SEND U blog

Reflections and resources for lifelong learning for missionaries

discerning where God is working
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Discerning where God is Working

Editor’s note: We are continuing our blog series on mentoring using the Mentoring Pillars written by Jim Feiker. This fourth pillar talks about the need to discern where God is working in the life of the mentee. This determines their level of readiness for further growth.

My brothers and I own a lake cabin in northern Minnesota. Every year Bev and I trek to a small bay on the south side of Big Pelican Lake to observe water life and just to enjoy the beauty and solitude. The bay is often calm and mirror-like and is surrounded by forest. Early in the morning one can see air bubbles rising all over the water, indicating life under the surface exhaling their last bit of air before resurfacing. The bigger the bubbles, the bigger the creature. These bubbles have led us to find turtles, muskrats, and marine life. We go to the bubbles to find life.

 The same is true with a person’s heart. People express “life bubbles” from their hearts that reveal what is really going on in their lives. It is when we are sensitively watching and listening for these heart bubbles that we can often detect what is happening in someone else. We see what are root causes and issues, not just symptoms. These “bubbles” often reveal people’s needs and desires, where God is working, and what people are ready for. How do we detect the “bubbles”? How do we discern where God is working so that we can join him there?

Co-laborers with God

Accurately understanding how God views people and what our role is in ministering to them is critical to our effectiveness. We will minister to people with respect and grace if we have a biblical perspective on these things.

The Whole Christ: A review

The Whole Christ

I recently watched a breakout session from The Gospel Coalition 2021 National Conference (TGC21) discussing grace and works in the Christian life. Specifically, the question that was posed was “Does grace oppose hard work?”. However, the breakout session did not resolve the issue. Sinclair Ferguson’s book, The Whole Christ: Legalism, Antinomianism, and Gospel Assurance – Why the Marrow Controversy Still Matters provides helpful guidance. Because these issues are vital for evangelism and discipleship, this book is an important resource for missionaries.

The Marrow Controversy

The historical background of Ferguson’s book is a debate in the Church of Scotland in the early 18th century. Now, the term “marrow” seems a bit strange to our ears today. Yet, in the 17th and 18th centuries, it described the seat of a person’s vitality and strength, the essence of a subject matter.1Sinclair B. Ferguson, The Whole Christ, Crossway, 2016, p.22. The controversy acquired its name from Edward Fisher’s book, The Marrow of Modern Divinity, written in 1645. As Tim Keller points out in the foreword, the author “does a good job of recounting the Marrow Controversy in an accessible and interesting way”2 (p. 11).

healthy relationships
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Healthy relationships in mentoring

Editor’s note: We are continuing our blog series on mentoring using the Mentoring Pillars written by Jim Feiker. This third pillar emphasizes how important healthy, authentic relationships are to the mentoring process.

What I regret

The thing that I regret most about my earlier years in mentoring is that not every relationship was a close, healthy one. Though with some, we were meeting one-on-one, there was not that dynamic plus factor of a friendship that bonds people together for maximum mutual growth.

In those early years, I tended to be much more content-oriented and guarded in sharing my struggles and negative emotions. I was not very vulnerable with people, which greatly impacted the effectiveness of our relationship. People could not identify with me as a fellow traveler, still in process, and therefore could not easily share their own struggles. We often had a spiritual relationship, but not a holistic one. We stayed on the surface where it was comfortable and did not risk revealing ourselves to one another in love.

The greatest impact

Christian mentoring is a dynamic, intentional, incarnational relationship of trust. In this relationship, one person empowers another by sharing God-given resources to maximize the grace of God in their life and service. Mentoring best occurs in the context of these healthy, God-focused relationships and community. Here the greatest life-on-life impact occurs in each person. The very definition of mentoring is relationship – one that influences and enables people. It is a relationship of investment.

introductions and conclusions
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Preparing to Preach: Introductions and Conclusions

Taking off and landing require a pilot’s utmost attention. Likewise, sermon introductions and conclusions demand careful preparation by a preacher. In fact, the introductions and conclusions will make or break the connection with our audience. In the introduction, we meet them coming from their daily life of the previous week. Then, in the conclusion, we send them off to live in the light of the biblical truth expressed in the sermon’s big idea. So, introductions and conclusions must be carefully worded to connect our audience with the big idea. For the simple reason that we need to know our destination before we start a journey, writing the conclusion precedes writing the introduction.

