“The church exists to set up in the world a new sign which is radically dissimilar to the world’s own manner and which contradicts it in a way that is full of promise.”
“On the highest throne in the world, we still sit only on our own bottom.” Michel de Montaigne
Don’t judge me, but the other night when there was nothing else on TV, I fired up 4oD and watched the first episode of Scandimania, Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall’s latest venture.
I’ve been keen to visit Scandinavia for a while now and honestly, I thought an hour in front of a harmless cookery programme with nice scenery would be pretty easygoing.
Then something surreal, and then profound, happened. Hugh – that’s right: eccentric, wonderfully British Hugh – met with Björn Ulvaeus, one of the members of Swede synth sensations ABBA. Out of that coming together of two people you’d never put in the same room, I found myself thinking about humility.
Lagom is a Swedish word that, as Björn explained, doesn’t really have an English equivalent. It’s one of those times when the English language doesn’t quite have the depth that so many other languages have. The closest it seems we can get in English when it comes to lagom is ‘just enough’.
More than just a word, for Swedes it signifies a way of life – a recognition that excess is often dangerous, that there is usually just the right amount of something to be had, that any more or any less is a waste.
Lagom got me thinking. Because for a long time, humility has been something I’ve struggled with. It seems that being humble is deeply ironic because the minute we think we’ve done well at being humble, we’ve shot ourselves in the foot. (That’s an over-exaggeration, of course). I want to be humble for many reasons, not least because it’s Biblical (see Luke 14:11 and more), but also because living humbly is a beautiful, counter-cultural thing. But to this point, I haven’t quite found a way to work out what humility looks like.
It’s not putting myself down, lamenting my shortcomings, highlighting my deficiencies. Equally, it’s not bragging about how good I am, how much I’ve prayed lately, how many people read my articles.
It’s just enough. It’s recognition that we have God-given talents and should use them and take pride in them, because we are using them for God. But at the same time it’s realising that what we have comes from God, and that our place before him is a humble one, where we lay down our lives for others and for God.
Lagom. Just enough.
Today, I’m thrilled to have a guest post by Tyler Braun. I first came across Tyler last year when I did a review of his brilliant book Why Holiness Matters.
Tyler is a great guy, and a voice worth listening to in a world where so many people are clamouring for attention. He’s humble, wise and discerning, and I have really valued and learnt a lot from his thoughts on mentoring over the last few months. His post below is about just that – mentoring – and it’ a great read. Over to him – and I’d love to know your thoughts on what he says.
Certainly not all churches are representative of this, but mentoring is quickly the buzz word of choice for churches looking to reach younger generations. Fortune 500 companies are making the news by starting mentoring programs they hope will fulfill the desires their younger employees have for interaction with more experienced members within their organizations.
With the success these moves have made for companies, churches are also starting programs for mentoring. If churches start programs for mentoring they’ll kill the entire concept by trying to force relationships. What I think churches need is not another program, but a shift in mindset. Anyone can create a sign up sheet for those looking for a mentor, but churches should be equipping people with the tools needed in order for mentoring to become a core focus.
In 5 years, your church will have moved on to the next quick fix if you create a mentoring program, but if you instill a mindset of mentoring within a church, in 5 years you’ll have a church full of people who are more connected and shine forth the light of Christ like never before.
First off, it’s important to define what is meant by mentoring, so it’s understood what is being discussed:
Mentoring is inviting someone into an intentional relationship for the sake of personal and spiritual growth.
I have no doubt my call away from creating mentoring programs is discouraging for those who have had in mind to do this very thing. So let’s spend time examining how we can instill a mentoring mindset in a church. Over time this will be more effective than a program anyway.
The lack of understanding about what the Gospel is can be seen all around as the Gospel is truncated to simply mean being saved from sin. Jesus then is Savior, but not King. The focus on grace is simply saving grace. Where is the focus on equipping grace? Where is King Jesus found in a lived out theology? What does God have for us to do with our lives after he saves us? These questions are often ignored.
If the Gospel saves us, and also equips us for the present and the future by infusing God’s power within us, then we can begin to see how we are called to care for others. If mentoring is only a quick fix to reach a generation it will never become sustainable, but connecting mentoring to the core belief of Christian faith means it becomes integral to the outworking of that faith.
Churches are full of leaders who want their church to build a mentoring mindset but they’d prefer to leave to work for others. If developing a mentoring mindset is something you desire for your church, but you cannot find the time or energy to help lead the way, you need to find something else to focus on then. Without the key staff/volunteers/idea leaders leading the way, mentoring will not develop.
Just as you should never preach a message you haven’t first taught yourself, you should never tell others to do something you are not first willing to do.
Every church has indispensable people who are the glue of the congregation. They hold everything together by serving, teaching, leading, praying, etc. Churches develop a mentoring mindset because these linchpins put their effort toward it.
Reach out to these indispensable individuals and start having conversations that help get the ball rolling. While it is vital for you to lead by example, you also cannot lead the church toward mentoring on your lonesome. You need others who are passionate about investing in people. Who are the leaders in your church or community that people are drawn to? These linchpins are the people you need on board.
Chances are mentoring is already taken place, in various forms, all around you. But often it’s taking place with little to no intentionality or fanfare. Opportunities are wasted because people choose to stop investing their time and energy in them.
