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Writing

by David B. Capes

Almost everyone these days shows up to class with a computer.  I’m not sure exactly what people do on them because I only see the back side.  They could be checking their email or posting on Facebook or, please God, they may be taking notes or keeping up with the class PowerPoint.  writing

There is some new research which has come out which says that the act of writing is better than typing on a computer or other digital device when it comes to learning and retaining information.  Why? First because writing engages a different part of your brain, a part more suited to memory and learning.  Second, writing forces you to process information in a different way.  In other words, it forces you to think more about what you are doing.  People can type and be nearly oblivious to what they are typing.  Third, research shows that it creates a better pathway for your memory and helps to facilitate recall.  Last, writing things down is a different kind of kinetic experience (moving) which gives you an edge when it comes to remembering and understanding concept.

Now, I have to admit that I have sensed this for a while, but it has been confirmed by a number of things I’ve read recently from Michael Hyatt, who is a leadership guru and a giant techie.  Still he has had to admit that going back to the old fashioned way of taking notes and writing down tasks is superior to just typing it on a screen.

One last thing.  I alluded to it earlier.  Computers and technology have a way of distracting us from what we should be thinking and doing.  We’ve all seen families out to eat in a restaurant, and all are on separate devices.  Instead of talking to one another and enjoying the meal together, they are distracted by what might be the phone.   I have seen students on Facebook or email in class instead of being on track with a lecture or class discussion.  Not a pretty sight, especially if your the professor.  These devices do one thing well; they distract us from what is truly important.

So instead of going to Best Buy to get a new computer for class, just go to Walmart spend a couple of dollars on a notebook and a good pen (or pencil).

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David B. Capes, PhD, is Academic Dean and Professor of New Testament at Houston Graduate School of Theology. 

 

Mindfulness

By Dr. Jerry Terrill

“Be still and know that I am God” (Psalms 46: 10a)

The theologian and philosopher Soren Kierkegaard writes in his journal about an experience on the coast of Gilbjerg: “It has always been one of my favorite places. As I stood there one quiet evening as the sea struck up with its deep quiet solemnity, whilst my eye met not a single sail on the vast expanse of water, and the sea set bonds to the heavens, and the heavens to the sea; whilst on the other side the busy noise of life subsided and the birds sang their evening prayer…but I saw everything as a whole and was strengthen to understand things differently” (Kierkegaard 42 – 43).tree beside still waters

In modern counseling theory, what Kierkegaard describes is known as “mindfulness.” Mindfulness might be summed up as being aware of your thoughts and feelings in the moment and being able to accept them non-judgmentally. Mother Teresa shares, “Each moment is all we need, not more.” Normally this occurs during a time of prayer, mediation on the Word. “Trusting to God I have found peace, calm, and confidence in God” (Kierkegaard 147).

To quote Mother Teresa, “We need to find God, and he cannot be found in noise and restlessness. God is the friend of silence. See how nature—trees, flowers, grass—grows in silence; see the stars, the moon and the sun, how they move in silence…the more we receive in silent prayer, the more we can give in our active life. We need silenced to be able to touch souls. The essential thing is not what we say, but what God says to us and through us. All our words will be useless unless they come from within—words which do not give the light of Christ increase the darkness” (Something Beautiful for God 48).

However, “The light of dawn does not emerge from a void: it emerges from darkness. Darkness is a precondition for light to appear” (Patocka 95). The poet Aton Wildgans states, “What is to give light must endure burning.”

Mindfulness physically, emotionally, and spiritually provides the insights to “be transformed by the renewing of your mind” (Romans 12: 2). Paradoxically, this inner transformation through mindfulness occurs by emptying our lives of the external “things” as observed in Philippians 2: 5: “Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus.” Galatians expands this theme in 2: 20: “It is no longer I who live, but it is Christ who lives in me.” Henning Mankell terms this “Clarity that arises in the spaces in between.”

In A Portrait of the Artist As a Young Man by James Joyce, we see the main character, Stephen Dedalus, beginning to achieve inner consciousness or mindfulness: “Life became a divine gift for every moment and sensation of which, were it even the sight of a single leaf hanging on a twig of a tree, his soul should praise and thank the Giver” (Joyce 166).

