What Are You Giving Away?

“The value of a life is always measured by how much of it is given away.” – Andy Stanley

Any preaching ministry involves giving.  You give of yourself in preparation.  You give of yourself in delivery.  And often you feel spent when you are done.  But the relationship between visible ministry and giving is a complex one.

The value of a lifePublic ministry is certainly demanding, but it can also come with its own rewards.  People see you.  People may respect and appreciate you.  People may even pay you.  Once there is reimbursement in the equation, then the giving nature of ministry can become murky.

This is why I think Andy Stanley’s quote is so important for those of us who are involved in visible ministries – whether that is preaching, or teaching, or leadership, etc.

What are you giving in secret?

Please don’t comment and answer that question!

Here are some quick thoughts to ponder:

1. If all your giving in ministry is public, then your giving is not secret.  There is something about giving of ourselves without attention that is so important.

2. If all your giving in ministry is public, then your giving is being rewarded.  There is something about rewarded giving that somehow undermines the reality of the giving.

3. Even if you ministry is public, there is plenty you could give that is not.  Obviously there is financial giving, but there is a lot more too.  What about mentoring other preachers and leaders?  What about leveraging your contacts and resources for the sake of others in ministry?  What about strategizing together with others about their ministry?  What about dreaming together with an individual and believing in them as they launch something you aren’t associated with?  What about encouraging folks by private message, personal phone calls, etc.?  What about praying – and not just for your own ministry and its multiplication?

The value of your life is not measured by the profile you achieve in ministry, but by the reality of how much of it is given away.

Discover Cor Deo – 3rd of July

If you are in the UK and might be interested in Cor Deo – the new mentored training programme launching in 2011, consider yourself invited to Discover Cor Deo.  This event will be held in central London and will help to answer any questions you may have about Cor Deo, you’ll get to meet the mentors and get a taste of what’s to come in the programme.

Cor Deo is about multiplying ministry that shares God’s heart.  It is a unique five-month intensive training programme that is open to those who have a passion for God and for ministry.  Whether you are considering training for the first time, or if you are considering a refreshing season of study as part of a sabbatical or study break, please consider Cor Deo. 

The information for Discover Cor Deo can be found on the left side of the home page at cordeo.org.uk

We are actively seeking the first team of participants and spaces are limited.  Come and find out more, we would love to see you on the 3rd of July!

Mentoring Preachers

On Friday I suggested that mentoring is an ideal approach to training preachers, while in no way diminishing the value of formal training or personal improvement approaches like reading, attending seminars, etc.  On Saturday I offered the concept of mentoring to a small group of church leaders and suggested that biblically mentoring is at the heart of ministry, and especially the core ingredient in leadership development.  Instead of viewing church life as seasons of stability interrupted by periodic crisis when transition needs to occur, we would be better off viewing leadership development and even transition as a continual process.

So regarding mentoring, I’d like to offer a couple of clarification comments:

1. Mentoring by definition implies a purposeful relationship for building up another person.  Stanley and Clinton define mentoring as “a relational process in which one person empowers another by sharing God-given resources.”

2. Mentoring is not imitation. The person being mentored is invested in by the mentor, who shares resources and helps the “mentee” to be who God made them to be, not to be who the mentor is.

3. The mentor is not in control of the mentee’s life. Mentoring can easily be abused when the agenda becomes the mentor’s agenda and the mentee becomes a person somehow “owned” by the mentor.  The agenda is really the mentee’s, even though the mentor may sometimes know what would benefit them more than they do.

4. There is no reason why the mentor should not be surpassed by the mentee in some way. The mentor is not an absolute limit beyond which the mentee may not pass.  A good mentor will look to leverage their own resources for the sake of the mentee, as well as the resources of others that either may be able to access, always leaning on the Lord since He is the giver of all resources, and looking to launch the mentee into greater fruitfulness, growth and maturity.

So much more could be said, but perhaps that can come via comments or in future posts.  The question is, are we being mentored and are we mentoring others in the realm of preaching?

Vast Trouble

Permit me to persist in quoting from James Stewart’s, Heralds of God, although only briefly this time (p190):

“Preaching,” inquires Bishop Quayle, “is the art of making a sermon and delivering it?” – and he answers his own question: “Why, no, that is not preaching.  Preaching is the art of making a preacher and delivering that.  It is no trouble to preach, but a vast trouble to construct a preacher.”

