How a Mentor Will Change Your Life

This is a guest post by Tyler Braun. Tyler is a writer and pastor from Oregon. He is the author of several books, including a book on mentoring and Why Holiness Matters (Moody), which is on sale for FREE this week only (ebook version). You can find Tyler on Twitter or his blog, www.manofdepravity.com.

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How a Mentor Will Change Your Life

We all want to achieve some level of greatness or significance with our lives. What we often underestimate is that this only comes through our engagement with others, not in isolation. We all need people behind us that continue to push us forward.

Only when you understand who you are, will you start living into how you were made to engage in your current context. I believe we were each made with an intense longing to have other people speaking into our lives. A mentor will help you discover who we are in a way you would not know in leading an isolated life.

There is no life-change without life-exchange.

For over a four year period I waited for an older and wiser man to mentor me. I assumed that if I waited long enough this person would give me a call and make my life better. The call never came despite desire and my frustration continued to grow.

Eventually I worked up enough courage to flip the script and asked someone who I thought would challenge me to be a better person. And sure enough, the time I spent with him changed my life.

Looking back I see the specific ways interactions with a mentor facilitated change within me.

Clarity Within Community

A lot of people have clarity of vision for their life, but they lack the relational engagement needed to see the full extent of the vision.

A mentor provides added perspective. You have blind spots—areas in life that you struggle to navigate well.

Personal clarity without the input of others often leads down treacherous paths.

A Nudge

Your life needs fresh eyes to lend perspective on where you are going astray. A mentor is not a babysitter or a parent, but they can shed light on areas of concern. A mentor—having navigated life further down the road—can give you the nudge needed to keep you walking the right direction.

The culture at large teaches that you should surround yourself with people who give positive vibes, but what you likely need is someone who is willing to give you the honest truth when you would rather ignore it.

Hikes Not Maps

I’m stubborn enough that I typically look for someone who will provide me with enough information for me to continue on my way. These information givers are like shopkeepers who provide maps.

The problem is what I need is a trail guide who can walk the paths rather than just providing a map.

You need a trail guide, not a shopkeeper. On a lonely trail, you need a hiking partner, not a map.

Plenty of people can give you the information you need to take the next step but a mentor will walk alongside you throughout the journey.

A Character Driven Life

In my weaker moments I’m often drawn to make decisions when my emotions are at their peak. Instead of taking the time to process through it all, the knee-jerk reaction seems to come naturally.

A mentor helps you sift through the emotions to make character based decisions. What are the principles and values that under gird your life? Those should drive your decisions.

At one point 6 months ago I was about to make an emotionally-driven, irrational decision because I sensed a need to make a drastic change in my life. My mentor helped me see how that decision directly contradicted a few things I believed to be true about myself.

A character-based life allows for short-term wins to translate into long-term sustainability.

Wings to Launch

The Millennial Generation has been described as “failing to launch.” The reasons for this are many and highly debated, but it doesn’t remove the truth that many people feel relegated to their current state—flightless with no wings to see beyond it.

This is right where a mentor can step in and help you navigate how you have been gifted and how those gifts can launch you toward the life you’ve been created to live.

Take the step. Make the ask. Get a mentor. It will change your life.

In what ways has a mentor changed your life?

Catch Phrases Heard On the Way to the Finish Line

running alone

I am a runner. I mostly run just for my personal health and pleasure, but I’ve run in quite a few races. I’ve even run a marathon and numerous half marathons. I’ve learned, however, that distance is relative. If a 5K is your milestone, that’s a long race. I have a friend who runs the 100 mile races. Crazy.

One thing I’ve learned, however, is that, if you’re pushing yourself, at some point along the race, you’ll struggle. It will go from being “fun” to being a challenge. I’ve also discovered that without those stretching moments, there wouldn’t be near as much thrill of crossing the finish line.

Here’s something else I’ve observed. There’s a common language among those struggling the most.

Run any distance race and you’ll hear the frustration out loud.

I’ve heard things like:

  • I can’t do this.
  • This is harder than I thought.
  • I’m not a runner.
  • Why did I sign up for this?
  • This is crazy.
  • I’m never doing another one of these.
  • I’m in pain.

But, I’ve never met a runner, who crossed the finish line, who didn’t receive the thrill of victory…even if it was only after they threw up in the trashcan nearby.

The completion of a dream…a goal…a challenge…feels great after the finish line.

Are you ready to give up the dream?

Don’t quit too soon. You don’t want to miss what’s next!

