Recently I received some great news. My friend Zack Eswine – a gifted pastor and writer – is being encouraged by his local elders to make more time available for coaching leaders. Having experienced the impact of Zack’s coaching myself, I realized immediately what this opportunity could represent for other pastors and leaders who may presently desire mentoring. For more information, here’s some practical steps: First, we recorded a recent podcast on coaching and preaching with Zack. Click Here to Check it out. Also, Zack was kind enough to respond to my request to write a related blog on mentoring, which is offered below. If you want specific information on how to connect with Zack’s coaching ministry, check out thepastorsabbey.com.
– Dave Harvey
Mentoring takes place on the kitchen floor of winter. We sip evening hot chocolate in my home and wear clothes made for sleeping. We talk easy. And we listen for God.
Mentoring takes place as you and I sit our rumps on chairs situated hundreds or thousands of miles from one other. We search for each other’s eyes through a computer screen. Perhaps we say a sentence twice to help with each other’s accents. The video of us and the us we actually are, somehow merges. We talk more awkwardly perhaps. But one thing remains constant. Whether we laugh or cry, together we listen for God. We listen because mentoring prizes silences as well as sentences.
Mentoring is befriending. As conflicts, afflictions, fatigue and discouragement rage about, we sit together as at a banquet table supping with our host in the presence of our enemies. The comfort of God makes our soul like a cup overflowing though our circumstances haven’t changed.
Mentoring is imitating. You listen as I preach. You watch as I lead. You see me ask forgiveness. You hear me pray with tears for a critic or spiral down in defeat for an hour before I remember the gospel and take His promises for my own again. You join me in song. You wince with my weakness. You think me strange and off until later as you realize the wisdom that seemed folly to you. You think me less heroic than you first imagined because the latter view is the truer one as anyone who already knew me could have told you. A new category for learning emerges. A man’s ways, not just his words, shape we who follow him.
All of this reminds us that mentoring takes place not just when we make an appointment and sit down to discuss content. The mentoring began long before the meeting did. We mentor others by the ways that each of us made the appointment; in the ways that each of us prayed or didn’t before we arrived; in the ways that we each greeted one another or didn’t as we sat down together. Did we listen to one other or not? Did we pay attention to the one in front of us? Or perhaps instead, we consistently looked passed the other to see who else might more importantly have entered the room.
When our meeting ends, and our words stop, the mentoring doesn’t. The way we get up from our chair, the way we say goodbye, the way we move on from one another into the day, and how we do that next part of the day, all of this says more than we know. Mark this down. We not only pass on our content we pass on our character. For better or for worse, whether we want to or not. Leaders must come to understand that ways, not just words, speak.
I can see why we go to conferences. The mentoring in them helps us. But it matters that we recognize how it was that Jesus sat by a well at noon and how it was that his human need for something to drink, in between public ministries, was just as much a mentoring moment as these strategic others with their crowds. In fact, walk through the gospels again. Notice how often Jesus answers or explains a quandary his students have when the crowds have gone, and these remaining few walk together in the cool of the morning or eat together by an evening fire.
They not only hear Jesus preach to the crowds. They hear how he speaks to a father whose child is sick or a critic whose tongue conceals poison. They hear how he prays with loud cries and tears in the quiet before the cheek-kisser comes to betray them all. Hearing the Master’s prayers when the crowds were absent, taught them as much as the Master’s class on prayer when everyone listened up and took notes.
No wonder, we offer not only the gospel but our lives as Paul said. Mentors are the seen ones. Those who know what this means, grow humble. For their lives are on display like a jar of clay—broken and chipped so that we can see the treasure within, does not originate with them, but with God. Such mentors are the poured-out ones; the limits of their supply shown as they give it earnestly away. We learn from them, not only a way of thinking and talking but also a way of being in the world.
The romantic student grows impatient with broken, seen, poured out mentors. Such a student proves that he or she meant to leverage rather than love the one from whom they sought to learn. But the romantic realist remains when it turns out that their mentor must say, with good reason, imitate me only as I imitate Jesus. These students continue when the romanticism fades because it was Jesus they sought all along. Only with the clay jar mentor can one find this real treasure. Such students who remain gain a double gift. The gift of the One who saves them and the gift of authentic friendship with the mentor who can’t.