Mindfulness allows us to become present in the moment, a new creation, experiencing an individuated state of congruence through a new stream of consciousness narrated and facilitated by a passionate and loving God.

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Dr. Jerry Terrill is Professor of Counseling and Director of the Counseling Program at Houston Graduate School of Theology

Set Up Your Mentee for Success

Mentoring is a partnership process that necessitates engagement from both parties. Both the mentor and the mentee have roles to play when setting the mentee up for success. Therefore, a mentor’s leadership style should consider success as integral to a beneficial relationship. Mentees are more likely to flourish in work environments where they’re held in high regard and respected as individuals. To ensure effectiveness as mentors, our leadership style should demonstrate belief in our mentees, approachability, and knowledge; provide an enjoyable work experience, and an environment for best results.Blocks

Various spiritual leaders can attest to the fact that when people feel valued they are far more effective. For instance, perceive your mentee through the eyes of where they are headed. View them not where they are in terms of accomplishments. Instead, imagine what your mentee is destined to become. Think of effective political and spiritual leaders. Could your mentee be the next JFK? Could your mentee be the next Mother Theresa? Always remember to use your knowledge to aid these mentees on their rise to fulfill their destiny. Don’t assume that their potential will get them there alone. After all, you’re a mentor for a reason. Maintain approachability by providing access to relationships you have built. This will aid the mentee on their road to success because your contacts trust your judgment. In essence, this will help mentees envision that the potential for their elevation is within their grasp. Therefore, achievement is possible and they should not doubt their ability to succeed.

Another way to express belief in our mentees is to provide an environment for an enjoyable work experience and environment for best results. As the mentor, help your mentee identify their strengths and not focus on any potential weaknesses. Remember that in order for a mentee to recognize their full potential, he or she needs the right position in your Church or organization. Don’t be opposed to transferring a talented mentee into a different job post. If you believe in them and express this to them, with your help they will find their way. Early on, identify those skills that will make them a star in the organization. As the mentor, it’s your job to provide access to the resources that will help them succeed.

Lastly, remember to always take the high road with your mentees. Remember to provide encouragement, express acknowledgement, and demonstrate gratitude for their talents. Those are three effective ways to establish your support for your mentee. When mentees have favorable feelings toward their leader, they will rise to the mentor’s expectations. To be honest, people work hard to impress those who impress them. As a positive role model, you provide words of wisdom, access to resources and relationships, and an environment that provides a foundation for their future success.

Source:

John C. Maxwell. Mentoring 101: What Every Leader Needs to Know. Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson, 2008.

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Herb Fain is Professor of Legal and Social Ethics at Houston Graduate School of Theology.

 

Jesus Fulfills Jewish Ministry Expectations

By Dr. Douglas Kennard

The eschatological expectations among the Prophets and the community of Qumran were for a Messianic teacher, “the interpreter of the Law” (Isa 42:4; 4Q174 1.11-12; CD 6.7; 7:18). Messianic Apocalypse presents the character of the hoped for Messianic teacher as echoing Isaiah 61:1.

[for the heav]ens and the earth will listen to his anointed one, [and all] that is in them will not turn away from the precepts of the holy ones. Strengthen yourselves, you who are seeking the Lord, in his service! Will you not in this encounter the Lord, all those who hope in their heart? For the Lord will consider the pious, and call the righteous by name, and his spirit will hover upon the poor, and will renew the faithful with his strength. For he will honor the pious upon the throne of everlasting kingdom, freeing prisoners, giving sight to the blind, and in his mercy…the Lord will perform marvelous acts such as have not existed, just as he sa[id for] he will heal the badly wounded and will make the dead live, he will proclaim good news to the poor (4Q521, fragment 2, column 2, verses 1-12).

 

Such a Messianic expectation hoped for a Jewish King who is a healer, a spiritual teacher of the Law and a rescuer of the needy.Jesus heals the blind

When Jesus announced His ministry in Nazareth, He identified that this hoped for expectation was realized in Him.

The Spirit of the LORD is upon me, because He anointed me to preach the gospel to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim release to the captives, and recovery of sight to the blind, to set free those who are downtrodden, to proclaim the favorable year of the LORD (Isa 61:1-2; Luke 4:18-19).