Farmer Super Bowl Commercial: Reflections

I couldn’t get past the “Farmer” commercial during the Super Bowl. My grandfather on my mother’s side lived in Kansas. He died when I was young, but I’ve always lived somewhat in his shadow…he was a hero of mine. Everything I knew about him was captured in that commercial. If you missed it, or want to see it again, watch it now.

A good friend…and a great leader…Jason Cummins sent me his thoughts on the commercial.

Here is a guest post from Jason reflecting on the commercial:

The Super Bowl was last night, and as always, my wife and I looked forward to the commercials. However, I’m not one to go online and view them ahead of time. I feel the precise broadcast time establishes context, and thus is an important part of the overall experience.

As we entered the second half, I was a bit disappointed. No croaking frogs, dive-bombing pigeons, or office linebacker sightings. Rather, Madison Avenue seemed content to reflect our culture’s status quo…a preference for short-term gratification over long-term reward.

Then entered what will be referred to today as simply, “The Farmer” commercial. Narrated by one of my all-time favorites, Paul Harvey, the ad immediately transported me back to my childhood, riding on the bench seat of the family roadster or huddled around the single, family radio in my grandparents’ house.

But it wasn’t merely the voice that made the commercial so powerful. Rather, it was the verbal content and the accompanying deep, pictorial images. Americans respect farmers, and the farmer was extolled for his virtuous characteristics. As I rewatched the commercial this morning, I pulled the five following traits from the rich narrative. These resonate with our souls, for deep down, we respect them, desire them, and want to be led by those who embody them:

1. Disciplined work ethic. He is willing to get up before dawn, work all day, finish his 40-hour week by Tuesday noon, and then work another 72 hours. He isn’t afraid of hard work. He is hard work.

2. Selfless. He attends school board meetings, applies first aid, and willingly attends to the needs of others before himself.

3. Competent. He can shape an axe handle, shoe a horse, or make a harness out of scrap. He knows his trade and confidently, yet humbly, goes about doing his work.

4. Compassion. He sits up with an ailing colt and splints the leg of a meadowlark. He heart is attune to his surroundings, and he is willing to do something about it.

5. Character. He plows deep and straight and will not cut corners. He will choose the harder right over the easier wrong. He works for good.

And then the commercial concludes with, “To the farmer in all of us.” Much like a good class, the ad not only made us think, but it also made us feel. And in the process, it reminded us of important characteristics we should all aspire to emulate. May each of us live a little more like a FARMER today.

Who do you think of when you watch that commercial?

7 Ideas that May Help You Attain more Success

Road to success

You want to achieve more, but for some reason you can never seem to reach your goals.

Is that your story? I hear it often. You’re in good company.

Here are 7 ideas that will help you attain more success:

Clear vision – Where are you leading your life? Many times you don’t get there because you never really decide where you want to eventually be. It’s hard to hit an undefined target.

Discipline – Are you putting in the needed effort? Those who wait for luck to kick in or hope for the easy way to victory, seldom discover what they’re looking for in life.

Embracing other’s help – Do you know you can’t do it all alone? The most successful people do.

Letting go of past hurts – Offering forgiveness frees you from needless bitterness and anger that slows you down and keeps you from being completely emotionally healthy.

Trusting more than you doubt – You can pray or you can worry. You can’t do both equally well. The more you worry, the less likely you are to take a risk. And, you can’t achieve the thrill of victory without a lot of risk.

Becoming an even more generous person – Your level of generosity demonstrates your level of contentment. Generous people naturally feel more successful.

Loving principles and progress more than policies or procedures – Structure is needed and good, but the best structure advances progress not curtails it.

Which of these do you need to consider in order to help you attain more success?

The Leadership Crisis of Belief

Stressed-man

The leadership crisis of belief.

Every leader faces that point…will this work?

Can I do it? Will they follow? Should I give up? Should I keep going?

The crisis of belief period is real. It’s normal. It’s part of leadership.

In every new venture.

With every bold move.

With every meaningful change.

With every act of faith.

With every major change.

With every new risk.

You will question yourself. You will question your team. You will question the idea, the resources, the outcome.

If it’s a move worth pursuing, you’ll face the crisis of belief. Sometime.

Are you there now?

What you do next will likely determine the outcome!

Praying for you.

You can do it!

Dancing Priest: How a Book Was Born

dancing priest

This is a guest post by Glynn Young. Glynn authored a book that I can literally say is going to be one of my all time favorites, and I just read it last month. And, it’s fiction. Dancing Priest is captivating, challenging and, I believe, potentially life-giving for some in the church who want to reach a current culture. Glynn lives in suburban St. Louis, where he works as the social media team leader for a Fortune 500 company. He’s married with two grown sons and two grandsons. He’s also a deacon at Central Presbyterian Church.

