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About this series
Good to Great in God's Eyes
Ten Practices Great Christians have in Common
Are you tired of the status quo Christian life? Do you long for a spiritual breakthrough? Are you looking to go to the next level or get a fresh infusion of faith and spiritual passion? Great Christians live out their faith with purpose. In Mark 10:43, Jesus says, whoever wants to become great among you must - what? You'll explore the idea that there are certain practices available to every believer, at every maturity level, to move us from good to great, in God's Eyes. ACSI approvedMore from this series
There is a phrase that you hear a lot, and I think it’s true. And the phrase is, “More is caught than taught.” In other words, you can go to a class, and you can hear this or that, but you really catch more than actually is taught. And I’d like to suggest that that’s true. It’s true when you’re young, and it’s true when you’re old.
And I’ve got to share a story. My sister was dating a star basketball player. He was about four years older than me. So, he was, I think, a junior, and I was in eighth grade. His name was Rex. And I’ve got to be careful here, because Rex had the purest, most beautiful jump shot I’ve ever seen. And I played him, one on one, for hours, and I could never beat him.
And he was 6’2” and a really big kind of guy, and he just became my hero. He was sort of stocky, and didn’t look like a basketball player, except, when he got on the floor, no one could stop him. But Rex had this unusual sort of posture, about like this, and when he walked, it looked like he was going to fall over. And it was like that. And when he was really trying to be cool with his leather jacket, he would have that, and he’d put a little dance into it. [shows dance moves] It was cool back in the 70s, okay?
And, so, it’s not like I said to myself, I think I’d like to walk like Rex Gregg. I just hung with him. I tried to shoot like him. I wanted to be around him, and he was at the house, and eating meals. And one day – I’ll never forget – imagine, if you would, this is a stage, where there’s a basketball court. They’re old time. And there’s an auditorium, and there are seats where you could cut through that door, in front of the stage, to the auditorium, to get to class.
And I was coming through that door, walking across, and it was absolutely empty, all those theater-type seats they had in the old junior highs. And I didn’t know it, but, apparently, I had picked something up. I had caught it. I never asked for walking lessons, but being the cool eighth grader, I was… And I didn’t think anybody was up there, and I hear, from the balcony – it’s dark and you can’t see – “Hey, Ingram, you idiot! Who taught you how to walk?” And I promptly went, and walked off. And I thought to myself, it was only in the moment when I heard, “Hey, Ingram, you idiot,” did I realize that I, unconsciously, had picked up walking like Rex. You just pick up whatever the people around you are.
Now, you would think that you only do that when you’re young, and when you’re naïve, and when you’re impressionable, and when you get older you outgrow that. Except I went to a Dallas Seminary, and a professor named Howard Hendricks had a big impact. In fact, I heard him preach once, and said, That’s where I want to go to school. I want to preach like him. And God so used him in my life.
So, every class he taught, I took. Every time he opened his home, we went. Every retreat, we went to. For three years, it took me time, and, finally, I got to go on a trip with him.
And the first couple years as a pastor – I was twenty-eight years old, at a little country church. And I remember coming home one day, and my wife lovingly – sweet woman that she is – says, “Honey, you’ve got to knock it off.” I said, “Well, what do you mean?” “You just sound exactly like Howard Hendricks.” I said, “What do you mean, I sound like Howard Hendricks?”
And she goes, “Well, when you preach, it’s like you just go into – you’re using his phrases, and his mannerisms.” And, “Oh, no, I don’t! I don’t know whether I should wind my watch or lose my ball in the weeds!” And I had him down. I didn’t even know it.
The principle I want you to get is this timeless axiom: We become most like those we admire, and those with whom we interact most frequently. Take it to the bank. You will be like whoever you admire, and whoever you hang with.
The practice number three, if you want to move from good to great in God’s eyes: You long for your heart to be more tender. You want to be more godly. You want to pray the way that we talked about. You want your motives to be what God wants them to be. You long to become, in God’s eyes, the kind of person, with the kind of courage and boldness, who would say, Lord, I’d like to sit at Your right hand. I want to be a great Christian.
