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Spiritual Mentoring Tips

What kinds of conversations do you have with those you mentor?

I get asked that question a lot. So, I thought it would be helpful for you if I passed on stories of honest conversations I’ve had with the men I’ve mentored to help them flesh out just what it means to follow Jesus in real life. Perhaps you’ll want to pass on these stories and ideas to those you mentor, or to your children or grandchildren. Some of these ideas you’ll realize quickly, God meant for you.

Here’s my disclaimer; I’m going to lie. Some of my stories are composites of multiple conversations I’ve had and in all of them I’ve changed names and facts to protect confidentiality. However, the content of each story is absolutely true.

The Problem of Other Gods Last week I had dinner with Paul, a very successful young entrepreneur. He’s amazing! He’s energetic and whip smart. Paul grew up in a wonderful Christian home, respects his parents and believes everything they do about the Bible. Paul says he loves God and I believe him, but he also LOVES the deal! When I told him there was a time in my life that my business was my god, he understood immediately. I think I’ve pretty much buried my idol, but I think he’s still trying to keep his in one hand and God in the other.

In a previous meeting, I told him that God had used cancer in my life at age 31 to get my attention, so Paul had this great question for me; “How do I get back to putting God first in my life, before he crushes me with something like that?” Paul and I have only met three times, so we are at the very beginning of our relationship, but I told him this:

“Paul, the first commandment says this, “You will not have any other Gods before me.” If you don’t have even fifteen minutes in your day to read the Bible and pray, then what you’re actually saying to God is that everything else you’re doing, all day long is more important than him. That’s how I would read it, if I were God. Paul, I’ve never met a person who truly loved God who didn’t regularly read the Bible and pray. And I doubt you’ll be the first.

So, here’s a rule of life I’ve established for myself: I’ve made it my practice to never read anything – my emails, the newspaper – anything until I’ve read the Bible and prayed first thing in the morning.

Here’s the point of this story: If you’re going to mentor, be prepared to pass on to them the personal disciplines you actually practice that have helped you. They don’t have to do them just like you do, but share what works for you. Also, don’t be afraid to speak truth to those you mentor and then give them specific assignments to take “baby steps” of obedience. (By the way, I generally ask them to start reading a chapter a day, beginning with Matthew or Luke.) Chapter Seven in The 10 Second Rule book has some valuable Bible study ideas for using this time to shape their biblical worldview and develop a practical, working theology.

The Nature of Personal Truth Charlie’s marriage is in trouble. And, of course, it’s not his fault. “Sure I have some issues but… (Here’s a listening hint; anytime, anyone uses the word “but”, what they’re really saying is this; “What I’m about to tell you negates, or is far more important than what I just said (or you said), before the “but””.) What they say after the “but” is their truth.

I’ve learned this about the nature of personal truth people: Because we’re sinful, we all remember the facts that favor our position and those facts become our “truth”, whether they’re actually true or not.

The person you mentor would probably put his/her hand on a stack of Bibles up to their waist and promise that everything they’re telling you is absolutely true. And I believe them. When they tell you something, you’re getting their truth, but probably not the whole truth. Often I have to meet at least once with their spouse to get their version of the truth, which probably will get me a little closer to the real truth.

Invariably, when I present to my guy, their wife’s “truth”, they think she’s lying. It’s important at this point for me to look them in the face and say, “You’re right, it’s quite possible she is lying. It’s also possible that she has the same problem you have, that what she’s telling me is her truth. In either case, unless you can begin trying to understand the problem from her perspective, and not just dismiss it, you’ve never begin the healing process. Don’t try to talk her out of her truth, just try to understand it whether you agree with it or not; that’s what a spiritually mature person does.”

“Love does not insist on its own way.” (I Cor. 13:5b RSV)

“Yeh, but…” I usually stop them the minute they say “but” and ask them to meditate on this verse and their wife’s truth for a week without letting “but” into the equation, come back and tell me how you are going to adjust your life to address your wife’s reality.” It’s been my experience that if a man, for instance, does that his wife’s spirit will also generally soften and she will try to understand truth from his perspective.

By the way, as a mentor I don’t do marriage counseling, instead I always refer them to a Christian counselor who does. I also ask them to give me permission to speak to that counselor occasionally to find out if, and how they are healing so I’m supporting what they’re being told in counseling.

Well, those are just a few of the hundreds of stories you’ll hear, if I keep blogging. I’m still learning myself about how following Jesus works in real life.

Next week Monday: How to use accountability groups to guard you heart and life.

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