 Jesus identified that such recovery as during Jubilee was being realized in His own ministry. Later, when John the Baptist was in prison and needed reassurance about Jesus’ ministry, Jesus told John’s disciples that his preaching and the miracles he performed as signs of the kingdom compellingly identified Jesus as the coming One.

Go and report to John the things which you hear and see: the blind receive their sight and lame walk, lepers are cleansed and deaf hear, and dead are raised up, and the poor have the gospel preached to them. And blessed is he who keeps from stumbling over Me (Matt 11:4-6).

Here are some examples of how the Jesus of history lived up to the Messianic expectation:

  • The Holy Spirit came upon Jesus to equip Him for divinely empowered ministry (Matt 3:16; 12:28; Mark 1:10; 9:40; Luke 3:22; 4:18; 11:20; John 1:32-33; 3:2; 9:33; 10:38; 14:10; Acts 2:22; Hebrews 2; Gos. Ebionites 4:2).
  • Jews expected the Messiah would teach the Law as the “teacher of righteousness” (Isa 42:4; 4Q17411-12; CD 6.7; 7:18-19; 4QFlor 1.6-11; 4QTestim 13-17; 4Q541; 4QpPs (4Q171) 3:13-16; 1QpHab 1.13; 2:2, 8-9; 5:10; 7:4-5; 11:5; CD 1.11; 20.1, 28, 32). Rabbinic Jews anticipated Messiah to teach the Law in an internalized new covenant form (Gen. Rab. 98.9; Eccl. Rab. 11.1; Mid. Tanh., Ki Tavo, par. 4; Midrash fragment, BhM 6.151-52; Halakbot G’dolot,ed. Hildesheimer, 223 top; Azulai, Hesed l’Avraham 13c-14a; Vital, Sefer haHezyonot, p. 160; Mid. Talpiyot 58a; Yemenite Midrash, 349-50; Yitzhaq of Berdichev, Imre Tzaddiqim, ed. Tz’vi Hasid, 10 [5b]). Even unbelieving Jews agree that Jesus taught the Law in a new covenant form (Matt 5; Josephus, Ant. 18.63-64; b. ‘Abod. Zar. 17 1/t; Hul. 2.24; Qol. Rab. 1.8[3]). However, many Jews rejected Jesus’ teaching as dangerous because his healing and exorcism ministry was so effective in leading some Jews astray into Christianity (Josephus, Ant. 18.63-64; John 11:48-50; b. Sanh. 103a; b. Ber. 17b; b. Sanh. 107b; 43a; 67b; b. Soṭah 47a; Sib. Or. 8.206-7).
  • Jesus acknowledged He was the Messianic King (Matt 16:20; John 4:25-26). Others also acknowledge Jesus as Messianic King, including: angels, Magi (wisemen), disciples, the blind, demoniacs, Pilate, and Josephus (Matt 1:1; 2:2; 8:29; 9:27; 15:22; 16:16; 20:30-31; 21:9, 15; 27:37; Mark 1:24; 5:7; 8:29; 10:47-48; 11:9-10; 15:26; Luke 1:32, 69; 2:11; 4:34; 8:28; 18:38-39; 23:38; John 1:41, 45, 49; 19:19; Suetonius, Claudius 4 eviction notice from Rome over some claims for Christ; Josephus, Ant. 18.64; Gos. Peter 11; Pliny the Younger, Epistle 10.96.7; Tacitus, Annals 15.44.3). Jesus obtained a present expression of kingdom (Matt 5:3, 10; 12:28; 13:31-33, 41; Luke 6:20) with obtaining kingdom throne upon ascension (Acts 2:30-36; Heb 1:5-13) with a future, grander expression of the kingdom to come (Matt 13:31-33, 43).
  • Jesus healed the blind (Matt 8:9:27-31; 11:5; 12:22; 15:30-31; 20:34; 21:14-15; Mark 8:22-25; 10:42; Luke 4:19; 11:14; 18:42-43; John 9:11; Pilate letter to Claudius contained in Acts of Peter and Paul 40-42 and Tertullian, Apology 21). Disciples continue to heal the blind (Acts 9:18).
  • In the kingdom the paralyzed will walk (Micah 4:6-7). Jesus healed the lame and paralyzed to walk (Matt 4:24; 8:13; 9:6-9; 11:5; 15:30-31; 21:14-15; Mark 2:12; Luke 5:24-26; 7:10; 13:10; John 5:8, 11; Pilate letter). Disciples continued to heal the paralyzed (Acts 3:1-11; 4:9-10; 8:7).
  • Jesus healed the deaf to hear and the dumb to speak (Matt 9:32-34; 11:5; 12:22; 15:30-33; 17:18; Mark 7:35, 37; 9:25; Luke 9:42; 11:14).
  • Jesus cleansed lepers (Matt 8:2-4; 11:5; 26:6; Mark 1:41; 14:3; Luke 5:13; 7:22; 17:14; Egerton Gos. 2; Pilate letter). Jesus’ disciples also healed lepers (Matt 10:8).
  • Jesus raised the dead (Matt 9:18, 25; 11:5; Mark 5:35, 41; Luke 7:11-15; 8:45, 51; John 11:43-44; Pilate letter).
  • The poor had good news preached to them (Matt 5:3, 5; 11:5; Luke 4:18; 6:20-21; Thom. 54, 90) but the structural change of debts being forgiven and release from slavery has not occurred as in Jubilee or anticipated eschatological kingdom (Isa 61:1-2; Luke 4:18-19). Will Christians continue to work for structural forgiveness and release for captives?