Number three: Pursue great people. Pursue. I didn’t say “hang around.” Go after them. Find a great Christian, and pursue them. Hang out with them. The key text for this one is Proverbs 13:20: “He who walks with the wise grows wise, but a companion of fools suffers harm.” He who walks with a wise man will be wise, but the companion of a fool will suffer harm.
“Show me your friends, and I’ll show you your future.” It’s true, isn’t it? “Show me your friends.” That’s why, as parents, it’s critical you know who your kids hang out with, and what their attitudes are, and where they are, because they’re going to become, they’re going to become just like the people they hang with. Now, here’s what I’d like to ask: Why pursue great people? We’ve got the basics here, but why? I want to give you a biblical foundation for pursuing great people.
The first reason is: God’s Word is emphatic about the company that we keep. This isn’t just about wanting to be good. The key word, here: God’s Word is emphatic about the company we keep. 1 Corinthians 15:33 says, “Do not be misled. Bad company corrupts good character.” You put one rotten apple – right? – in a basket with good apples, and the rotting apple will do – what? It’ll rot the others.
Notice what it says in Hebrews 13:7 “Remember your leaders, who spoke the Word of God to you.” First, “Remember.” Then, “Consider the outcome of their way of life and imitate their faith.” Literally, we get our word mimic. Mimic their faith. We want to find leaders. We want to remember who they are. We want to consider, ponder, think about their life, and, just as I was unconsciously imitating how Rex would walk, and how Prof. would preach, the Bible says, get your eye on a godly leader, and imitate, or mimic, not their mannerisms, not their externals – imitate their faith.
Notice what it says in 1 Corinthians 4:15 and 16 – the apostle Paul, writing to the Corinthian church. He says to them, “Even though you have ten thousand guardians in Christ” – a lot of people that’ll help you, and tell you what to do in your Christian life – “you do not have many fathers, for in Christ Jesus I became your father” – how? – “through the gospel. Therefore, I urge you” – same word – “imitate me.”
The apostle Paul knew the most powerful means of discipleship is modeling. Beyond teaching, beyond classes – it’s modeling. When you hang around a person, if you pray with them, you will end up praying like they pray. You will learn to give like they give. You’ll learn to make decisions the way they make decisions. You’ll learn to treat your wife the way they treat their wife. You’ll learn to raise your kids the way they raise their kids. You’ll learn to care about people the way they care about people. You’ll catch it. And the apostle Paul says – and this is strong – “Imitate me. Follow me, as I follow Christ.”
Proverbs 27:17: “As iron sharpens iron, so one man sharpens another.” Now, I want to make one vital observation, before I go on and talk about: how do you pursue great people? Because I’ve made a point, and some of you are thinking – you’re pretty quick, and you’re going to go, Let’s see, I’m going to be a lot like the people I’m around. All right. Mm-hm. That’s really true. There are a lot of verses. That makes sense. Yeah, okay.
And then, you’re thinking about, Well, wait a second! The people that I’ve been around the most were my parents. The people that I was around the most were some brothers and sisters. And in a group this size, some of you had some parents that weren’t believers. And some of you had some parents that were, and didn’t act like it. And some of you had some parents that walked out on you. And some of you had some parents that were abusive in their speech, and others abusive physically, and others abusively sexually.
And before I go on, you’re thinking to yourself, Wow. I’m going to be a lot like the people I hang around with. But, God? I don’t know about you, I didn’t get a lottery ticket, like, Okay, I would like a family in Ohio, Columbus – schoolteachers. That’s for me, Lord. I just got born there.
And, so, I want to make some observations, because if you don’t think this through, you can really get stuck. The observations I’ve put on your teaching handout, it’s that our baggage and our backgrounds demand that we pursue great people. Our baggage and our backgrounds demand that we pursue great people. And we all have baggage, and we all have backgrounds. No one had a perfect parent. Anybody have a perfect parent?
