I normally don't answer altar calls at my church - not because I think I'm spiritually beyond it - far from it, but I usually believe my first responsibility when I am at church is not to be fed, but to feed -- to be there for the people and pray for them. So this is usually my place - functioning at the altar in ministering to the people. I'm sure it's the same way with the majority of pastors and pastor's wives - they are not "too proud" to come to the altar - they just feel the responsibility to minister to the flock which we have been called to do.
Well this morning I set that aside for a brief moment and went and responded to the altar. Larry didn't preach this message exclusively for me, (I haven't even shared my thoughts with him on it before now - didn't want to discourage him) but it applied to me. Just frankly speaking here, I've been ready to give up on the idea of mentoring. Me...the person who has taught workshops on mentoring. Yep, you read it here first.
I am not kidding one bit when I say that I decided as of late to lay the "mentoring mantle" down, at least the up close method -- anything besides what mentorship people receive by hearing preaching or teaching. Maybe not permanently, but for a season...it's been what my heart has wanted to do and what I had decided I probably would do for at least a few months to a year or however long it took me to feel ready again.
This feeling comes from the discouragement and a sense of failure within myself of seeing as many people fail that I have mentored, as those who have succeeded. For every person that I have seen go forward through my mentorship, I have also had situations that have turned into nightmares. They have all received the same type of mentorship for the most part, however, some have become a dream and some have become a nightmare!
There are times I have failed at something where I just stop for a while to get my equilibrium back.
Regarding mentoring, as of late I have asked myself if I really want the headache or if I just need a break. Tonight Alex Rivera said something in our vision meeting that was awesome - he talked about the morning's message and said, "do we want to be rope holders even when we're getting some rope burns?" This is what God spoke to me about this morning as I sat in the service. He gave me my answer as much I as really didn't want to hear it. I wanted to just start preaching and teaching my guts out and give myself more time to do it well instead of investing in people, half of which seem to be bent on making the wrong choices.
In the past few months, Larry and I have gotten letters from some people we've mentored over the years who said thank you, and told us just how much we impacted, and are continuing to impact their lives through things we taught them. One letter I read about a week ago caused my eyes to well up with tears of gratitude. At the same time, I got on the Myspace of someone I mentored years ago and was horrified by how far they have fallen from grace. There were things so horrible on the page, I can't repeat them here. Quite honestly, I thought, "why did I ever invest my time?" Others may not be touting x-rated material, but have fallen into other disappointing situations or decisions where you say, "why? did they learn nothing over our time together? What could I have done to prevent this or that?" The answer many times is...nothing. I'm learning right now through reading, and talking to some great mentors that every mentor encounters these variables. However the issue with me that I've been pondering is...is it worth it?
Then there are those you have mentored who might not be a flop in life or ministry, (in fact they might be very successful) but they turn around and burn you personally despite all you've done for them. Or, they really don't give a rip about the time you spent. I know we don't do it for exaltation, at least we shouldn't. We don't give for the praise of people. But Larry says although he doesn't invest for the praise of men, he doesn't want to be taken for granted either. There's a difference. You don't need to be praised, but at the same time you don't want to be stepped on. As Sis. Coker often says, "you won't miss the water til' the well runs dry." I've been wanting to close my well.
Then there's the issue of pastoring and trying to mentor to see increase not only in the Kingdom of God, but your portion of the Kingdom. You mentor some people first to enrich that person's life and help them grow, but second you also have the desire to see them come alongside you and help you to grow and tend to the part of the "vineyard" where God has placed you. (After all, the role of every pastor according to Ephesians 4 is to equip and train.) You do this with high hopes that people will turn around and utilize that investment to serve and make an impact in church and the community. When you sow seed, you expect a harvest. But often, the people you help are less concerned about serving with you than they are about moving on to "do their own thing." Do you know how many pastors I have talked to who are discouraged because somebody they have poured into has just split from them and started their own church? Too many to count. Or they have invested in people only to have them fly the coop and move somewhere else to do their own thing.
Recently I read a blog of an ex-pastor who has left the ministry permanently after many years of service. He's not a bad guy, on the contrary he's a real good guy who just got real discouraged. He said, "I gave for years and years and invested countless hours in equipping and training people, only to see the vast majority of them leave to do their own thing."
