The Difference Between A Mentor And A Meanie

Your effectiveness in ministry will largely rest on whether or not you have wise, Godly, and humble mentors around you. These mentors can encourage, challenge, occasionally chastise, and regularly pray for you and your ministry. You can call on them when you face difficult tests, and you can count on them to have what’s best and biblical for you in mind when they offer you counsel.

Your effectiveness in ministry will also largely rest on whether or not you can distinguish between these kinds of mentors and their imposters: meanies. These kinds of people approach you from a position of counsel, but all they have to offer is critical observations, ungracious words, unfair judgments, and bad advice. They don’t know you, they don’t particularly love you, and their influence isn’t good for you. Actually, their influence can crush you and mess you up for a long time.

Here are some key differences between ministry mentors and ministry meanies.

1. A mentor says hard things to you in a way that builds you up. A meanie says harsh things to you that leave you feeling like you’ve been beat up.

2. A mentor loves you. A meanie judges you.

3. A mentor encourages you. A meanie discourages you.

4. A mentor comes to you from a position of humility, being no better than you. A meanie comes to you from a position of arrogance, as one who is superior to you.

5. A mentor reminds you of the Gospel. A meanie reminds you of your failings.

6. A mentor checks in with you for no other reason than to connect. A meanie only connects with you to criticize you.

7. A mentor has a lot of patience. A meanie has a list of grievances.

8. A mentor builds you up to encourage your strengths as gifts from God. A meanie tears you down and suppresses your strengths as if they’re problems to be managed.

9. A mentor helps you think wisely. A meanie tells you how to think their way.

10. A mentor pushes you to stand up and take wise risks. A meanie pushes you to sit down and play it safe.

Not only should those of us in ministry learn how to distinguish between mentors and meanies, but once we identify the meanies, we need to avoid them. Yes, love them. But protect yourself, your ministry, and your family from their toxicity.

Instead, pursue Godly mentors who will be a gospel-presence in your life, resulting in you blossoming in effectiveness in the soil of God’s grace.

Jesus Flips The Switch

1My brother-in-law loves to give his nieces (my daughters) the most ear-piercingly loud, annoying sounding toys that he can find. I don’t know how he does it or where he finds them, but he delights in giving them toys that will drive their parents crazy. (Thanks, Jon).

But I have discovered something about these toys.

On the back, oftentimes hidden under a tab, or behind some Velcro, is a switch. This switch has a “play” setting (noise at full volume and duration), a “demo” setting (noise at full volume but only for five seconds), and an “off” setting (no noise).

And I, as the sovereign interceptor of these toys, can flip the switch.

I intercept the gift, and in my flipping of the switch, I change the gift’s function.

Only someone who’s sovereign over something can flip its switch. Someone who’s sovereign can take something that was intended for one purpose, and alter it so it accomplishes something different.

This is what God does with suffering in our life. He flips the switch.

Satan intends to use suffering to destroy us. God flips the switch and uses suffering to refine us.

When Jesus wrote to the suffering church in Smyrna (Revelation 2:8-11), he told them (in verse 9): “Do not fear what you are about to suffer. Behold, the devil is about to throw some of you into prison, that you may be tested…”

In his exposition of this verse in What Christ Thinks About the Church, John Stott points out that while Satan intended the imprisonment of Christians in Smyrna to destroy the Church, God would use that imprisonment to refine his Church.

None of us can avoid suffering. It’s an inescapable reality of this broken world.

The church in Smyrna knew this. They suffered from poverty, slander, imprisonment, and death. And Jesus, speaking from his position of authority as someone who not only knew suffering, but conquered suffering, tells them “do not fear”.

How can Jesus say “do not fear” suffering? Because he’s sovereign over it. To quote Stott again, “Jesus has perfect knowledge of our present suffering and perfect foreknowledge of our future suffering”. We can trust him in the midst of it, because he alone is eternal, he alone is all-powerful, and he alone is good.

Whatever suffering you’re currently experiencing, or whatever suffering comes to you in the future, you can trust that you’re held in the hands of a sovereign King, who knows your suffering, is sovereign over your suffering, is with you (“Emmanuel”) in the midst of your suffering, and has conquered your suffering.

He flips the switch, allowing suffering to refine us, not destroy us. And he does so as the sovereign ruler over all things, “the first and the last, who died and came to life” (Revelation 2:8).

How Cold Is It?


Six Mistakes You Shouldn’t Make When Disciplining (or Correcting) a Worship Team Member

1One of the responsibilities of worship leaders is to build and cultivate a community of fellow musicians to help serve the congregation in leading worship. You can call that community a worship team, worship band, praise team, praise band, band, or whatever term you come up with. Whatever you call it, it can be a great joy to lead this kind of community of fellow-musicians. It can also be really difficult. 