Your parent may have given it their best shot. My dad gave it his best shot. But how do you be a dad, when you didn’t have one after you were thirteen? How do you be a dad, when you’ve killed thousands of people, and you have all kinds of hang-ups, and you don’t know how to deal with your own life, let alone communicate it to your son?
See, there are some wounds and deficits that came from your dad, your mom, my dad, my mom, because they weren’t perfect. But guess what, that’s normal. It’s normal. Unfortunately, some of us focus on that the rest of our lives.
The third observation with this is, we must choose to deal with the damage constructively. And we could spend a lot of time here, and I’m not. All I want to tell you is, there are some people that have been through some very difficult times, and the focus of your heart and your life is always about what was done to you, and what you’re working through. And there’s unresolved shame, and unresolved blame, and unresolved issues.
But you know something? At some point in time, you have to say, Lord, I want to thank You that in Your sovereignty I was in this family, and these good things came out of it. And, Lord, I want to tell You that there are wounds, and deficits, and pains, and I need You to be my Father. I need You to heal me. I need You to restore me. It’s a fallen world.
And you know what? The best thing that’s happened to me, probably, in the last decade, has been to walk a few miles in my parents’ moccasins. To think about, when you hit certain ages, all of a sudden you think, Let’s see, when my dad was about forty, this is how old I was, and this is what I went through and, wow. I think he did a lot better than I thought ten years ago. And, let’s see, now. When I was this age, my dad was forty-eight or fifty, and here are the issues I’m dealing with, and… And you know what? Boy, we had meals together, and they cared about me. And you know something? You know the confidence that I have, the drive that I have, the positive self-image I have? A lot of things were really, really positive, and they all go back to my dad.
My dad and I started a little lawn business when I was eight. My dad helped me deliver papers. And I had a hundred and thirty, a hundred and fifty-paper-route stacked up to the rim in the car when I was about eleven years old. It’s so easy to look at the minuses, and the hurts, and the pains, instead of saying, “I had an imperfect parent, and they gave me these good things. Thank You, Lord, and…
Only the Healer, the Restorer of my soul, God, can ever complete my life. But you know how He does it? Now, sometimes you just read the Word, and the Spirit of God does some deep things in your heart, but you know how God normally heals you? He brings the dad in your life that you didn’t have. He brings the cheerleader into your life that you didn’t have. He brings the sponsor into your life that you really needed. He brings the confidant, or the counselor.
God brings someone into your life that’s been through something, and He takes the Word of God, through the Spirit of God, through the heart of another person, and this person rubs up next to you. And He makes you whole, and me whole, little by little by little, through another person.
And, so, what I’m going to tell you is, you need to pursue great people, first of all, because the Bible is emphatic that the company we keep will determine the kind of people we become, and, second, because we all came from dysfunctional backgrounds. We all have baggage. We all have wounds. It’s normal.
You can either choose to be a victim, or choose to say, “I’m going to grow through it.” And, God, there are people, in the body of Christ. You are going to love me, in this new family called “the Church.” And I need to pursue the people that You want to use to heal my life, and I want to be, in turn, a healer in the life of other people. Have you got it?
Every time I hit this part, I wish I had a camera, and could see the wheels going on inside your heads. It really raises stuff up, doesn’t it? It’s okay. It’s okay. Because, see, if you never bring it up, and if you never deal with it, what a lot of us do is push it down.
And when it comes up, we go to the refrigerator. And when it comes up, other people open something, and they start drinking a little bit of it. And when it comes up, some people take some pills, or when it comes up, some people just go to work, and work more and more and more.
Because you just keep pushing down stuff that bothers you, that’s not dealt with, that are wounds, and you just have to say, “You know something?”
I love Henri Nouwen’s book, The Wounded Healer. It’s when we begin to get forgiveness and healing from God, in our imperfection, that He allows us to pass it on to other people.