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Doug Kennard, ThD, is Professor of New Testament at Houston Graduate School of Theology. 

Jesus, the Eternal Son

by David B. Capes

I just read a new book by Michael Bird, Jesus the Eternal Son: Answering Adoptionist Christology.  I think it is scheduled for release later this year by the good folks at Eerdmans Publishing.  You may recall he wrote a blog post for us recently on Justification by Faith as a resource to combat racism. Bird Jesus the Eternal Son

Adoptionism was a second and third century “heresy” that has persisted in theological corners to today.  Adoptionism  claims that Jesus was a human being and not inherently divine.  He acquired divine status as God’s Son sometime during his earthly life.  Some say it happened at his birth, others his baptism, still others at this resurrection.  One way to say it is that Jesus was not the Son of God but he became the Son of God.   His elevation from human to divine status is often considered the default Christology of the Ebionites, Theodotians, and Paul of Samosata.  A number of modern scholars (Knox, Dunn and Ehrman) think it was also the most primitive form of Christology expressed in texts like Rom 1:3-4 and Acts 2:36.  Only later, do they say, that a fully incarnational Christology emerge

In this brief and compelling book Michael Bird challenges those scholars who think the earliest recoverable Christology was adoptionism.  Instead he proposes that the earliest Christologies formed a pattern of convictions and practices which featured Jesus at the center of Christian devotion.  Only later, in the second century among the Theodotians, did adoptionism emerge full scale in debates over select texts and how they should be interpreted.   A careful answer to the perennial question: who was/is Jesus?

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David B. Capes, PhD, is the Academic Dean and Professor of New Testament at Houston Graduate School of Theology. 

 

Values and Velleities

by Dr. James Furr, President, HGST

Elaborate recreational activities were decidedly not part of our family life when I was growing up. While Sunday was a well-protected day of rest, farming culture, or at least my Dad, required six long days of work in the summertime. When rain-soaked fields occasionally released me from driving a tractor, I loved fishing in my grandfather’s muddy stock tank (known by urbanites as a pond). The feel of a fish tugging on the line was exhilarating and I envisioned a lifetime of this highly valued pastime. As you may have guessed, I’ve averaged about one fishing trip per year during the subsequent five decades.

Frankly, I have a long list of practices that I would like to call values for which there simply isn’t enough action to justify that description. In fact, there is a term for this phenomena. A velleity refers to wishful thinking, to something we say we want that can’t be verified by our actions.wishful-thinking

Perhaps Christians are especially vulnerable to espousing values that are velleities because we appropriately affirm beliefs, values, and behavior that are currently beyond our way of life. Jesus’ imperatives that we “be perfect,” “follow,” and “give up our lives,” make shortcomings a routine experience. We know to avoid velleity’s crude cousin, hypocrisy—dishonest claims about ourselves—but how do we manage the common challenge of not living up to legitimate aspirations?

The starting point is surely the practice of confession that leads to forgiveness and restoration although the clear necessity of confession before God, myself, and others certainly doesn’t make it any easier for me. Still, confession and forgiveness are the spiritual equivalent of exhaling and inhaling.