I asked Glynn to share how a book that impressed me came to be. Here’s his story.

It was 2002. I was flying to San Francisco and listening to an in-flight music program featuring a tenor with a beautiful voice – Mario Frangoulis. He sang one song, “Luna Rosa,” in Italian, which I don’t speak. I knew the title meant “Red Moon.” As I listened, an image formed – a priest dancing on a beach.

When I arrived at my downtown hotel, I found the CD at a local bookstore. It became my drive music – if I was in my car, I was listening to Mario Frangoulis.

One night not long after, I laid in bed, thinking about that priest. I realized he was Episcopal or Anglican. He was part of a tour group that included a young American woman. The possibility of romance was in the air.

For the next three years, I created the story in my head. I plotted the scenes. I moved the priest to Edinburgh and put him on a racing bike. I gave him a name – Michael. I gave the young woman a name – Sarah. I added characters. I decided my priest was originally from England, the only child of his parents’ second marriages.

I developed a conflict – a young couple in love, Michael preparing to enter the Anglican priesthood and Sarah mildly hostile to anything connected to faith. Michael is the central character, but Sarah’s lack of faith is the story’s pivot.

For three years, the story grew and developed in my head. I never thought of it becoming a book. And I didn’t say anything about it, even to my wife.

The catalyst was Hurricane Katrina. Most of my side of our family lives in New Orleans and the Gulf Coast. I spent a harrowing week tracking down family members and finding a way to get my elderly mother and aunt out of the city.

Something about that experience convinced me I didn’t want to lose the story in my head. I began to type.

The story poured out, some 250,000 words (enough for three average novels). When it stopped pouring, I knew it needed serious editing and rewriting. What works in your head at 11:30 at night while you’re falling asleep often won’t work as well in daylight on a computer screen.

The rewriting and editing continued until 2008. My wife convinced me to try to market the manuscript. I sent out queries to agents and editors. I developed elaborate editorial packages (designed as requirements to discourage would-be writers). I talked with editors and agents at a writer’s conference.

I almost gave up any hope of publication when an agent told me it was not marketable unless it had a vampire or werewolf in the story. And he was serious. (This was when the Twilight novels were taking off.)

I continued to write and edit. The story grew.

In 2010, a small publisher here in the St. Louis area told me he’d heard I had a manuscript, and he’d like to read it. I said no. He kept coming back at me for six months, and I finally let him take a look. He told me it was an incredible story of what coming to faith is about and he wanted to publish it. I said no. It sounds crazy, but I wasn’t ready.

He kept after me for a year. And then one day he said, “Are you going to let me publish it or not?” I surprised us both, and said yes.

Dancing Priest was born in late 2011. The sequel, A Light Shining, came a year later.

The Blindness of Ministry

Day planner & pen

Recently I came across a journal entry from January, 2005. I talked about some of the goals I had for the year and my progress and lack thereof towards meeting them. I shared some current frustrations I was having in ministry. I then asked God to help me be more disciplined.

Then I read the last sentence of that day’s journal. I wrote, “God, at 41, some days it feels that I’m not accomplishing anything.”

Wow!

Looking back at my life now, I’m sure it was a one day “pity party” (Yes, even pastors have those), because that was during a season when eleven core families were meeting regularly in our living room, preparing to launch a church. That would be our second plant, and this one would go on to be one of the fastest growing churches in the country and is still accomplishing more now than we ever dreamed possible.

I don’t share that to bring attention to myself. And, it’s not so much that a church needs to grow at that pace. God may use you in completely different ways than He has used me. It may be with one person, a thousand people, or millions. God has a unique plan for every person’s life. I share it because it points to an important principle in ministry that’s true for all of us.

We seldom see the good God is doing through us as we are doing it.

That keeps us humble.
That keeps us in prayer.
That keeps us desperate for His hand to be upon us.

Are you in the middle of a stressful season of ministry or life? Are you wondering if any of your efforts are making a difference?

If so, and if you are being obedient to God’s will as much as you know how, then stand firm.

Don’t give up! Stay tuned!

God is up to things you can’t even imagine.

God is using you Mighty Warrior! (Judges 6:12)

And, I’m praying He allows you to see some fruit from your labor as you continue to trust Him.

3 Words to Encourage Fallen Pastors

man praying

In the past few years, as a pastor and through my blog, I have had the occasion to minister to some very broken people. Many of those have been pastors or ministers who once had thriving work they were doing for God, but, whether by a personal failure or through circumstances beyond their control, they are no longer serving.

It breaks my heart.

