Archives For responsibility

Mentoring in the Church

Erik Cooper —  November 4, 2010 — Leave a comment

My wife was honored to attend the Women of Influence breakfast here in downtown Indy.  One of the major buzzwords that kept coming to the forefront was mentoring.

Each of the powerful and influential women honored this morning referred over and over again to mentors who had personally and intimately invested in their lives.

Coincidence?

If mentoring is such a powerful force, why does it seem to have become a lost art in the church (at least those I’ve been a part of).

I love the energy, encouragement, and challenge of a weekend service and the “step into intimacy” of a small group.  But the most lasting change I’ve seen in spiritual development has come through mentoring.  One person taking responsibility for another. Sharing life. Wisdom. Insights. One on one.

Has a mentor directly impacted your relationship with God? Has the church really lost the art of one on one mentoring?

I was a sheltered kid. I admit it.

The 10 years between my little brother and I meant we really grew up like only children.  Get good grades. Practice the piano. Invest in our local church. Those were my responsibilities. And I was good at them.

So when my wife and I first got married, my 21 year old resume of domestic experience was extremely limited (as in missing). Not only did I not do anything about the piles of laundry on the family room floor, I literally didn’t even see them.

You mean your underwear drawer doesn’t just magically refill itself? Does the federal government know about this?

I’m embarrassed to admit it, but I had never learned to take responsibility for these things. Can’t blame mom (because she reads these posts). I was just oblivious.

And that’s the way a lot of us treat church. Yep, I’m connecting these dots.

Every week we sit by, talk to, smile at, sing with, even volunteer alongside people. Lots of them.

But it’s safe to say very few of us ever look around the auditorium and think, “hmmmmm, I should take responsibility for that guy.  Maybe I should personally invest in helping him develop his connection to God. What do I have to offer?”

(so yes, in this analogy the people are like the underwear…roll with me)

Nope.  We may consider things like, “Hey, I should get him in that class.” Or “I should introduce them to the pastor.” Or “I should give her a copy of that book.” (Or most likely, “where should we go for lunch today?”).

And just like me, we step over the pile of unfolded laundry and find our spot on the comfy couch to watch the ballgame.

Blind.

Oblivious.

Because it’s never been our responsibility, we literally don’t even see it.

But what if I told you one of the best ways to grow your own relationship with God is to take personal responsibility for helping someone else grow theirs?

What if we stopped waiting for a better class, a better book, or a better sermon, rolled up our sleeves, and got personally involved in someone else’s life?

What if we stopped waiting for “mom” to take care of the piles of unfolded laundry all around us?

What if we started being the church to one another?

Listen to the latest City Community Church message on the subject:

The Story of Two: You Feed Them

I’ve noticed an interesting, little phenomenon through the last year of consistent blogging:  people respond when I post my thoughts on the dysfunction, systematization, or abuses of the organized Church (and when I use words like “suck” in my blog titles).

That’s not difficult to unwind.

The Church is often deserving of criticism. And those of us longing to emerge from a predominantly cultural acceptance of Christ into a more vital, life-breathing relationship with Him, have had to take a long and honest look at what we’ve truly embraced.

We’ve had to point at it.  Name it.  Call it what it was. And often times distance ourselves from it.

It’s true.  The Church can be:

hypocritical

manipulative

money-hungry

behavior driven

backward

controlling

institutional

stale

abusive

self-serving

self-righteous

(fill in your favorite missing adjective)

And I don’t think pointing at the truth is unwarranted.

The Old Testament prophets violently confronted poor spiritual leadership.  Jesus Himself had more than passive insults to throw at the religious hierarchy of His day.

But it’s so easy to chuck stones at the institution. To critique the caricature.  To cynically slam the fundamentalist control-mongers.

(and let’s be honest, it’s a lot of fun, too)

It’s much scarier to take a hard look at ourselves.

Here’s the deal:  I am the church. And so are you if you claim to follow Jesus Christ.  So perhaps we should focus first on embracing our personal responsibility to the Kingdom rather than just gleefully pointing at the Emperor with his pants around his ankles.  Maybe we should repent of our own dysfunction, hypocrisy, and control issues. Remove the “plank” from our eye so we can see clearly to help The Church at large.

Let’s continue to wrestle. To challenge.  To embrace the tension.  To call the spades what they are.  (I plan on it).

Let’s just always be willing to start with the me before we take on the we.

A guy emailed me this week to ask my opinion on a well-known Christian leader.  Prophet or a heretic? It was a valid question.  A discussion I’ve seen floating around emails, blogs, and internet chat rooms for years.

But as I was preparing my (obviously brilliant and insightful) answer, I paused.  Were this guy’s assumptions formulated on first hand knowledge or was he simply regurgitating the thoughts and opinions of others?  Better yet, was the answer I was preparing to fire off with reckless abandon founded on my personal convictions or a conglomeration of things I had heard others say?

The reality?  I had no idea what I was talking about.

I had never read a book, listened to a message, even viewed a tweet post of the leader in question.  Yet I was about to wax eloquence on his character and calling. The validity of His message.  I was preparing to vomit a bunch of other people’s opinions that supported my preconceived notions and validated my worldview.  Even if I had been factually right, I think I would have been terribly wrong.

The Bible is very clear in its warning to test what we hear:

“My dear friends, don’t believe everything you hear. Carefully weigh and examine what people tell you. Not everyone who talks about God comes from God. There are a lot of lying preachers loose in the world.”
-1 John 4:1 (MSG)

But I wonder how many times I’ve abdicated that responsibility?

I’m not condoning a lone-ranger lifestyle.  We need the correction and accountability that comes from solid community. I’ve had the revelations of others open my mind to incredible insights I would have never seen on my own.  But many of us are too quick to blindly adapt to a position handed to us by someone else.  Usually someone who can talk faster, think quicker, or has a nice looking blog.

Have we lost the ability to wrestle for the truth? Or maybe just the desire?  Are we afraid?  Weak?  Just give me the answer (or better yet,  post it on Facebook.  That’s more efficient).

For some, faith itself is cheap.  Lazy.  A faded copy of an old picture someone else handed to you.

I don’t want to live that way.  To lead that way.  A collection of Twitter re-tweets and Facebook shares.  I want my own encounter with the Creator of the Universe.  I want to hear Him whisper my name.  To speak to the deep places of my heart.  To know His voice.  To live with His conviction.

But don’t take my word for it.  Let Him tell you Himself.

I Would Never Hire a Me

Erik Cooper —  February 10, 2010 — 4 Comments

In a culture where Starbucks serves me coffee, Apple serves up iPhones, and Walmart seems to fill in all possible remaining gaps, it’s easy (even for me…maybe especially for me) to view the church as another faceless institution that provides “spiritual consumables.” Want proof?

Continue Reading...