Well, let’s get on the really positive side, then. How in the world do we go about developing these kinds of relationships? How do you pursue great people? I don’t know about you, but they just didn’t line up on my door, seven deep, ringing the doorbell: “Hi, I’m a great person, Chip. I’d like to be a sponsor in your life. Oh, okay; you already have one?” “Hi, Chip. I’d like to be a father figure. I know you went through some rough times.” That didn’t happen to me. You’ve got to pursue them. And I’m going to give you a couple ways that I think will be very helpful.
The first is, I think you need to start in the rearview mirror. You ready for that? I think, to pursue great people, start in the rearview mirror, and mentally build what I’m going to call your own personal Mt. Rushmore, of the four or five people who have most positively impacted or influenced your life.
See, what I want you to do, before you think about who you need to go get to help, look in the rearview mirror, and say to yourself, Who are the pivotal people? Maybe one, two, three or four people, maybe five – who have been the most positive, influential? Because you’re going to ask, then: why? And you’ll begin to recognize needs you have in your life. The reason they were influential is, God used them. Some of them may be even unbelievers.
And, so, I’m going to challenge you to build your own Mt. Rushmore. When you do, you’ll recognize the value of people in your life. You’ll see the strategic needs that you have. And then, it will help you determine what kinds of people you ought to pursue. So, are you ready? I’m going to turn this stage into Mt. Rushmore.
Mt. Rushmore has four great faces on it, right? I’m a Christian. I’m adding five. See, I can do anything I want with my own personal Mt. Rushmore, so I’m going to have five faces. And I want you to know, I’m going to have face number one, face number two – and I’ll tell you about them. And then I’ve got face number three, and face number four. And in my Mt. Rushmore, they’re all tilted inward, and they’re going to look toward the middle of face number five. Because face number five is the one that’s had the most impact in my life.
And I just want to go through the exercise, personally, for a few minutes, and as I do, I want you to ask yourself, Who would be my Mt. Rushmore? Who are the people that most positively impacted my life?
My first one, over here on the left, etched in stone in my heart and soul, is a guy named Neil Lance, my junior high coach, P.E. teacher. I’ll never forget the first time I met Neil Lance. I was a cocky, insecure, mouthy kid who desperately wanted attention, because he couldn’t figure out what was going on inside.
And I walked into his P.E. class, and I was mouthing around – “Ingram, shut up! Now, give me twenty!” That was my first experience with Neil Lance. And as I was just like this, and then I started to bend down – “Ingram, button it up!” And, like, ten minutes later, I’m still doing this. He never said another word to me. “Get a shower.”
And then, he saw some desire, and over time, he took me in the gym, and he closed the curtain. And this guy could play ball, and he knew that’s where my heart was. And I grew kind of late. So, when I was in seventh grade, I was 4’11”, and then, I shot up to 5’1” in eighth grade. And I wanted to play basketball. This was not looking good. By ninth grade I was 5’4 ½”, and ready to take on the world.
And Coach Lance would come in the gym, and he’d throw me the ball. We’d play one-on-one. He taught me how to play defense, taught me how to play offense, but more than anything else, you know what he taught me? He taught me what a man looked like.
I’ll never forget, as I was going through my insecurity, cocky stage, mouthy part of life –and some of you are looking at me like, Yeah, I can really imagine you like that. Not very hard, is it? Right? And I had shot off my mouth one too many times.
And, remember, some of the guys will appreciate this: Remember the old locker rooms, you’d go in and have the big public shower, and then, on the wall, there would be all the lockers? And then, the coach would have a window, and then he’d have a little office that really smelled like gym shoes?
And he’d get his head out, “Ingram, in here, now!” I walked into his office. “Sit down.” And then, he got his nose right next to my face, and he began to ream into me, and then he said, “Okay, stand up.” And he was so angry, because I had shot off my mouth one more time.
And then, I was just getting ready to leave, and he just – he loved me so much, that he cared. And he took me by the shirt – this was long before you got sued, as schoolteachers. And he grabbed me by the shirt, and then he lifted me up, and put me up against it, and I slid down on the chair.