One resource I saw recently showed that 1,500 pastors leave the ministry each month in America. Startling.

I want to help some of those think through a process of restoration. I don’t mean to oversimplify a very difficult situation, but often if people can think in terms of a process they can more easily plan their steps. That’s my goal in this post.

Here are three words of encouragement to a fallen pastor or minister:

Recover – Seek forgiveness. Offer forgiveness where needed. Make things right as much as you can with people you have injured. Now is the time to do the right thing. What you do in this step will often determine the degree to which you can be restored.

Also in this step, most important is that you recover in your relationship with God. Ultimately, He is the One you are seeking to please. You can’t earn His love or re-earn His love, but if fellowship has been broken, confess your sins to the One who is faithful to cleanse. Fall on your knees in surrender once again.

Rebuild – Get counseling. This is usually paid counseling and it will be worth the investment. There are ministries that offer this, and there are those who will fund this, but just as you wouldn’t look for free medical help from a medical doctor, don’t neglect this step even if it isn’t free. It’s necessary in almost every case where disruption in ministry has occurred at a level where you had to resign.

Also important, find a few men (or women if you’re female) who you can trust and who can build into your life, hold you accountable and help you find focus again. Give them freedom to walk with you daily and speak into your life for the months to come, even after you return to ministry.

Rebirth – Accept grace. Launch again. It may or may not be into a ministry such as you left, but if God called you to follow Him with your life, I don’t see examples in Scripture of Him releasing that call. I see where you can reject Him and refuse to follow, but His grasp on you is firm until the end. I don’t agree with those who would say you’re forever barred from serving anywhere. (I’m sure those legalist will struggle with this post.) Where’s the grace in that? It’s certainly not amazing grace.

Don’t rush it. Make sure you are healthy enough. Follow the steps above first, but at some point you’ll need to turn from where you were and start again. There is still much unfinished Kingdom business to be done.

Be helpful to those who may need this post.

What else would you advise?

A Dozen Things I Learned Last Year

two elementary school students looking at globe

I strive to be a continual learner. I learned a few things last year.

Here are 12 of them:

Small things matter most in making change.

Shower gel, shampoo and conditioner in one. Who knew? Changed my gym shower life. (Apparently my wife and boys did but they never let me in on the fun!)

A conference room table can also be used as an ironing board.

Certain neckties interfere with our television broadcasts. (This year we are looking to upgrade our system.) For now, it is a good excuse not to wear a tie, right?

Some people aren’t upset with you. They are upset with their life…or others…and you just happen to be in the way of expressing their frustration and discontent.

Transitioning to a new city happens faster when you’re intentional. And one way to do that is to learn all the hamburger joints. Another is to intentionally network with people…especially people who will connect you to other people.

Resistance to change is relative. Everyone struggles with it at some level. It’s just a matter of how we react to it and how it impacts us that determines our response.

Having done both, I have to say, church planting, in many ways, is easier than church revitalization…and more difficult in other ways. But both are needed.

Losing a beloved pet as an adult may be harder even than as a child.

Lexington, KY is one of the friendliest cities we’ve ever experienced. It would make a great, inexpensive, family weekend vacation spot.

Trust doesn’t come with position or title. It comes with time and experience. Yet gaining trust may be one of the most important aspects of being an effective leader.

People transfer emotional baggage and injury to other people and other situations, who had nothing to do with creating the emotional pain. It is unfair to the innocent recipients, but very true.

What did you learn last year?

12 Challenges for the New Year

Challenge Defined

Here are 12 challenges for the new year:

Quit trying to be someone else – God made you to be you and He didn’t make a mistake.

Quit trying to carry all your burdens – God designed you (and me) to be insufficient without Him and to have a relational need for others.

Start embracing today – You can keep hoping your life away, but when you learn the secret of contentment today can become a great day, in spite of the challenges it holds.

Let the past go – As much as we can learn from history, we shouldn’t be bound by it.

Accept God’s grace – It’s always more than we deserve. You can’t earn it. It’s amazing grace. But, denying or refusing it ignores the beauty of it.

Live free of grudges and bitterness – The lack of forgiveness is a hidden destroyer of joy, peace and happiness.

Remember other people exist – Don’t be selfish or always command your way.

Admit mistakes readily – Sincere humility is an attractive quality.

Give generously – Giving opens the heart to contentment. And, there are many needs around us.

Protect your heart – “Above all else” the Bible says. Where your heart is there your treasure will be also.

Take a new risk – The adrenaline will fuel you for future success.

Think and act eternally whenever possible – It will build the most lasting rewards.

Would you add a challenge for a new year?

Which of the above do you most need to embrace?