Writing the Conclusion

Conclusions Conclude

A sermon conclusion should not resemble a jetliner in a holding pattern waiting to land, or worse, aborting an attempted landing. Rather, it should briefly summarize the thrust of the sermon. An extended conclusion will frustrate our audience. It should not introduce new ideas but provide listeners memorable statements to aid in application.

selecting mentees
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Focus Mentoring on a Few God-given People

Editor’s note: We are continuing our blog series on mentoring using the Mentoring Pillars written by Jim Feiker. This second pillar addresses the question of how to select mentees.

God is actively, and personally in the process of bringing people into our life to whom we might minister, and who, in turn, can minister to us. Significant relationships are one of His divine change agents for life transformation. Since God will uniquely bring people into our life, we need to be sensitive to the Spirit of God in identifying those divine mentoring connections.

Ways God might connect mentors and mentees

1. The mentor proactively selects the mentee

The mentor keeps their eyes attune to people in their natural relational network to whom God is obviously leading, and seeks them out. This was true of Barnabas to Paul, Paul to Timothy, and Jesus with the Twelve. We are often drawn to people who have similar giftedness, vision, or life experiences.

Major advantages to this approach:
  • The mentee feels valued, sought after, cared for and believed in by the mentor.
  • The mentor often knows the person, and there is usually a natural relational bond.
  • The mentee and mentor very quickly sense mutual respect and the safety to share and be honest.
  • The mentor declares his commitment to help the person develop and become effective.
Major disadvantages include:
  • The mentor can easily take responsibility for the growth for the learner rather than encouraging them early in the process to be responsible for their own growth. The mentor’s role is to be a facilitator of active participation by the learner.
  • The mentor can also easily project his giftedness and vision on the person, rather than letting them develop in their own unique God-given vision and gifts.
  • The mentor can also build dependence on himself rather than on God.
illustrating and applying
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Preparing to Preach: Illustrating and Applying the Big Idea

In this series on preaching for missionaries, I have stressed being students of Scripture and of our audience. This “double listening” (as John Stott calls it)1See the first post in this series. is critical for illustrating and applying the big idea of our biblical text. In fact, illustrating and applying form the key connection between the biblical truth and our listeners. Additionally, illustrations set the stage for the application in the daily lives of our audience.

Illustrating the Big Idea

Shining light on the big idea

Illustrations include quotes, anecdotes, examples, comparisons, statistics, testimony, and poetry. Sources include personal experience, news, history, literature, imagination, and the Bible. Whatever the type or source, they must shed light on the biblical truth and connect with listeners. That is, illustrations must help our audience understand and identify with the biblical truth. For instance, a quote from a book your listeners have probably not read would not make a good illustration. It is helpful to listen to traditional stories and everyday conversations to identify types of illustrations commonly used. Remember, your illustrations are the key connection between the biblical text and your listeners. So, they must be faithful to the biblical text and understandable to the people.

the mentor's character
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The Mentor’s Magnet

Editor’s note: A number of years ago, I received a CD of a dozen articles on the topic of mentoring. This collection was entitled “Mentoring Pillars” and were written by Jim Feiker. Jim and his wife Bev served with SEND International for 12 years (1988-2000) in a mentoring and training capacity. Jim passed away back in 2012, leaving behind scores of people whom he had mentored and coached. His legacy lives on in their ministries. But Jim, with editorial help from his wife, also wrote extensively about the art of mentoring.

Cross-cultural workers realize that mentoring is vital in discipling new believers and in training church leaders. As an organization, we have also become increasingly aware of the need for older missionaries to mentor younger co-workers. Those of us from the Boomer generation will soon be passing on the baton of leadership to millennials and Generation Z. So, ore multiple reasons, we all need to become more proficient in mentoring.

As I have focused my attention recently on strengthening mentoring within SEND (see my recent blog post), I revisited these “mentoring pillars.” Recognizing how full of wisdom they really are, I was surprised that I could not find them published anywhere on the Internet or in print. With Bev Feiker’s blessing, I have decided to post a number of them in our blog over the next few months.

The Mentor’s Magnet – A life manifesting Christ

Over the years God has put a particular burden in my heart for mentoring young men and women. This vision, birthed when I was 18 and discipled the first person I led to Christ, has grown and matured through my various ministry contexts with The Navigators, as a Christian and Missionary Alliance pastor, with SEND International, and now with Barnabas International. Mentoring has been a thread and primary focus in my ministry over these 50 years. I have learned most about mentoring through failure and just watching God at work in lives.

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