Reflections and resources for lifelong learning for missionaries

Category: Spiritual Formation Page 1 of 8

Teaching and Learning: a review of two great books

Two great books on teaching and learning have been published in the last two years. They complement each other well. In 2020, Duane and Muriel Elmer’s The Learning Cycle: Insights for Faithful Teaching from Neuroscience and the Social Sciences was published by IVP. And this year (2021), Baker published Craig Ott’s Teaching and Learning Across Cultures: A Guide to Theory and Practice. The authors bring both extensive research and experience to the discussion of teaching and learning.

The Learning Cycle by Duane and Muriel Elmer

The Learning Cycle book

In a sense, this book is a capstone of Duane and Muriel Elmer’s writings and ministry.1 Many of Duane Elmer’s books have been foundational training materials for cross-cultural missionary service. See a review on this blog of one of his books, Cross-Cultural Servanthood. Duane created “the learning cycle” as part of his doctoral research at Michigan State University (p. 6). Subsequently, Muriel added the “barriers to change” to the cycle. Furthermore, they have both practiced the model throughout their teaching careers in various contexts. The insights from neuroscience do not dominate the text and come from “the more stable insights from the brain literature.” (p.11)

The Learning Cycle Model

intercession
Photo by Timothy Eberly on Unsplash

Intercession: The Indispensable Priority in Mentoring

Editor’s note: We are continuing our blog series on mentoring using the Mentoring Pillars written by the late Jim Feiker, a former member of SEND International. This tenth pillar emphasizes the importance of intercession in the mentoring relationship.

My mother’s intercession for me

Minneapolis was a great place to grow up. Its people gave me a positive spiritual heritage. My mother gave me to God as Hannah did with Samuel. She had lost her second child by miscarriage and then I entered this world. My mother never told me she had “lent me to God for His purposes” until I was 17. She only let me know when she knew that I had dedicated my life to Jesus as Lord and to ministry. I knew that my mother prayed for me often and that she enlisted others to pray for me.

God took her at her word, called me into ministry, shaped and transformed my life, and put key mentors in my life. All my life I have felt that I am reserved for God and His purposes only. Mother, now in the Lord’s presence, never knew the impact she had on my life by intercession. It was more important than anything else she ever did for me. The prayers she prayed for me extend on through my life and will influence my life forever. Thanks, Mom!

Chuck Swindoll has made a powerful statement:

There is no more significant involvement in another’s life than prevailing, consistent prayer. It is more helpful than the gift of money, more encouraging than a strong sermon, more effective than a compliment, more reassuring than a physical embrace.

quoted in When Couples Pray by Cheri Fuller, p. 58.

We need to both intercede for those we mentor and teach them to intercede for others by our modeling. There is no greater calling in our mentoring.

soul rest
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Vacation and Soul Rest

Vacation time

August is vacation time for many of us serving in cross-cultural missions. Whereas July is often busy with various camps and short-term teams, August is more often focused on spending time with family and enjoying the warm weather before classes and the fall ministry schedule begin again. As expected, in the last few weeks, I have received innumerable “out-of-office” notifications from my colleagues. This morning, I had only a couple of new emails and messages to which I need to respond. This is the predictable pause in August while colleagues take a break from ministry. It almost causes us to forget how very unpredictable and disrupted our lives have been in the last 18 months.

Finding rest for your soul

But a break from ministry while taking some vacation time does not always result in soul rest. Some people seem to need a vacation to recover from their vacation! Unfortunately, vacation does not nearly always result in people returning refreshed and rested. We may feel physically rested. But since most of us are not involved in much manual labour, physical rest is not the primary objective of our vacation. As knowledge workers, we want to rest our minds, our hearts, our center core, that which we call our soul. But as we sometimes ruefully admit to ourselves, taking some vacation time did not result in soul rest. How does one actually rest one’s soul?

a grace environment
Photo by Nicole Michalou from Pexels

Creating a grace environment

Editor’s note: We are continuing our blog series on mentoring using the Mentoring Pillars written by the late Jim Feiker, a former member of SEND International. This eighth pillar explains the importance of establishing a grace-filled environment in the mentoring relationship.

