My wife, Marilyn, and I just returned from a conference that we try to attend each year. I think we have only missed once in the last 12 years. It is held by a pastor I greatly respect and is intended to educate and encourage pastors and their wives. My wife would divorce me if I told we were never going again. It is the highlight of her year.
While listening to this well known and influential pastor I began to notice a glaring difference between the two of us. Over and over he referred to his mentors as having a great influence in his life. He read meaningful quotes and recited powerful conversations he had with these men of faith over his ministerial career. He spoke of people like Adrian Rogers, Henry Blackaby, Fred Wolfe, Jerry Vines and on and on. He spoke of elderly men who were not as well known who came into his life at very crucial times of despair or hopelessness. After two days of hearing about these spiritual mentors it became clear to me I had none of these people in my life.
The first really spiritual sounding person I recall was my first girlfriend's father. He and I went to a couple of revivals together before his daughter and I broke up. I haven't seen or talked to him since and that was 35 years ago.
Then there was the pastor of the church where I was attending when I got saved. He gave me an opportunity to preach in his absence and recommended me to the first church where I was the bi-vocational pastor. When I went to him and asked about whether to accept the invitation to become Dallas Bay's pastor he cornered me against a brick wall at his church and said, "I wouldn't do it son. You just don't know how hard it is to be a pastor." Later when Dallas Bay achieved some degree of success some men from that church asked me to speak at their brotherhood breakfast. They had to call me back a few days later when the same pastor told them they had to rescind the invitation. To this day, although he lives nearby, he has never stepped foot onto our property.
I did have one man who was my spiritual mentor for a few short years. He had been one of my professors as I took seminary classes here in Chattanooga. His name was Dr. Pat Maloney. Many saw him as just an eccentric old preacher, but he was the wisest man I have ever known. In the early days of Dallas Bay I would call him when I ran into a problem I did not know how to handle. I will never forget the advice he gave me time and time again, "Ken, you are only responsible for, what you are responsible for." In other words, "You can't change another person. They have to do it themselves."
But since Brother Pat died, the Lord has not sent mentors into my life again. No Adrian Rogers to call and say, "Just hang in there son. It will be better tomorrow. The Lord never forgets his own." The Lord either never brought them into my life or I was not wise enough to seek them out when I was young. Either way I regret it. The only mentoring I get is when I sit in the room with 88 other pastors and listen to the pastor where I just spent the last 2 days. But at $400 bucks a pop I can't afford to lsten too often.
My advice is to actively seek out spiritual leaders and mentors when you are young. Don't think you are being rude when you ask for another person's time. In doing so you will grow wiser and deeper in your walk with Christ. You will take away memories that will last long after your mentor has gone. As for me, I keep repeating Brother Maloney's sage advice, "You're only responsible for, what you're responsible for." At least its something.