By Laith Andrews, cross-cultural worker
During my past seven years of ministry in the Arab world, I’ve learnt many useful principles and picked up several pearls of wisdom. These are two which stand out to me as indispensable treasure…
1: Get around good people
Although this may sound simplistic, I believe we learn best when we spend time around those we aspire to imitate. Apprenticeship is the world’s oldest schoolroom that no textbook could ever replace. The Apostle Paul was aware of the power of modelling instruction and wrote in 1 Corinthians 11:1, ‘Follow my example, as I follow Christ.’
But, how do we seek out such relationships? In today’s climate we often feel starved of time, perhaps more than ever before. Accordingly, we display a chronic inability to make time for others. We write books, preach and teach, but seldom do we engage in deep relationships that result in passing on our knowledge to either our peers, or the next generation.
I have found the following advice helpful in starting and cultivating mentoring relationships (as a mentor or mentee):
Too often we simply expect these relationships to fall into place. Yet, very little happens without planning and deliberate prayer in this area. We must learn how to help each other pencil in the time. Be intentional in pursuing relationships with mentors.
No one, and I stress no one, wants to spend time around someone who is opinionated and inflexible, and this is especially the case with mentoring. With each person who mentors me, I nurture the friendship and listen intently for guidance that will add to my learning. Be pleasant and courteous in your interactions.
Perhaps this is the most important ingredient for any lasting impact. People rarely risk giving counsel to the stubborn hearted. Sadly, I have disengaged from countless mentoring relationships where the people seeking my counsel didn’t have a teachable attitude or a willingness to apply what we discussed. Be willing to actually change.
2: Regularly evaluate your ministry
Whether we are aware of it or not, all of us have committed ourselves to approaches in mission. We assume that by sticking to them faithfully they will yield spiritual fruit. Whilst admirable, launching 100% into methods presents problems if left unchecked.
Without a robust process of review and reflection, we risk becoming stuck in old assumptions and out of touch with the complex challenges or new opportunities that we often face in cross-cultural ministry.
The modern world, rather than slowing down, continues to accelerate at a frenetic pace. Therefore, continuously reviewing our lives and spiritual practices is an indispensable part of our ongoing spiritual effectiveness as we engage an ever-changing world for Christ.
So, how does this review process occur?
We need to practise silence. As we quiet our souls the discipline of silence enables us to see ourselves, and the world, as they truly are. I believe that this healthy dose of reality in the presence of God grants us the permission that we sorely need to reform our lives and practices for the better.
Be in Christian community.
Ongoing engagement with mature believers opens our private worlds to reshaping. Regrettably, many Christians today fail to see Christian community as a spiritual discipline. Yet it is a powerful channel for spiritual formation and an unavoidable step to developing Christ-like maturity.
Lastly, our lives must continuously be passed through the filter of private study across many genres. We must remind ourselves of the need to counteract our deepest prejudices and inconsistencies by reading broadly and thinking deeply about our assumptions.
As well as nurturing a window where others could speak into my life, I have also learnt to adapt and improve my ministry through prayer, study and engaging with others in community. Counsel from various mentors has shielded me from heartbreak and unnecessary troubles on countless occasions. It staggers me to think of what my mission experience would have been like had I not benefitted from the insights of others.