Musicians have the infamous artistic temperament that makes them not only opinionated, and not only comfortable sharing those opinions, but turns those opinions into “rights”. Musicians then want to protect their rights and their territories against anyone who would seek to invade. Plus, they’re sinners like everyone else.

From time to time, if you’re a worship leader attempting to lead a healthy worship team, you will be faced with difficult situations when you’ll need to bring correction to one of your fellow musicians, or in more difficult situations, bring discipline. You will lose sleep over these situations, and you will want to avoid them. But sometimes it will be clear to you that you need to address an issue with a member of your team. 

Here are six mistakes I’ve made, that you shouldn’t make, when disciplining or correcting a worship team member.

1. Interact Primarily Over Email
If at all possible, avoid the use of email from beginning to end. The more difficult the type of interaction, the more healthy it is. A face to face conversation is crucial. If that’s impossible, then a phone call. Under no circumstances should you interact over email. Emails can be so much more easily misinterpreted, misread, forwarded, blind-copied, and saved forever. Pretend you’re handling this before the invention of the computer.

2. Insist On Meeting On Your Turf
Do not insist that the meeting take place on church property, or in your office. That’s your turf, not theirs, and it will immediately cause their defenses to go up. Not good. Find a neutral place, and a public place, for both of you. A coffee shop or a restaurant. This will level the playing field and increase the odds of a relaxed atmosphere.

3. Handle It All By Yourself
You have people over you. Take advantage of their covering. The single most stupid thing I’ve done when I’ve had to deal with a difficult issue is to keep it from my pastor until it had blown up. Consult him, ask him what you should do, have your pastor in the meeting with you, and keep him totally in the loop. Don’t put yourself in a position to take all the bullets or do/say something unwise. Use the covering God has put over you.

4. Let It Simmer
So a band member has a profanity-laced temper tantrum at rehearsal. The rest of the team is shocked. You’re shocked. They’re all wondering if you’re going to address it. Tension is building. Don’t let it simmer. You might not think stopping rehearsal is wise, but address it before the guy goes home. It might be easier in the short-term to let things slide, but in the long-term it will build tension and pressure in your team that will be unhealthy.

5. Don’t Know What Outcome You Want
On a scale of 1 – 5, 1 being minor correction (i.e. I can tell you didn’t practice one single bit and that’s why you ruined half of the songs) and 5 being major correction (i.e. I need to ask you to step down from the team for a while), you need to know what you want for the person. If you go into a meeting/conversation with the person without an acceptable outcome in mind, then you could very likely get trampled on. 

6. Be Unwilling to Apologize
You’re not perfect. You don’t communicate with your team as well as you could. You lead a rehearsal on an empty stomach and say something mean-spirited to your drummer. You ask a singer to sing a song you know he or she can’t pull off. It could be anything. Be the first to apologize, the first to show contrition and humility, and genuinely ask forgiveness for things you’ve done wrong. Even if your apology isn’t reciprocated, you’ve done the right thing and will get a better night’s sleep even if the meeting doesn’t end the way you hoped.

It’s a great joy to lead a worship team. It’s also hard work. If you’re faithful and consistent in the hard things, then the joy, morale, and unity on your team will increase. If you avoid the hard things, then no one will be happy.

The Problem with Gospel Amnesia

1Forgetting your identity in Christ will mess you up in lots of ways. Especially when you’re in ministry.

Paul Tripp describes a “gospel amnesiac” as someone who forgets their identity in Christ. And based on this definition, we’re all gospel amnesiacs. Every single one of us.

And this messes us up because, as Paul Tripp said at the Doxology and Theology conference this past November, when we forget what’s already been secured for us vertically (i.e. in Christ), we search for it horizontally (i.e. from the people around us).

We forget that we’re fully loved in Christ, and so we try to make everyone in our congregation like us (and it crushes us when they don’t).

We forget that we’re forgiven in Christ, and so we rehearse our mistakes in our minds and allow our failures to become chains around our ministry ankles.

We forget that in Christ, God speaks words of love over us, and so we’re haunted by angry, critical words hurled at us by hurting people.

We forget that we’re free in Christ, and so we become enslaved to performing a certain way, pleasing a certain power bloc, or perpetuating a certain system.

We forget that in Christ, we are adopted by God as sons and daughters, and so we’re constantly needy of affirmation and compliments in order to fill the father void.

Gospel amnesiacs are always looking around them to receive what’s already been given to them in Christ. Under the pressures of ministry, our insecurity becomes crippling. By forgetting our identity in Christ, we become walking beggars, looking for crumbs of horizontal approval, instead of remembering that we already have everything we need.

Look up to Jesus. Keep your eyes on him and walk straight ahead following his path through the valleys and peaks of ministry.

Look around you to Godly, grace-filled people. They will remind you of the gospel when (not if) you forget it.

Look past the distractions of temporary approval, fame, likability, status, or any other criteria you’ve set up to determine your identity.

Your identity is secure in Christ!