"Be Who You Needed!"

I recently attended a regional equipping conference for men, titled "Iron Sharpens Iron". Ministers and laity were present. During the opening session, Dan Hyun, a church planter specialist and founding pastor of the Village Church in Baltimore, Maryland spoke about success. Hyun believes that success is measured by what comes behind us, our legacy. Therefore, he made this compelling appeal to join in the endeavor of mentoring the next generation of Christian leaders by simply saying, “Be who you needed when you were young!”

Teaching and Mentoring
Image credit: depositphotos.com

Hyun’s comment about the lasting legacy of mentoring the next generation resonates with me. I have been committed to mentoring relationships for more than 20 years now. I didn’t plan on being a mentor when I was younger, but in my maturing, middle adult years, some of my younger peers started introducing me as their mentor. It sounded surreal at first and certainly made me feel older, but I could see in time that this was becoming my legacy among ministry friends and even my family members.

I think I can legitimately amend Daniel Hyun’s statement to include this mentoring dimension, “Be the mentor you needed when you were young!” I am the product of many mentoring influences by esteemed Christian leaders in my past. I learned so much from these mature pastors, lay Bible study teachers, and volunteers who worked with me as a teenager and young adult.

I learned the importance of refraining from spontaneous judgments from my pastor and friend, Bro. Gene Hadley. I recall how this seasoned pastor had to “throttle back” the zeal of eager staff members on one occasion. Hadley’s young associates (I served in their number!) had gotten into a downward spiral of harsh comments about a certain church member during staff meeting one Monday morning. Bro. Hadley countered, “Gentlemen, let’s be redemptive!” That was the gentle correction we needed that day! Bro. Hadley often provided relational guardrails for the staff.

I remember my pastor, Dr. Archie Brown, giving me encouragement one day when I was considering a new position in youth leadership among our local association of churches. I had been asked to take on a responsibility that would be both time consuming and one that I wasn’t sure I was worthy to take on. Dr. Brown prescriptively guided me with this simple assessment, “Mike, you can do this and you should take it on!” That was the gentle nudging I needed and God would continue to develop me as a leader through such opportunities!

I further remember as a young pre-teen gaining confidence in reading God’s Word publicly from a beloved Sunday School director, Bernice Littleford. She saw something in me that I couldn’t! Mrs. Littleford gently encouraged me to participate in the youth-led services of our church. (Just thinking about this assignment scared me!) Although my family was not active in church at that time, Mrs. Littleford’s faith in me gave me courage to try something I had never done before which was to read the 23rd Psalm during the Sunday morning worship! That youth-led service years ago would be the first of many such opportunities that would shape my identity as a pastor-worship leader.

There was another woman who influenced my life, Martha Ortegren. Mrs. Ortegren was my sixth-grade teacher and Principal at Jefferson School. She saw a spark in me and fanned that into a flame of interest. I was a little behind in my math skills. She knew that I had some aptitude and interest in the subject, but needed to catch up to the small group of peers who were the “math wizards” of the class. Mrs. Ortegren gave up precious prep and planning time before school each morning for several weeks to teach me the new math. I flourished under her tutelage and that propelled me forward with the confidence and skills that would shape my life for those middle and high school years.

I love remembering the lives and influences of so many who made a difference in my life. They were just what I needed to make me the person I would become as a young person and young minister for the Lord. Today, I am committed to “paying this forward” through opportunities God makes available to me. I think this is what Paul instructed his young protégé Timothy, "And the things that you have heard from me among many witnesses, commit these to faithful men who will be able to teach others also." (2 Timothy 2:2, NLT).

What kind of mark and mentoring influence are you making on others? Is it your desire to be the kind of mentor others need today?

Mike Keppler, retired pastor,

active churchman and
doting grandparent.
Contact: drmjkeppler@gmail.com 

Check out this previous blog: Mentoring



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