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What in the Mars Hill?!
Pastor, do you have more than one mentor?
Some friends stopped listening to Mike Cosper’s The Rise and Fall of Mars Hill, Christianity Today’s long-form podcast series. “Too much pastor fail porn, ‘ they claimed. Here’s to betting many of those same folks are carefully eyeing the January 6 commission. Better to choose a voyeuristic interest in failures outside of your vocation. Or is it?
My mentor warned me early and often of the things to avoid as a pastor - “Money, sex, money.” If Rick said it once, he said it as frequently as Paul praying for his thorn to be removed, way more than three times.
Anyone listening to RFMH who thought, “This could never happen to me,” is ripe for the taking. I recall the episode where Driscoll was told he should look for a mentor. When someone mentioned John Piper Driscoll scoffed, “I can’t have a mentor whose church is smaller than mine!” Admittedly some of the details of the parable of the rich fool do not fit so well but if you don’t mind thinking of how Driscoll kept building bigger barns such as campuses/programs/publishing/persona/brand, Jesus words come to mind, at least to mine:
But God said to him, ‘You fool! This very night your life is being demanded of you. And the things you have prepared, whose will they be?”
Pastor, do you have a mentor?
Just last week Rick called. He is ten years my senior. Observing what he has done, what ministry avenues he has pursued, once people have decided for you that you are too old, has been a help. Now, at what would be considered retirement age, Rick still preaches regularly and is President of a non-profit ministry to ex-convicts re-entering society. He plans to take a look at his future in a couple of years, “I don’t want to retire.”
Over my years since meeting Rick in 1985, he has been my “go-to.” If I faced a new ministry situation, needed counsel in the face of conflict, or wanted some leadership advice, I called Rick. As we both aged, the relationship changed. No longer did I sense that Rick viewed me as a “son in the ministry.” Instead, it morphed into a peer relationship. We learned from each other. No matter the change, I will always consider Rick my mentor. I shudder to think of the day that I have to fulfill the one request he made of me.
Pastor, if you have a mentor, it is time to get another or two.
Let me say if from the outset, if you are near my age, well over 50, you have much to offer young pastors. Make yourself available to those who are looking for a pastoral companion to bound ideas off of, to assist when those moments of doubt crop up, and when their experience of encouragement is lacking in their congregation or parish. If they are about to commit a critical leadership error, throw them a lifeline. Be pointed. Be direct. But above all be loving and caring.
You may have learned that everywhere but ministry is 50 the new 30. What you may need to know is that you would do well to find a mentor or three at least a decade younger than you. I did.
I met Jason via his writing on the Interwebs. He serves as pastor in another denomination and has teased me that I am old enough to be his Dad, because of, well, Oklahoma. Jason might resist the idea that he is my mentor in any way. He has flattered me before by claiming that I am one of his mentors though a time zone away. But the truth is, I have learned much from him and his cabal of young guns.
It is easy for us older ministers to think that we know-it-all. That is not much different than the claim, “I can’t have a mentor whose church is smaller than mine!” You see what I did there? Any point along the way where a leader has moved beyond the point of learning it is indeed time to retire.
The choice is your’s.
Pastor, what will you do?