I suspect this is a tension every homiletics instructor feels deeply.  It is possible to instruct the method of passage exegesis, sermon formation and effective delivery.  But what does it take to form a preacher?  Surely that is a lifetime work of God Himself.  A couple of comments to ponder:

Are you a preacher, or do you just preach? That is to say, does your life live up to the ministry you give from the pulpit?  Are you continuing to grow, to be shaped, to pursue maturity while resting in God’s work to shape you into the image of His Son?  Have you been so committed to studying preaching and ministry and hermeneutics and theology, but lost direction in your personal spirituality?

Are you pouring into the lives of other potential preachers, even long before they ever preach? Again I raise the issue of mentoring.  How can we claim to be involved in biblical ministry if we do not actively pursue opportunity to mentor others?  A preacher is not made in the course of a training course, although I affirm the value of good training as a good steward seeking to fan into flame the opportunity and gifting God has given.  A preacher is made in the course of a lifetime.  Let’s look with a long-term, strategic view . . . how can we invest ourselves into others?  It’s not ultimately about skill formation, but character formation, spiritual formation, life.

Let me encourage all of us to look for ways to help others develop in the necessary skills required for preaching.  But let’s also look with a greater goal, for ways to help shape the lives of those who can then minister (in whatever form) to others.  This is the vaster trouble, but surely the greater goal.

Mentor the Odd Scholar

I suppose actually there are some odd scholars.  But that is not my point.  As preachers we tend to focus most, if not all, of our ministry attention on local church ministry.  This is good as the local church is God’s primary means of reaching the world with the gospel.  However, let’s not fall into the trap of ignoring or despising scholarship.

It is true that every Christian is involved in theological education by being part of a local church.  However, there is a need for good evangelical men and women in academia too.  Peter Williams, of Tyndale House, Cambridge, made this very important point at a recent conference.  If we leave academia and scholarship to non-church attenders, then we’ll soon end up in a very negative situation.  Specifically, we’ll have no study resources that aren’t attacks on Scripture.  Anti-christian scholars aren’t going to note the kind of details we’ve touched on in the last couple of days.

So, in your church, is there an individual you could encourage into quality Christian scholarship?

We should be mentoring preachers.  We should be discipling/mentoring believers in all aspects of spirituality and ministry.  Perhaps we should look for someone to mentor and encourage toward solid evangelical Christian scholarship – for the sake of future preachers!

A Mentoring Prod

I’ve written before on the critical subject of mentoring.  It’s easy as a preacher to be too busy to invest in mentoring relationships.  It’s also easy to miss the heart of what we are called to in ministry.  I’ve just started The Making of a Mentor by Ted Engstrom and Ron Jenson.  Pointing to Paul’s example in 1Thessalonians 2:7-12, they underline the importance of relationships in ministry.  I’d like to share their quote from Harry Stack Sullivan, an eminent psychologist in the field of interpersonal relationships:

All personal damage and regression, as well as all personal healing and growth, come through our relationships with others.  There is a persistent, if uninformed, suspicion in most of us that we can solve our own problems and be the masters of our ships of life.  But the fact of the matter is that by ourselves we can only be consumed by our problems and suffer shipwreck.”

Two simple questions.  Who are you allowing to invest in you?  Who are you investing in?

We Need Repeated Prodding

I believe we need repeated prodding on this issue.  It’s a critical issue in ministry and church health.  I believe it is the heart of biblical ministry.  Here’s a prod from Explosive Preaching, 145:

There is no greater tragedy for preaching today than the senior pastor who claims to be too busy to mentor preachers.

I say, amen.  This line comes at the end of a paragraph describing the mentoring of Martin Luther-King Jr by J. Pius Barbour.  He would spend time every Saturday with a group of younger preachers who would practice their sermons in front of him and the group.  Then on Sunday, after he had preached, he would ask them to analyze his sermon under the headings of content, delivery and audience reaction.  Talk about accountability as well as mentoring!

It takes effort, time and sometimes even sacrifice.  Yet mentoring is multiplicative ministry, it is exponential ministry, it is biblical ministry.

Are There Good Echoes?

Yesterday I echoed the terminology used in Fred Lybrand’s book as we considered whether it is possible to steal your own sermon.  If it is, then there would be a hollow echo in our preaching.  Today I want to ask whether there might be a good echo in our preaching?  I think there is.

