
Let me know of your challenges, efforts and success stories.
The Rev. Mark Lubbock, deployed staff member
General Commission on United Methodist Men