I’m also reminded that values are primarily developed and nurtured in community. Despite the benefits of God-given rationality, we are profoundly shaped by what we desire. I highly recommend Jamie’s Smith newest book You Are What You Love or his more academic Desiring the Kingdom to help us embrace self-awareness, accountability, and spiritual formation. In the genuine worship of God, Smith contends, our loves and lives are literally re-made in the image of the Christ.

I’ve lost track of my old cane pole, but perhaps I’ll buy one of those new-fangled rod and reel devices. And, if I have the courage and humility, my fishing time could include the spiritual discipline of examen (a devotional exercise of examining one’s own thoughts and conduct) to consider a few other matters.

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Dr. James Furr is president of Houston Graduate School of Theology and Professor of Church and Culture.

The Kingdom of God and the Mission of the Church

by David B. Capes

I met René Padilla a few years ago when he was visiting Houston.  Padilla is one of the best known and most influential Latin Church leaders.  He actually helped me think through the translation of a phrase in Paul’s letters normally translated “the righteousness of God” (dikaiosunē theou).  We decided to translate it in a few places (e.g., Rom 3:21-26) “God’s restorative justice.”rene-padilla

I recently read an article by Padilla in a book of essays,  Mission between the Times: Essays on the Kingdom (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1985).  The last chapter in that book is “The Mission of the Church in Light of the Kingdom of God.”  It is an amazing chapter that captures, in brief, so much of what I have been thinking for years.  Although we have been influenced by different cultures, we’ve read some of the same scholars: George E. Ladd, Oscar Culmann, W. Pannenburg.

For Padilla the Kingdom of God cannot be equated with the church because it has to do with God’s redemptive purpose for all of creation.  Padilla is well versed in Jewish apocalyptic eschatology and understands the two ages of history.  He works from a framework of already and not yet, like so many who grapple with Jewish and early Christian eschatology.  Padilla is right to affirm that it is impossible to understand Jesus apart from his message, spoken and acted out, of the Kingdom of God.

Jesus, of course, founded a community of disciples that became the church but the church is not the Kingdom of God.  The church is the community of the Kingdom but not the Kingdom itself.  It is inhabited by Kingdom citizens;  but as the rule of God, it transcends the society of men (to borrow Ladd’s phrase).   I really like Padilla’s phrase: “The church is not the Kingdom of God, but it is the concrete result of the Kingdom.”  As the Kingdom is active in the world by the Spirit, the church is born and lives and moves and has its being.

This means, among other things, that the mission of the church cannot be understood apart from the mission of Jesus.  As his body, the church extends the mission he started.  So the mission of the church is twofold: to proclaim the gospel and to promote what Padilla calls “social responsibility.”  He does not understand social responsibility as a programmatic attempt by people to engineer society so that it becomes like heaven on earth.  Rather Kingdom involves God’s action in the world by the Spirit, not human action on behalf of God. On the other hand, the Kingdom of God is also not some private, interior spiritual thing that sits comfortably in the heart but uncomfortably in public.  The Kingdom is not just about God ruling over my heart.  It is God ruling as Lord of creation. All of us are invited to participate in that, because we are part of creation.

Padilla’s essays are worth reading.  Though he wrote them over 30 years, they are still worth reading and pondering.

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David B. Capes is the Academic Dean at Houston Graduate School of Theology and Professor of New Testament.  

Lessons from Our Heart Baby

By Dr. Becky Towne

My youngest granddaughter was born with a heart defect—she only has half of a heart. She spent many weeks at Colorado Children’s Hospital and was surrounded by a great team of surgeons and nurses. Her half-heart can now do everything her body needs. The surgeons and staff were instrumental in that process. She turns one year old this month. Our family is so happy to celebrate with Maelyn and to give praise to God.

I was born with a heart defect, but I didn’t know it. The defect wasn’t noticeable at first, but, as the years went by, it became obvious. My heart was filled with fear. It seemed natural to be afraid early on, but, even as a child, there was a period in my life when I was afraid to go to sleep. I was afraid I would die.maelyn

As I grew older, I could mask the fear, but it was still there.

