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March 2012 entries

Where Have All the Mentors Gone?

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.  

A Message at the Right Time

Monday is always a tough day in my world. It is administrative day at the church. On Mondays's I meet with the staff about yesterdays services. I work with my worship leader to plan next week. I answer dozens of emails and schedule appointments for the week. It is always tough, but this week was worse than usual. Why? Because last week I was on mission in Jamaica where we visited the hospitals of small children and the elderly. There were delivered prayers and stuffed animals to those patients who eagerly awaited both. We visited schools where dozens of kids sat in their uniforms on homemade chairs and cramped conditions. The overworked and underpaid teachers appreciated the break in their day as we came in with new school supplies and sang and prayed with the children. I had the opportunity to preach to crowds of Jamaicans who raised their hands in the air and voiced their amens throughout the message. I saw many, many come to know Christ with tears and shouting. Now, in my office, I am back to the stark reality of leading a large church with and abundance of opportunities and a shortage of money. I had to remind my staff that while we continue to grow our level of giving has plateaued and in some weeks diminished.

While feeling the weight of the issues before me I grabbed a book off my shelf and began to read. It was just an attempt on my part to take my mind off my problems, but it was God's opportunity to encourage His child. After reading a few pages I realized there was a slip of paper stuck in the book as if it were marking a page. It was not. I was sure because I had never gotten very far in this book in the past. It was obviously a note from God given at the appropriate time. But there it was a typed note that was titled, "Today's Prayer." It went like this:

"Dear God, This morning the Holy Spirit brought to mind my pastor. He faces so mant decisions and burdens that I know nothing about. He has such great responsibilities and weighty decisions. He has personal family to care for as well as church family to shepherd. I pray that as he comes to you today...and every day...that you will refresh his spirit, enlighten his mind, and strengthen his body. I pray that you will grant him wisdom, anointing, and openness to receive the message you want to deliver through him an to deliver that message when and to whom you want it delivered. I pray for protection and blessing for my pastor's entire family and all the leaders of the church. Please keep them safe and from all harm and evil...and lead them on to accomplish your plan for their lives, the church's future, and the Great Commission. In Jesus name I pray, amen."

I don't ever remember receiving that prayer from any human being. I must accept it as a gift of God given at the right time! Thanks GOD!