Thursday, August 1, 2013

Someone Ahead: A New Kind of Mentor Part 2

I played with the title for about ten minutes and finally changed it six months later.  The first title was pretty random, something about the book of John, randomness, and mentoring. Honestly, it didn't make any sense at all, and so I shelved the post in the draft file and forgot about it. I was going through some old unfinished drafts, and I came across this one. Ah, I thought. I can link this to another post about mentoring.

I know nobody cares that much about titles or the way my brain bounces around, but I kind of like the way I think.

It connects all the elements of my life if I just look long enough.

Okay.  Enough randomness.  At least for the moment.  Oh--and if you're wondering about the guy smiling at the top of the page, that's Pastor Mike, the mentor I'll eventually get around to discussing. The one who consistently tells his church that we always need someone ahead, someone behind, and someone alongside us.

Our College-Age Life Group ended about a month ago. We finished an entire year of focusing on books of the New Testament, starting with the book of John.

We started studying John in September 2012, and I really thought we would finish the book before Christmas, but at that point we were only on chapter 10.  Apparently there's a lot to think about in each chapter.   When we resumed the group in January, we planned to finish John by Easter.  Technically, we only made it through chapter 20.

The Life Group members are all pretty busy with studying and working, so we decided to focus on the Bible rather than using a supplemental book.  There's nothing wrong with books, but we wanted to keep life simple.  We assign a chapter or two a week, we read carefully, and we mark or keep in mind the things that stand out to us, things that God shows us, and questions that we want to bring up in group.  There's not a lot of agenda, just a lot of reading and asking, "What do you want to show us, God?"

Sometimes I would read a chapter and think, "Oh, we'll finish this really fast.  There's not much to say."  I really didn't think there was that much to talk about in chapter 11, the chapter about Lazarus and dying, but as it turned out, we had lots to say.   In fact, I've filled my journal with really awesome nuggets from Sunday night, things I want to blog about someday.

The whole discussion always seemed rather unscripted and random, but randomness isn't always a bad thing. Randomness allows responsiveness to a situation.  It allows the opportunity to explore and pause and reference other Scripture passages including ones we've just read.  It allows discovery.

I'm not opposed to organized learning, but there's a season for everything. The last life group season was our season for more of less random discovery of Scripture.

I learned this Bible study technique from Pastor Mike, the lead pastor at Newbreak Church in San Diego.  Back when the church was small, fewer than 120 people, Pastor Mike asked if he could host a small group Bible study in our house.  I said yes, and for a couple of years, ten to twenty men and women sat in a circle every Tuesday night to study books of the Bible.  It took us about eight weeks to get through the book of First John, and that only has four chapters.

I learned to study the Bible from Pastor Mike, to write in the margins, to ask questions, like what are the complexities of that word?  I learned to consider ramifications of this analogy or that symbolism or Old Testament references?  I learned to appreciate the perspectives of different group members.  I learned that a Bible study isn't only about studying the Bible, but also about growing close to and praying for other group members.

I consider Pastor Mike to be one of my early mentors.  There was never an "official" mentor status--I suppose it was all rather random.  Most of my mentoring has been pretty random.  I was in the same place as someone who had things to teach me, and I learned by watching, asking questions.  I suppose that's how I've learned to mentor other people too.  Informally.  Randomly.

If we want mentors, if we want to learn from people who are ahead of us, we need to find a way to get in the same room with those people. Hosting Mike's Life Group seemed like a perfect opportunity. In other examples, I have joined ministries to be around people I wanted to learn. I have volunteered to serve them directly. Sometimes the people we wish would mentor us are maxed out on their schedules, but that doesn't mean we can't shadow them in other ways.

I maximized my opportunity to learn from Pastor Mike by studying the Bible ahead of time, so I could learn as much as possible.  I listened. I asked questions.  When he stepped out of the group after a few years, I continued the Bible study patterns I learned from him and began leading women's groups.

My husband, Duane, has his own Pastor Mike random mentoring stories. Most of these have to do with moving furniture or fixing things. He knew that if he was in the same room as Mike, he would learn things. He just never knew what he would learn. And so, whenever Mike asked for help, Duane said yes. He learned about church planting and raising teenagers and marriage. In hanging out with Pastor Mike, Duane learned how to be a pastor.

Sometimes it's hard to find mentors, those people who can teach us new things and ask challenging questions, those people who become examples and models for our lives. Those people are all around us, people who are following God with their whole hearts, who are doing the things we sense God is calling us to do. Sometimes those people mentor us directly, but if that's not what's happening, it doesn't mean we can't learn from them.

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