The first time I became acutely aware of the presence of fear was a couple of decades ago during a silent reflection time at a women’s retreat. An image came to mind during prayer, which I can only credit to God. I was standing on the edge of a cliff with breakers pounding the sides of the cliff far below. I would never knowingly stand on the edge of a cliff—I just couldn’t do it. Before I could back away from the edge very far, however, the scene was transformed. Instead of a cliff, I was standing on a green, grassy hill that sloped gently to the sea below. Standing beside me was Jesus. We simply stood together, arms encircling one another. I was aware of the greatest sense of peace that I could remember. Something changed in me that very moment.

During the last three years, I have faced some unexpected changes in my life, including the birth of Maelyn. The messages from Scripture have been as strong to me as I can imagine they were to the first hearers of the words, “Fear not.” Two recipients of that command come to mind—Mary, when she heard the Angel Gabriel’s greeting to her as “favored one” (Lk 1:28-30), and John, when he encountered the glorified Christ (Rev 1:17). There are many more.

Like the second sound in a heartbeat, as I hear the command “fear not,” I also hear the gentle reminder from Jesus to Julian of Norwich—“Sin is inevitable, but all shall be well, and all shall be well, and all manner of thing shall be well” (Revelations of Divine Love, #27). And then there are 4-year-old Colton Burpo’s words from “Heaven is for Real” when he comforts a child dying of cancer after his visit to heaven—“everything will be okay.”

Maelyn’s heart has been transformed. It isn’t fixed. It will never be normal, but she is living life to the fullest—loving her family, her toys, and her newfound joy—food. My heart has been transformed as well. Dwelling on the good words—fear not, all shall be well, and everything will be okay—allow less and less room for debilitating fear and more and more room for trust in a God who offers no occasion to fear.

Dr. Becky Towne
Associate Academic Dean and
Director of the Doctor of Ministry Program
Houston Graduate School of Theology

The Spiritual Growth of Mentoring

by Dr. Herb Fain

John C. Maxwell’s Mentoring 101: What Every Leader Needs to Know is the inspiration for this article. Mentoring others is a rewarding investment for both the mentor and mentee. As lives are changed, the structure of any organization or church is strengthened. Oftentimes, society views mentorship only through the eyes of the mentee. However, it’s important to discuss the significance, reasonable expectations, and the mutual benefits of mentorship. Fortunately, since spiritual leaders know the emotional, mental, and professional benefits of mentorship, they often engage in this an invaluable process.handshake

Nevertheless, avoiding competition is one reason why more people don’t become mentors. There’s this belief that the mentee may surpass the skills of the mentor. However, this concern should not dissuade a skillful mentor. When leaders are working toward their fullest potential, they don’t distress over whether they will lose their position. Another reason why some leaders are dissuaded from acquiring a mentee is their sense of ego. Some people must be the center of everything. Therefore, they are unwilling to share the spotlight with a newcomer. But, sowing the seeds of success in another assists both parties in reaching their fullest potential.

Perhaps, one way to avoid concerns over competition and one’s ego, mentors must reevaluate their definition of success. Does one determine success by the number of awards they receive or the money he or she makes? If a person’s measure of achievement is determined by material and earthly rewards, then he or she may not see the value in mentoring. People should adopt a more biblical perspective of success. Instead determine success via the prism of living a purposeful life. Of course, along your spiritual journey, your purpose will evolve and grow like the mentoring seeds you plant. However, viewing high achievement through a prism of purpose may provide a greater sense of satisfaction in the mentor-mentee relationship. As both the mentor and mentee accomplish their goals, ensure they feel an individual sense of self-worth.

Once a mentor finds a mentee, it’s important to clear the pathway for his or her success. Here are few suggestions on facilitating the mentor-mentee relationship. After your mentee has learned the necessary skills for success, provide direction and a positive outlet for meeting their spiritual goals. Another issue is nurturing the creativity that your mentee has from the outset of the relationship. Remember not to squash their enthusiasm for Church building by constantly reminding them of obstacles. Thirdly, a sense of community is needed as a spiritual leader. Oftentimes, without the mentors’ direction, mentees don’t know how to form a community to support their efforts or purpose in life. Furthermore, mentees should see the value in the lessons you teach. Suggesting books, organizations, or conferences that fail to aid in building a strong spiritual center serves neither party any good. Remember, every recommendation should communicate the goals sincerely and effectively. By keeping these suggestions in mind, mentoring will always provide spiritual growth.

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