You have the opportunity to champion the pockets around you where mentoring is taking place. You have to start somewhere, and celebrating what is working is a great place to start.
Tyler Braun is the author of Why Holiness Matters: We’ve Lost Our Way—But We Can Find it Again. Tyler lives in Oregon with his wife Rose and son Judah. You can find Tyler on Twitter or his blog, www.manofdepravity.com, where he writes about Millennials and finding the significant life we’re all searching for.
“The Christian in the one whose imagination should fly beyond the stars.” Francis A. Schaeffer
I recently came across Pope John Paul II’s Letter to Artists, and from the moment I read it I wished I’d discovered it sooner. It’s a beautiful description and proclamation of the role art has to play in the life of Christians.
As more and more followers of Jesus use art to express their faith, John Paul II’s words provide inspiration, encouragement and support. Here’s a small section – you can read the full letter here.
“In order to communicate the message entrusted to her by Christ, the Church needs art. Art must make perceptible, and as far as possible attractive, the world of the spirit, of the invisible, of God. It must therefore translate into meaningful terms that which is in itself ineffable. Art has a unique capacity to take one or other facet of the message and translate it into colours, shapes and sounds which nourish the intuition of those who look or listen. It does so without emptying the message itself of its transcendent value and its aura of mystery…
“In Christ, God has reconciled the world to himself. All believers are called to bear witness to this; but it is up to you, men and women who have given your lives to art, to declare with all the wealth of your ingenuity that in Christ the world is redeemed: the human person is redeemed, the human body is redeemed, and the whole creation which, according to Saint Paul, ‘awaits impatiently the revelation of the children of God’ (Rom 8:19), is redeemed. The creation awaits the revelation of the children of God also through art and in art. This is your task. Humanity in every age, and even today, looks to works of art to shed light upon its path and its destiny.”
Letter of His Holiness Pope John Paul II to Artists
I’ve had the pleasure of reviewing one of Tyler Braun’s books before.
He’s a writer I’ve come to respect, admire and listen to, primarily because what he writes resonates strongly with where I find myself and where I believe so many others in this generation do as well.
So when he got in touch with the opportunity to review his new book, How to Find and Thrive With a Mentor, I jumped at the chance. Mentoring is an area of the church which is constantly misunderstood and misinterpreted and yet one which is vitally important.
Tackling the issue straight on, Tyler manages in this short book (it’s only 25 pages) to not only define mentoring, but give a hugely encouraging example from his own story. In an age where so many millennials seem to be struggling to find their place in the world, this book puts forward a strong argument for all of us having a mentor.
As someone who doesn’t have a mentor and who has regularly thought about having one, this book is a significant prompt. More than that, it provides a picture of a church community which is constantly seeking to encourage and equip emerging generations. By passing on wisdom, knowledge and advice, mentors can truly speak powerfully into our lives and encourage us on our walks with God.
Whether you have a mentor, are a mentor or are thinking of having one/becoming one, I encourage you to read this book. It will take you less than an hour, and it might just push you to make a life-changing decision.
For years, I’ve led worship in church.
I by no means think I’m amazing at it, and I still have serious doubts about my ability to do it, but it’s what I do. The reason I do it is because I meet God most through worship. It’s always been that way.
Part of the reason I love to lead worship is because I long for others to meet with God, and if singing is a way in which they can do that, then it’s a privilege to lead them in it.
Lately, however, something feels like it’s been missing when I’m leading. In fact it’s not only leading, but when I’m being led as well. For a while, I thought maybe it was something I was doing wrong – making too many mistakes, trying too much or too little.
Put simply, I’m struggling to meet with God during worship.
I can’t put a finger on why. I’ve been through all the obvious options – I’m not trying hard enough (or at all), I’m worried too much about the music and not enough about the One to whom I’m singing. And I feel like despite all my efforts, despite my longings to meet with God, it’s just not happening.
Initially, I didn’t know what to do with this situation. Singing has always been my connection with God. I love reading the Bible, praying and learning about him, but worship has always been it for me. So to see that bridge begin to crack and falter hurt and worried me.
However, a while ago I suddenly started to see God and recognise God’s movement in other things, other creative outlets which I had not really tapped into before. For instance, I became very aware that God was speaking to me through what I was reading – not only Christian books and blogs, but the novels I was reading as well.
The same thing happened with poetry. Which is odd because I’ve never really read poems. Now, I read a dozen or so a day. Some about God, some not. Not all of them leave me on my knees in awe, but I’m certainly seeing God’s character through different mediums now.
My worry with all of this was that I’d have to stop leading worship. Not so much because I enjoy being at the front (although most worship leaders will tell you they fight a constant internal battle to make sure it’s not a performance, and I’m certainly no different) but because I believe God wants me to lead worship, and I believe he still wants me to, despite these struggles.
The more I think about the this season, which I’m still very much going through, the more I think there’s been a reason for it.
As is always the case with God.
I’ve found him in different places, discovered different ways of expressing my creativity. Perhaps the lesson has been that sometimes I need to break out of the mould, and not simply rely on meeting God through worship. That will always be a part of my relationship with him, but I think he’s telling me that I need to be cultivating other parts as well.
And so whilst I’m sure this will be an ongoing process, I’m starting to see spring appearing. Buds of different flowers I’ve never seen before. A different perspective.
In it’s own way, it’s extremely exciting.