Reflections and resources for lifelong learning for missionaries

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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.

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:
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.

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.

personal design
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Mentoring In Sync with Personal Design

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 fifth pillar talks about the need to mentor in such a way as to respect the God-given personal design of each mentee.

In the last pillar of mentoring, we dealt with the significance of working with God. We must partner with God in what He is doing in people’s lives. But we are also to be working with people according to their differences and design. To be most effective in mentoring, both where God is working in their life and how God has designed them must be on our radar screen. To overlook their design and desires is to violate a person’s very personhood and value before God. It is to disregard the principle of differences in the Body.

The animals’ school

The animals had a school.1This fable can be found on the web in a number of places, but here is one example. The version that Jim Feiker used was adapted by Lorne C. Sanny from a speech by Dr. A. R. Broadhurst. The curriculum consisted of running, climbing, flying and swimming. All the animals took all the subjects.

The duck was good in swimming and fair in flying. However, he was terrible in running, so he had to drop his swimming class and stay after school in order to practice his running. He kept this up until he was only average in swimming. But average was acceptable. The others (including the teacher) were no longer threatened by the duck’s swimming ability. So, everyone felt more comfortable – except the duck.

God's purposes
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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.
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?

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