Iron Sharpens Iron

My Dad has been sharpening my lawnmower blades for years. He still can take a dull blade to his bench grinder and in a matter of minutes put a razor sharp edge on it. This is the interaction of bringing the rough surface of the grind or whetstone into proper contact with the metal edge of the cutting blade. The end product can be seen after the blade is bolted back to the mower's underside and the first run up the lawn has taken place. Looking back, one can see that blades of tender grass have been evenly cut so that the lines of each pass have a certain attractive symmetry to them. A keen eye is always able to detect when a blade is sharp!

In the Bible, this process of "sharpening influence" upon another is applied to friend-to-friend communication. The writer to the Proverbs says, "As iron sharpens iron, so man sharpens another" (27:17). The Bible has numerous examples of friends encouraging friends: David-Jonathon, Ruth-Naomi, Jesus-Peter, James and John, and perhaps most notably, Paul and Timothy. Paul regarded the son of Eunice and the grandson of Lois as "my dear son" in the ministry. Paul mentored Timothy and partnered with him in several church planting settings. What is involved in each of these mentoring relationships? Encouragement, guidance, modeling behavior, imparting of skills, listening, honest critiquing, support, prayer, and in short, an investment of time that shapes and sharpens another.

I have been blessed by years of mentoring. As a teenager and later as a young adult, I was taken under the wing of my home-church pastor, Dr. Archie Brown, who often regarded me as his "Timothy." Dr. Brown believed in me from the beginning of my ministry journey and literally recommended me to every church I would later serve. His remarks in those recommendation letters were always so complimentary and lofty that I often wondered who he was talking about!

I stood beside him the day I gave my life for special service as he told our church family, "Someday, this young man will pastor one of our fine Southern Baptist Churches." That statement gave me a vision of what I would later become.  Dr. Brown was an administrative-pastor who built the Sunday School of First Baptist, Vandalia into the outreach arm of our church. He led several building projects at the church and even the state offices of Illinois Baptists in Springfield. I was blessed later to serve alongside him as his minister of education and youth. Over the years, I always knew that Dr. Brown's wise counsel was only a phone call away!

Gene B. Hadley was another significant mentor of mine. I served as his minister of education and outreach at First Baptist, Granbury during the years I was in seminary. I learned how to pastor and "shepherd the flock" under this faithful servant of God. Brother Hadley taught me skills like how to make hospital visits, conduct funerals, relate to other staff members, and do the day-to-day work of a local church. He modeled relevant messages that were presented with sincerity and passion. He was a genuine friend that I enjoyed being with and ministering alongside. He taught me volumes about  life and ministry. He cared about me, our family and even my extended family and would often ask how my parents were doing. On occasions, we would spend vacation time together with the Hadleys. I will never forget that significant investment of time in my ministry!

The relationship with these men helped to define me. I can say today that they "sharpened" my spiritual gift mix of administrator, pastor-teacher and encourager. I could not have developed as a leader without their mentoring. I know implicitly what their investment in me produced. I, in turn, have committed my life to being that mentor, encourager and guide to others. My passion these days is to "resource the next generation of leaders" that our churches need to carry out the gospel mission. Who are you sharpening, influencing and mentoring in the Lord's work?

Mike Keppler, retired pastor,
active churchman and
doting grandparent.


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