Thomas Edison's light bulb, using direct current, was king in America at the turn of the century. During that time, however, the Eickemeyer and Osterheld Manufacturing Company of New York employed an immigrant electrical engineer from Germany named Charles P. Steinmetz. In their small laboratory this brilliant, hunchbacked man accomplished some of his breakthrough research in magnetism and alternating current.
General Electric sought to change the balance of power and make alternating current the American standard. They desperately needed Steinmetz's genius. The company sent one of their best men to hire Steinmetz, but he turned down GE's offer. Steinmetz was loyal to the small company that had hired him. Another offer from a GE vice-president, promising a giant laboratory and plenty of research funds, was refused.
GE decided it had only one option. They called a meeting of their board. GE bought Eickemeyer and Osterheld — to get “one good man.” 1 Buy a company to get one man? Absolutely! How much do you value the potential in one person? (see Isaiah 60:22 )
Mentoring is a hot term. This concept has excited thousands at Promise Keepers rallies. Fortune 500 corporations use mentoring to raise up new executives. Industry knows what most church leaders, unfortunately, have yet to discover: every problem, every advance in a church has its solution in the right kind of spiritual believer.
It doesn't take pews and pews of the right kind of people to change a church or ministry around — just one or two, a few. Ministers pray that “laborers” will join their churches, but they rarely do. You've got to build them, from scratch!
“Mentoring is a relational experience through which one person empowers another by sharing God-given resources.” 2 Through mentoring, God will dramatically use you to train a few in your church to reach the multitudes for Christ!
Who Is Your Model?
With the pressures of family, career, ministry and Bible study preparation, and occasional crises, it's no wonder that many of us are hazy about how to balance our time. God commanded Moses, with a choking 2 million in his congregation, to broaden his leadership potential by narrowing his focus. God made Moses take a “time out” from his crushing schedule to prepare for the future. The future's name was Joshua. (See God's leadership strategy for Moses to build a “good man” in Deuteronomy 3:28 .) Got too many irons in the fire?
Train a Joshua!
Many pastors major on pulpit-to-pew impact; teachers concentrate on lectern-to-class contact; Jesus focused on person-to-person investment. His most important ministry was not His public one with the crowds. He fed the 5,000, but He did not pastor them. He didn't try to pastor the 70, though he commissioned them. He only pastor-mentored 12 men, and through them changed the world (See Luke 6:12 ).
“Jesus ordained twelve, that they should be with Him; and that he might send them forth to preach” — Mark 3:14. Note the priority, first to share His life through mentoring, and then to share the ministry He modeled. These are locked together in the example of Jesus. We dare not do one without the other if our ministry is to be eternal.
The Lord Jesus spent 14-16 hours a day, for three years, mentoring 12 men. He also encouraged the women who helped the team. Jesus modeled four private areas of ministry: intercession, witnessing, nurturing and discipling. Jesus left behind “a few good men” because He invested personal time with them. Is Christ your model?
Kinds of Mentors
“Mentoring” is an umbrella term representing various methods of marking individuals. In the book Connecting, authors Stanley and Clinton divide mentoring into two main groups — occasional mentors and intensive mentors. 3 I also discuss these in my booklet, The Power of a Mentor. To order your own copy of this booklet, go to my Materials page, by clicking here.
To their list of intensive mentors I would also add parent. Interestingly, Charles Steinmetz was a superb mentor. As consulting engineer at GE, he invited young engineers to his house for food and lively discussions. He had no biological children. Steinmetz eventually adopted one of these young engineers and his family, and they lived in his home.
Choosing a Protégé
As mentors we need to carefully choose our protégés, particularly because our Day Timer agendas are already so packed. A church leader can drown giving personal time only to the masses of sick, sore, and sour. It takes vision and faith to trade public time for the quality time needed to mark a few good men.
At first, Charlie didn't look like one of the “few good men.” He came to our church in Tampa with much education and many doubts. He was a believer, but had never been involved much. His fabulous Sunday School teacher did our First Steps John studies with Charlie one-on-one. Then I began to meet with him and we witnessed together. Charlie saw me lead couples to Christ, and got excited.
Charlie's growing spiritual hunger impacted those around him. Charlie copied what I did and began to mentor guys in a class, which he now taught. He and his wife, Patsy, opened their home to others. From Charlie's class God called eight married guys into ministry who left for seminary! Others were elected deacons. Because I was open to mentor Charlie, he flavored our whole church with his life. Like a fishing line with a bobbing cork, people could tell that Charlie had swallowed God's call on His life — hook, line, and sinker.
This same process of mentoring was repeated again and again. We developed church-changers, the “point men” for spreading a vision. I discovered a key insight: when a person learns how to spend regular time in the Bible on his own, it practically guarantees he will say “yes” if the Holy Spirit calls him into lay or vocational ministry.
People are attracted to models. You don't have to be spectacular in the world's eyes. Just stay on the cutting edge of personal devotions, vision, character, and skills. Walk ahead. See people with Jesus' eyes. You'll discover “gold,” and you'll find more than “a few good men.”
1 Floyd Miller, The Electrical Genius of Liberty Hall (New York: McGraw-Hill Book Company, 1962), 38-41, and Compton's Reference Collection 1996, (Compton's NewMedia, Inc., 1995).
2 Paul D. Stanley & J. Robert Clinton, Connecting: The Mentoring Relationships You Need to Succeed in Life (Colorado Springs, CO: NavPress, 1992), 12, italics mine.
3 Ibid., p. 42.