Sorry for the poor headline and accompanying picture. Even my ever-supportive wife rolled her eyes at me hard when I told her about the potential blog post last night.
To cut to the chase, I was speaking with pastor friend of mine whom I have known for twelve years. As I shared with him my aspirations for seminary and further theological study, he submitted that I should pay a great deal of attention to the component of mentoring and being able to have a community of people to walk with in ministry, saying that this aspect of ministry would be equal to, if not more important than the theological eduation. But that puts me in a bit of a pinch, I mean how do you pick a seminary without knowing if you’re going to have a mentor in the area or not?
I confessed that I had been looking for a mentor for years, literally for years. When I finally started to “get it,” that this private faith demanded public confession in baptism, in community, in service, in giving, in study, in conversation, and in every aspect, I found that discipleship was a very difficult activity to engage in.
My first observation was that American culture was anti-discipleship. Independence is “in”, submission is so 20th century. Every invention from the car to the apartment to the portable Walkman has been about me, me, me. To subvert that by saying, I want to learn from you, teach me what God has taught you, has been a very counter-cultural process indeed. In fact, I’m prone to say that it’s rare and uncomfortable even to bring it up in 2006. In fact, postmodern tendencies tend to speak out of both sides of its mouth in terms of this as well, in terms that it encourages and empowers you to speak, yet has the tendency to hold everyone’s experience as equally valid, which leads one to believe that perhaps the other person doesn’t have as much to teach me after all.
These tensions often lead me to be more indecisive especially in light of my Asian habits of deferring or stonewalling, and only makes me want a mentor even more.
Of course the most telling thing that my pastor friend told me was that he himself had been looking for a mentor for years as well. Which means to me that we are, as a 2nd-generation, without mentors.
To be without a mentor is to be make a lot of mistakes, to accept default modes of operation instead of having the courage to innovate, and to see the road ahead of us. To be without a mentor is what Andy Stanley calls “working in it, but not on it.”
Due to language barriers, cultural barriers, church splits and other such things, there seems to be less mentors available for our generation. Many of us feel lost and alone when it comes to ministry, sometimes, the higher up you go, the more lonely it feels. But if a culture of mentoring has trouble existing among people who dedicate their lives to the call of Christ, then how much more difficult for those who have not yet heard Christ at all?
The strange thing is, as I look at Asian cultures, it seems as though the infrastructure for mentoring relationships would be there, thanks to Confucius, but it seems so controlling in the motherland context, that it rarely gets applied here. Perhaps there needs to be a compromise of laying down our individualistic tendencies and a softening of the hierchical nature to allow for more dialogue and then perhaps we could have a bit of this freshmaker…
So here’s to Mentors…
Closing song by the artist, Kid Rock (who also could use a mentor or two(!) judging by these lyrics) but they also apply to me, so no harm, no foul.
Up and down that lonely road of faith
I have been there
Unprepared for the storms and the tides that rise
I’ve realized one thing, how much I love you
And it hurts to see, see you cryin’
I believe we can make it through the winds of change
God is great indeed
If you believe, in the everlife
Yeah we gotta
Make some sense of the piece that’s not defined
And if you just hold on, I wont let ya fall
We can make it through the storms and the winds of change
And if the wind blows east, would you follow me
And if the wind blows north, would ya stay your course
And if the wind blows west, would ya second guess
And if it blows to the south, would you count me out
And if the sun don’t shine, would you still be mine
And if the sky turns grey, would you walk away