I was looking through an old workbook. It was for a small group study “On Mission With God,” by Blackaby and Willis. It looks at Christian mission from the context of the lives of several Bible characters. It is a nice group study to gain a perspective of how one would serve God in a missional capacity. I did this study at a time that my wife and I were seriously considering redirecting our lives to full-time missionary work.
Looking in the workbook, it asked who inspired me in my mission journey. I had written two names. I could have written three names, but the third was leading that small group study, so I did not add him.
Looking back, I see commonality in all three: Al, George, and Dan.
- Belief in Me. Each one believed that I could serve God in a capacity that I had not before. Each was maturely active in ministry, so their belief gave me belief in myself.
- Mentoring. Each one gave responsibility, but in a way that I was able to learn through and with them. I was not as the baby thrown into the river in hopes I would learn to swim. The learning was more like how the disciples learned with Christ, or Elisha learned with Elijah.
- Freedom. While they mentored me, allowing me to work with them and be guided by them, they also gave me the freedom to do things my way. I had their permission to try new things, and even make mistakes. One could use the term “Trust.” They trusted not that I wouldn’t make a mistake, but that I could learn from my mistakes.
Looking back, I realize how important those three elements are. I have had many people impact me in my ministry life, but these three were there at a time when I was just starting to realize that I can follow God in the unblazed trails. I needed faith in me. You might suggest that I need faith in God. I needed to have faith in God, but much of that is faith that God had made me— fitted me out for missions. The faith of these individuals was not based on unwarranted optimism nor surety that I would do everything right… but confidence that I could grow into new responsibilities and get help when I needed it. I needed someone who would be with me in the learning process as a model and partial guide… but still willing to let me blaze my own trail to some extent. They allowed my vision to be different than their visions.
I have also been part of churches or ministries that were far more authoritarian. It is strange how authoritarian groups often pride themselves in effective discipling or mentoring. But that is EXACTLY WHAT THEY ARE BAD AT. This wasn’t so clear to me until I looked back in retrospect. Authoritarian groups don’t trust and don’t give freedom. They mentor… but only to keep one on the trails they marked.
It makes me realize that I need to develop these qualities to inspire others. I need to identify those who I believe God has called for greater service, and then make it clear to them my belief in them. I need to mentor them– spending time with them and working with them… not simply working for them or they working for me. I must serve as a model for them, but give them freedom to find to establish their own unblazed trails.
It is hard to do so. Of course, as the saying goes, “If it was easy, everyone would do it.”