To my daughter Susan, the ambiance is everything. Even as a child her favorite way to help was to create a beautiful table, or to make welcome signs when friends were coming over. To her the atmosphere set the mood for loving relationships. It gave signals to those who entered our home that it was okay to be yourself, that you would be accepted there. She wanted people to feel that they could be at home in our family, that they belonged there. This desire of Susan for a loving environment flowed from her gifts of mercy and hospitality. To this day, this is still a vital part of Susan’s ministry.

Environment of grace

She was right! An environment of grace does release a positive response in people leading to powerful outcomes. In it, people sense the freedom to be transparent and vulnerable. They feel safe to express themselves, they trust each other and they learn to speak truth to one another. They forgive each other and often walk out of their darkness into light, revealing and confessing their sins to each other. Mutual acceptance and forgiveness are given, as is the freedom to fail and disagree.

In this environment, learning is made fun, and people celebrate each other’s lives with laughter and joy. A grace atmosphere pours through them to others, fostering creativity and hope, and nurturing the learning process and growth. It attracts others into the Kingdom. Just to be in such an atmosphere is to be bathed in a healing power and to experience the presence of God. Grace sets the pitch for the music of the mentoring relationship.

divine resources
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Utilizing Divine Resources for Spiritual Transformation

Editor’s note: We are continuing our blog series on mentoring using the Mentoring Pillars written by the late Jim Feiker, a former member of SEND International. This seventh pillar explains the importance of relying on divine resources in order to see real transformation in the lives of our mentees.

The danger of spiritual malpractice

Have you ever wondered what spiritual ministry malpractice might look like? Is it possible to be the most skilled facilitator in the learning process, have a great relationship with a person, and still be out of harmony with what God is doing in a person’s life? We are called to a divine ministry to enable divine work in God’s eternal people through his Spirit. To this end, God has given us his unlimited graces to partner with him in ministry. He knows that without us utilizing his dynamite resources, we will be ineffective and powerless. God’s work, done in God’s way, will experience His power and blessing.1 This last sentence is an adaptation of a quote from Hudson Taylor – “God’s work done in God’s way will never lack God’s supply.”

Empowerment means not human equipment, but divine enduement. It is possible to be splendidly equipped from man’s point of view, yet magnificently disqualified in God’s estimate. Prayer gives a new vision to the soul, a new contact with God, and a new hold upon God; it makes possible a larger recognition of divine resources, a fuller reception and consequently a fuller distribution.

Arthur T. Pierson

Therefore, the critical question for us is this: Are we relying on our skills and gifts, or are we depending on the Spirit of God and His divine resources to do His ministry?

God's purposes
Photo by Adriana Velásquez

Keep God’s Purposes in Mind

Editor’s note: We are continuing our blog series on mentoring using the Mentoring Pillars written by the late Jim Feiker, a former member of SEND International. This sixth pillar tells mentors that they need to remember God’s purposes for the mentee and work toward those ends.

In the process of spiritual mentoring, seeing the beginning and also the end are both of significant importance. We need to see both the way things ought to be and the way things really are now. Clarity in both where people are right now in their spiritual journey, and in where God wants them ultimately to gives us a realistic, balanced perspective.

To see only the beginning brings tolerance and grace toward a person’s humanity, but does not provide any direction in where to go. On the other hand, to see only the end purpose gives us direction. However, it may impose too high of standard (given where a person is now). It will lead to legalism and a failure to accept their humanness.

The journey between these two critical points is the process we call biblical transformation. Unless we are in sync with a person’s design (Pillar #5) and with God’s eternal purposes, we will not develop a clear God-ward perspective in our mentoring.

The purposes of God have three different aspects:

  1. God’s ultimate purposes in the universe – where he is going with his people into eternity.
  2. The universal purposes or objectives God has for every believer.
  3. His unique purposes or calling that he has for each person individually.
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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