Reflections and resources for lifelong learning for missionaries

Category: Mentoring Page 1 of 2

restart
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Planning to Restart

Recently I mentioned to a friend that my wife and I will begin our retirement with a sabbatical. He looked at me oddly saying that sabbaticals are usually followed by a return to work. My response was that Christ still has good works for us to do in our retirement (Eph 2:10). In other words, a retirement sabbatical is a time to rest, reflect on past ministry, and discern God’s calling for our remaining years. Indeed, we are called to be a people zealous for good works (Titus 2:13-14). And there is no expiration date on that calling!

Essentially, a retirement sabbatical prepares us for a restart. The nine practices mentioned in the previous post can launch us into a fulfilling retirement. Moreover, they help us find meaning and purpose in our later years. A retirement sabbatical is an antidote to the boredom of endless vacation.1 See my first blog post in this series.

Restart

Restarting after our retirement sabbatical is a renewed expression of our identity and calling as we seek to finish well. Indeed, “calling is central to the challenge and privilege of finishing well in life (Os Guinness, The Call, p. 227). Guinness defines calling as:

transformed by the Scriptures
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Mentoring: Transformed by the Scriptures

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 twelfth and last pillar talks about how the Scriptures transform the mentees and how important the Scriptures are in the mentoring process.

Three men in Scripture stand out as being known for their devotion to and their use of Scripture. They are Timothy (2 Timothy 3:15-17), Apollos (Acts 18: 24), and Ezra (Ezra 7:10). All were characterized by being “mighty in the Scriptures,” or “well versed and learned in the Scripture.”

Ezra’s example

Ezra is my favorite Old Testament character with this noteworthy distinction. As a priest, scribe, and teacher, Ezra was sent by the king of Babylon to Jerusalem to teach God’s laws to Israel. One verse in Ezra summarizes it all:

For Ezra had devoted himself to the study, and observance of the Law of the Lord, and to teaching its decrees and laws in Israel.

Ezra 7:10

Let’s make a few observations to unpack his heart and commitment to Scripture.

“For” is referring back to Ezra 7:9. God’s hand was upon him because he devoted himself to the Scriptures. Three times in the book of Ezra it says of him “for the hand of the Lord his God is upon him.” His spiritual authority to lead emerged from God anointing him and in his manifesting God’s presence.

affirmation
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The Power of Affirmation

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 eleventh pillar talks about how powerful affirmation can be in a mentoring relationship.

Every one of us is a flickering flame. We need people to both cup their hands around us to protect the flame from going out and to fan it into a stronger burning flame. They can do so by giving verbal affirmation. Encouragement, affirmation, exhortation, admonition, and blessing are all words used interchangeably in Scripture.

A study of men and women of God suggests that God uses both affirmation and the deprivation of it as tools in our formation. God uniquely designs adversity, pain, suffering, trials, and his discipline as well as adversity to shape us into His likeness. They are gifts from his loving hand. In this mentoring pillar, affirmation will be our primary focus.

David blesses his family

“And David went home to bless his family.” Two times in Scripture at least,1 2 Samuel 6:20; 1 Chron. 16:43 this phrase is mentioned about David. After he had led his soldiers into victory, David chose to go home and to bless and affirm his family. Nothing was so important to him at a time when his family needed to see him and he needed to be with them. Their relationship brought mutual encouragement. He found blessing from his family, and blessing his family was a supreme role to him as a father. David knew that no one could honor and bring verbal affirmation as powerfully as he could.

All of us know people who come from a family which was blessed by a father and mother, where grace filled the home. We know them, for they dispense grace and bless every one of us.

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Finishing Well: Cheering the Next Runner

What would you think of a relay runner who went to the locker room right after completing his or her lap? Perhaps you would think the runner had suffered an injury or had some other health concern. Aside from that, we would question their relationship with the rest of the team. A healthy relay team recognizes that success depends on the performance of each runner. Therefore, each member of the team who has completed their leg stays on the field and cheers on the remaining runners. They stay off the track and cheer from the sidelines.

In this series, we have been using the analogy of a relay race for finishing well in a ministry assignment. So, how do we cheer those who follow us as we complete our ministry assignment? How do we keep from getting in the way of their performance? Our relationship with those who follow us in ministry shapes our cheering for them as they run their lap.

Relationships Matter

Yes, it would be strange for a relay runner to go directly to the locker room. Similarly, it would be tragic for church planters to cut off the relationship with the local church leaders who succeed them in leading the new church. Tom Steffen wrote:

The seventh and final component is determining how church planters can maintain good relationships after the phase-out. They work themselves out of a job, but not out of a relationship. Continued fellowship includes prayer, visits, letters of challenge and encouragement, sending other people to visit, and cautious financial assistance.

Tom Steffen, Passing the Baton, p. 18.
intercession
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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.

emotional baggage
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Helping People Move Past Their Past

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 ninth pillar was co-authored by Jim and his wife Bev. It deals with how to help mentees deal with their emotional baggage from the past.

A friend asked me a great question some time ago. “What are some of the emergency brakes in your life, which if released, would bring you to a whole new potential for Christ?”

There are both external and internal brakes. External brakes are things such as lack of funds, not being on an effective team, or not having the skills we need to be effective. But internal brakes are things like emotional baggage, lies we believe, and idols that limit and enslave us.

Dealing with emotional baggage

We all have a personal history, but it is the negative feelings and responses we have about the past that we call emotional baggage. These need attention so we can move ahead in our lives and go on to maturity in Christ.

This is not easy to do, as Kierkegaard reminds us:

It is really true what philosophy tells us, that life must be understood backwards. But with this, one forgets the second proposition, that it must be lived forwards. A proposition which, the more it is subjected to careful thought, the more it ends up concluding precisely that life at any given moment cannot really ever be fully understood; exactly because there is no single moment where time stops completely in order for me to take position [to do this]: going backwards.’

Soren Kierkegaard

This is a hard topic to tackle in one blog post. We are basically only opening the subject here. But it is vital that we address it. We have observed the effect of unresolved past issues both in our own lives and in the lives of others. Here are a couple of thoughts on the subject:

  1. Working through issues of the past is a process that we come back to through various stages of our life’s journey and the seasons of our life.
  2. All of us deal with areas of dysfunction (after all we’re human!). In times of stress, we tend to revert to coping mechanisms we picked up as children.
  3. We need to be alert as to when it is necessary to refer people to professionals for the type of help we cannot provide due to our lack of training.
a grace environment
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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.

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