It is the good echo of a genuinely influenced life.  It’s not the stealing of a sermon, but the marking of a life that makes for a good echo of others.  Consider those who have taught you, mentored you, influenced you and marked you.  Surely in your preaching their influence will resonate for all to hear.

People do not have to recognize it in order to hear it. You don’t have to speak like them, sound like them, gesture like them.  Mimicry may be flattery for them, but it probably falls into the category of “hollow echo” for you!

Unless you point it out, others may not know how your enthusiasm for the Bible was caught from that Bible survey teacher, or how your passion for accuracy has resonated from the call of that other prof at seminary, or how your theology was forever shaped by encounters with another who remains a good friend, or how your longing to know God was inspired by the genuine example of one close to retirement as you had just begun.  (I could go on describing those who I hope echo in my ministry; Bruce, John, Ron, David respectively.)

Perhaps it would be worthwhile thinking prayerfully through those who have left an impression on you through the years.  What was it about them that made a difference to you?  Perhaps you will have reason to rejoice and express gratitude for good echoes still resonating from your life and ministry.  Perhaps you will have reason to pray and ask God to make more clear in you what you heard so genuinely from them.  (Perhaps their vulnerability was so powerful, yet it is somehow limited in your ministry.  Their precision in wording so effective, yet of a level rarely reached in your preaching.)  What might be found lacking as you look back to others and listen for the echoes in your own ministry?

I think there can be good echoes in our preaching.  The difference is that these echoes don’t bounce around an empty space and come out as feeble hollow echoes.  Somehow these good echoes come from the very fiber of our being, from a life marked rather than a good thing mimicked.

The Generational Dance

Parker Palmer (in The Courage to Teach) writes about when we as teachers lose heart, and how we might recapture the heart to teach.  He begins by raising the issue of those mentors that first stirred the passion to teach in our lives.  Many make the mistake of trying to clone their mentors, thereby finding their own teaching career a disheartening experience of apparent failure.  Yet when the impact of past mentors is allowed to invigorate us to teach in our own style, then our identity and integrity can be intact, and our vocation can flourish.

Again, what is true for college profs is also true for us as preachers.  We too can lose heart.  We too can find motivation by revisiting the memory of those mentors that shaped our passion to preach in the first place.  We too can make the frustrating mistake of trying to copy the style of that mentor.  And we too can be invigorated to preach in our own style, with identity and integrity intact, our ministry flourishing.

Palmer finishes the section with a paragraph I will share with you here.  This puts the onus back on us, for it speaks of how we now mentor others.  At one level you might say we mentor all that hear our preaching, and perhaps it is best to take it at that level for now (but maybe we should be overtly seeking “apprentices” as we teach):

Mentors and apprentices are partners in an ancient human dance, and one of teaching’s great rewards is the daily chance it gives us to get back on the dance floor.  It is the dance of the spiraling generations, in which the old empower the young with their experience and the young empower the old with new life, reweaving the fabric of the human community as they touch and turn.

The Heart of Biblical Ministry

If you study through the Scriptures, it is clear that ministry is not just about the crowds.  There is certainly that large-scale aspect to ministry, but we must always be alert to the smaller-scale ministry of mentoring.  Moses led the Israelites, but mentored Joshua.  Elijah prophesied to a nation, but mentored Elisha.  Jesus could certainly preach and minister to the crowds, but he mentored the twelve.  Think of Naomi and Ruth, Barnabas and Paul, Paul and Timothy and on it goes.  Mentoring is the heart of biblical ministry.

TD Jakes made the comment that “success is not complete without a successor.”  So as a preacher, it is good to take stock of your ministry.  Are you investing yourself into a small handful of key individuals? The pulpit may be elevated and somewhat distant from the “crowd,” but are you also pouring yourself into others, up-close and personal?

In the complex world of church ministry many do not have the privilege of grooming their replacement.  However, even if your church could fire you in three months time, pour your life into others now.  Ultimately it is not about how individual churches choose to work, it’s about us choosing to do ministry God’s way.  And this mentoring is not just about pastoral ministry and leadership, think specifically about pulpit ministry and preaching.  Some churches actively encourage a pulpit team, others treat preaching as a one-person role.  If you are the preacher, you have influence.  Use it to build up others in their gifting and opportunity.  Even if opportunities are restricted in your church, there are many other churches around who would love to help developing preachers by benefiting from their ministry.

Mentoring – it’s a key part of all our roles, for it’s the heart of biblical ministry.