What Do Your Relationships Weigh?

For ten years I was a campus minister, first at Memphis State University and later at Southwest Missouri State. I did a lot of premarital counseling and performed a lot of weddings. I helped these students prepare to begin, but I rarely was called upon when things were ending.  This is because college students hardly ever divorced or died. But all this changed when I shifted from the role of campus minister to the role of preaching minister.

At the very beginning of my preaching career, my first funeral message was for a ten year old girl who died due to a medical mistake. I was ignorant. I was inexperienced. I did not know what to say or do. So, I called an older, wiser minister and asked, “What do I say?” He said, “Get a pencil” and in that moment, and in many future moments, he was my mentor.

In 1992 Gary Collins wrote a book entitled, You Can Make A Difference. He tells of a team of analysts from Yale University who spent several years collecting research about moving from youth, through middle age, into old age. One major idea emerged — mentoring.  A mentor is someone who guides, corrects and serves as a model for someone younger. Stories of mentoring go back to Homer’s ancient story of Odysseus who simply asked his good friend, whose name was “Mentor” to counsel his young son while he was away. And the mentoring style hasn’t changed much since that time. Mentors encourage and challenge their protégés to go beyond their comfort zone and explore their potential. Mentors listen. They observe. They advise. And there is nothing about mentoring that is done quickly. It all takes time.

I read a fascinating story about twelve executives grouped at the very top of AT&T’s international communication empire.  Though they were very different from each other, still they had one common link in their background. Robert Greenleaf, a researcher for AT&T, found that each man had some early mentoring that greatly accelerated his progress. But most surprising was the fact that the same man mentored four of the twelve.  As Greenleaf put it, this man had mentored one-third of AT&T’s top management. He went on to say that this man was probably the most influential manager of his generation.

Throughout history the leaders who have made the most out of life all had one thing in common — they all had mentors.

Forty miles south of Turkey, in the Mediterranean, is the small island of Cyprus. There a man named Joseph started a spiritual tidal wave that flooded the Roman world and changed history. And all Joseph did was mentor two men. One was an older teen that wrote down the story of Jesus. The other man Joseph mentored was a traveling tent-maker, a man who wrote 32% of the New Testament, planted dozens of churches and pioneered cross-cultural evangelism. The two men are Mark and Paul. And their mentor? Joseph’s Greek name is Barnabas, which means encourager.

Of course the greatest mentor of all is Jesus. And I think it’s interesting and important that Jesus did not begin his movement the way we begin movements today. He did not plan an advertising campaign. He did not write a book and launch a multi-city speaking tour. Instead, when Jesus began, he immediately chose a small group to mentor. In fact, his most well known sermon, one usually thought of as addressed to a crowd, is called the Sermon on the Mount.  But have you ever taken a close look at who the teaching is actually given to? Matthew 5:1-2 begins this way, “Now when he saw the crowds, he went up on a mountainside and sat down. His disciples came to him, and he began to teach them, saying, …”

Now I know that large crowds followed Jesus.  I know that Jesus healed the sick and raised the dead. I know that everywhere he went large masses of people formed. But I also know, as Mark 9 puts it, “Jesus did not want anyone to know where they were, because he was teaching his disciples.” 

I like the way one writer described the style of Jesus — “He choose twelve, focused on three and graduated eleven.” I especially like the admonition by the late Dallas Willard said in an interview, “Don’t count your people, weigh them.”  That was the style of Jesus.  What’s your style?

An Honest Cry

An Honest Cry: Sermons from the Psalms in Honor of Prentice A. Meador Jr., will be available January 31 from Leafwood publishers. http://tinyurl.com/yjs7a8h

I envisioned this collection more than a year ago when I repeatedly heard from ministers who had been so powerfully impacted by Prentice. Model, friend, mentor, teacher and more, Prentice touched, and helped to shape, the ministries of so many. The preachers who have contributed to this volume represent a far greater number of partners in ministry who would have gladly accepted the opportunity to honor Prentice.

An Honest Cry is dedicated to the memory of our dear friend, who has reached the goal of his life. The title captures both the heart of his preaching style and the emotion of the book of Psalms.

Prentice had a broad range of interests. But his love for preaching was always at the top. This is why a book of sermons is such a fitting tribute. The idea became clear to me on the day that hundreds of his family and friends gathered to celebrate his life. So many ministers were sharing how Prentice had impacted their preaching that a collection of sermons from some of them seemed to be an appropriate way to honor his life. Psalms was always close to the heart of this man of God. In fact, it was one of the last classes he taught in his role as professor at Lipscomb University.

Providentially, Prentice joins the list of contributors with a sermon he wrote on Psalm 150 that I discovered while this volume was being produced.

Here is the Table of Contents:

Foreword: Randy Lowry
Introduction: Bob Chisholm
Preaching from the Psalms: Dave Bland

A Man of God
God’s Change Agent – Mark Meador
Hallelujah – Word of Praise (Psalm 150) – Prentice A. Meador Jr.
From One Generation to Another (Psalm 71) – Royce Money

Psalms in Context
Living at the Seams (Psalm 89) – Jack Reese
Singing About the Lord’s Ways (Psalm 138) – Gary Holloway

Psalms of God’s Presence
Who Is My God? (Psalm 27) – Landon Saunders
Full of God or Running on Empty? (Psalm 115) – Bob Chisholm

Psalms of Distress and Hardship
Entrusting God With Our Hatreds (Psalm 137) – Mike Cope
The ‘Piñata’ Syndrome (Psalm 17) – Chris Seidman
How Long, O Lord? (Psalm 13) – David Rubio
When All You Can Say Is “Why?” (Psalm 22) – Scott Sager

Psalms of Sorrow and Change
Create in Me a Pure Heart (Psalm 51) – Tom A. Jones
A Song for Sinners (Psalm 32) – Collin Packer

Psalms of Human Frailty
Lord, Give My Life Meaning (Psalm 90) – Harold Hazelip
What’s the Use? (Psalm 73) – Jim Martin

Psalms of Trust and Unity
The Lord Is My Shepherd (Psalm 23) – Lynn Anderson
Worth the Trip (Psalm 133) – Rick Atchley
How to Handle Bad News (Psalm 112) – Jennings Davis

Psalms of Joy and Peace
Coming Home, Laughing (Psalm 126) – Ken Durham
God’s Divine Care (Psalm 34) – John York
All Is Calm (Psalm 122) – Tim Spivey