There's nothing wrong with that in some cases - people are called to launch out elsewhere in some instances and it is all about the Kingdom of God. However, as Dr. Lee taught us, when that is consistently happening more often than not in a congregation, there is no way it can grow. He suggests asking the individuals before you decide to mentor them or put them in ministry, "what is in your heart to do, and will you do it through the ministries of this church?" He always asked people their intentions right up front. He didn't invest without a definite commitment. He got the the bottom line and point blank asked them if they were called to stand with Him - to do whatever it took to fulfill the mission/vision of the church. If they weren't going to invest back into the church he didn't heavily invest in those particular individuals most of the time, nor choose them for leadership positions that he knew would just have to be filled again. This always worked for him as a pastor years ago, but I have found at least in my experience so far in trying it, it hasn't worked as well and I don't know whether that's just the fact that we're not Dr. Lee (yes, I know that makes a difference!) or the fact that times have changed so much. I've found most people today will give some ambiguous answer like,"well, I don't know, I can't really commit to anything concerning that, or tell you what I'm going to do..." and then of course even when they do commit to you they can always just quit later and say, "I know what I said, but God spoke..." and flit off to do whatever and blame it on God. (After all, who are we to argue with God? That's why so many people use that excuse even when it's many times not the case.)
The pastor who blogged made mention that this is one of the main reasons he has resigned, works in the marketplace now, and attends a church with his family and serves where he can to help another pastor. He said, "I'm tired of investing my all into people just to have them go do their thing and still not really be able to move the church forward." I'm not saying it's right...but I do understand what the man is saying. I wonder how many pastors out there feel this same thing so deeply? And is it the reason many have quit?
This morning God renewed my heart to be able to say, "yes, I will still step up to the call of being a rope holder, even when I feel rope burns." So a lot of the people that I invest in may disappoint. But many of them also succeed. We often say, "if you or I were the only person in the world, Jesus would have gone to the cross just for you or me." That's true and I guess we have to look at mentorship in the same way. Are we willing to hold the rope even if there's only a certain amount of people in the basket, or if some people have jumped out of the basket? Larry's one statement that really got ahold of me this morning was, "IT DOESN'T MATTER WHO'S IN THE BASKET!"
I've been lamenting lately over people I've mentored making stupid decisions, making me feel as if my investment in their lives was a brain warp on my part. In my eyes, they jumped out of the basket. God drew my attention to the fact today, it doesn't matter whether they are in the basket, jumping out of the basket, asleep in the basket, or whether they go get their own basket. Sometimes that stuff may hurt like heck, but the bottom line is what matters is my obedience to the call to be a rope holder. Obedience. That's what God cares about. Our job is to do what God calls to do - and leave the results up to Him. Some people might think, "that shouldn't hurt you...what's wrong with you that you feel that way?" Obviously that person is not a pastor or is a complete rookie. Of course it hurts any normal pastor when people jump out of the basket, have indifference, fall asleep, stab them in the back, or just take your investment so they can go get their own basket. (especially when they do it behind your back or in an unscrupulous fashion.) Anybody who doesn't see this reality that pastors are human and feel the pain of this when it happens and find it hard to just spiritualize it away...well, they probably deserve to have their own church! And I personally put my request in to God to be a fly on the wall when this happens to them! :-) That would be better entertainment to watch than American Idol. Pop the popcorn, sit back and watch them try it. I have gently brought up this conversation before (with people I probably shouldn't have, and been given a dissertation on how it's "all about the Kingdom" and we shouldn't fret or be hurt over such instances. Yes, yes, yes, I understand all about kingdom principles. But does that mean stuff like this isn't excruciating sometimes to a man or woman of God? NO, NO NO. Hello. We still bleed. (I love that book by T.D. Jakes, When Shepherds Bleed.) Does it not hurt when somebody we invested in goes astray? Makes poor choices? Take a route that negatively affects their destiny? Have ungrateful attitudes? Stab you in the back? Um, is the Pope Catholic? So you can stand there all you want and recite mantras about Kingdom principles but all the while you're still going to have to wrap something around you to stop the bleeding, principles or no principles. What you can use to stop the bleeding is a whole other blog post.
Results are so unpredictable. Not only can you not predict them, but you can't control them. Therefore, you must function on the truth that you obey despite the results. I am learning more and more to be less results oriented and more obedience oriented. This isn't to say that it's easy or that I don't get really discouraged -- or that I'm "there" yet. I have to be honest, there are days everything in me wants to let go...but,
I'm still here, God. I'll hold the rope as long as you ask me to.