Paul’s “imitate” me as I imitate Christ has helped me to be comfortable finding effective people and imitating productive aspects of their character and behavior. It may be able to do the same for you.
Here is how real world mentor/protégé relationships worked for me:
Mentored to deal with people situations
One man I chose to “imitate” is a veteran pastor. When I was a young pastor and faced situations came for which I had little frame of reference, I would pray and examine scripture for the principles involved. From these, I’d develop a strategy for responding to this particular dilemma.
At that point, I’d call my elder – in this instance my uncle named Crawford Coon; lay out the situation and ask for his suggestion on how to respond. After he gave his insight we would talk about my planned response. At times my plan was workable; more often, he helped me see it from another perspective. After consulting with him I’d pray and take whatever action was needed.
As the years passed my own bank of experiences increased. I called Crawford less often. Yet, it has not been many years since I again found myself again calling on him for insight about a situation unlike any I’d faced. The relationship did not eliminate the heavy lifting, but it did make sure I was working as smart as possible.
Mentored to have sustainable revival
Other people helped me focus on revival. Often it was more by observation than from being “bosom buddies.” I’ve been in the home of G.A. Mangun only a few times yet the Mangun family became models to imitate–models of revival living, work ethic, faith and personal growth. Their focus on prayer was applied. Evangelism took root. Much of what I learned was by observation from afar. I’ve already written about some of the things I learned from G. A. Mangun.
Mentored to lead
An effective district superintendent let me (and other younger men) look over his shoulder. What insight we gained from those glances into the experience of leadership. By observation, he taught me how to keep my mouth shut; that there were some battles to fight and some to ignore.
It was not natural or easy to “imitate” any of these men. As the years have passed . . . what was at one point imitation has now become part of my own approach to life and ministry. It could be that eventually someone even imitates me – now, that is something of a scary thought.
- Don’t expect your mentor to be perfect or to even agree with your mentor on every topic.
- Practicing what has been modeled is not natural or easy. It takes a determined and decided effort. After a time, the material becomes your own.
- You will need more than one mentor. Every person has strengths and weaknesses. Bring people into your life and learn from their strengths.
- As time passes, the list of those who influence you will change. As growth comes one needs to find leaders who have traveled the path that now lies immediately ahead. This means reaching out for new voices with fresh perspective. Some of the influencers of another era will be set aside by circumstances and various situations. Some will disappoint you. Yet, you have gained from their input.
I’m so grateful for the men who have been part of my life. Men who have allowed me to “tag along” watching what they did. Someone said, “If you ever see a turtle on a fence post . . . you know he didn’t get there by himself.” I’ve never seen a turtle on a fence-post. I don’t know any who have, but I understand that few will rise to what we could be without bringing into life some men we choose to imitate. There are some people around you who know “how” . . . ask them and observe them. They will be your greatest help!
Now who will you go too? At some point, I’ve thought of hosting “A Pastor’s School.” Do you suppose there would be interest in such a thing?