And he said, “I’m going to tell you something. You’ve got great potential, and your mouth is going to get you in trouble. You could go over to that high school and be a good player, but they’re going to freeze you out, because you’ve got a mouth, and you’re arrogant. You could be somebody, but you know something? Your mouth is going to be the ruin of you. You’re an arrogant jerk. You understand?”
And we built a bond, and I painted houses all the way through college with Neil Lance. And Neil Lance taught me what it meant to be a man, because he confronted me on man issues, and he was strong, and he invested in my life. And he’s in my Mt. Rushmore. And I think, early on, God brought this man into my life so that I would learn. Real men stand up to the truth. Real men speak the truth. Real men are strong. Real men face tough issues, and real men don’t let stuff go under the rug.
The second person on my Mt. Rushmore is a girl named Punky. It’s her almost real name. Her real name’s Harriet, but I shouldn’t say that publicly. And she was my sister, and she’s only about a year and three months older than me. And I had never heard of Campus Crusade for Christ. And we were a religious family, and I went to a church that did not teach the Bible, and no one, as far as I knew, were Christians. But we were religious, went through motions, very hypocritical, and I got turned off by the Church.
But my sister went to this little meeting, a Campus Crusade something, something, and she became a Christian. And she was never preachy, but my sister taught me what it looked like to be a Christian. I can’t tell you that she ever preached a message that I ever remember, but my sister loved me. I would come in with friends, and she would say, “Guys, do you want some sandwiches?” and “Can I get you a Coke?” and “Chip, how did the game go?” And she’s real gullible and I’d say, “Oh, I hit five home runs.” “Oh, Chip, that’s so good!” “Well how did it go?” “I scored forty-two points.” “Oh, Chip, I’m so proud of you.” Unbelievable. And then I would yank her chain, and she, “Oh, okay, Chip, why do you do that?”
And we ended up going through high school where the classes, we got to take some classes together. And I was in that era, in the early seventies, where everyone was doing sopors, and smoking dope, and all the athletes in the Ohio State area. And I had an opportunity to do all that.
And isn’t it interesting? I wasn’t a Christian, didn’t have any big moral reason not to, and I still remember a guy giving me a joint and saying “Do you want this?” and saying, “No.” And I remember, in my mind, I thought, No, what would Punky think? What would Punky think? She was the most loving person. She showed me Jesus. She showed me. She lived it. She’s the kindest person that I’d ever met, and she’s my sister, and my friend. And I later became a Christian because of her testimony.
I want to skip from number one, number two – I want to go right over here to number three in my Mt. Rushmore. And this is the third person in my rearview mirror, a guy named Dave Marshall. And I prayed to receive Christ at a Fellowship of Christian Athletes camp. And I was eighteen years old, had never opened the Bible, and landed on a campus.
And there was a bricklayer, trained by the Navigators. He was what I would call “not cool.” Everyone’s wearing white socks now, but he wore them back then, and it wasn’t cool. And blue collar, strong worker, and he had a little Bible study in his house. He’d been there for three years. This was the fourth year. If the ministry didn’t grow, I learned later, he was going to quit, and go do something else.
But he would lay bricks all day, and open his home at night, and do Bible study with a few students. And after three years, he had four students in the living room. A football player on the football team, was the fullback, and found out I was a Christian. He said, “You’re coming with me.” He was very big, so I went. And I found myself in a living room, with about five or six other people that were not very cool.
And this bricklayer said, “I heard you just became a Christian.” I said, “Yeah, it was this summer.” And he said, “Would you like to learn to study the Bible?” And I looked at him, and I thought, Not with you. Sorry. But then, I thought, I’m a Christian. I don’t know the Bible. I ought to want to study the Bible. He’s offering. So, I said, “Yes.”
And every Tuesday morning, Dave would come, knock on my dorm room. And to my shame, sometimes I pretended I couldn’t hear him, put the pillow over my head. But over time, he got this lazy, arrogant, insecure, young believer, and we went into the little kitchenette, and he taught me how to read the Bible. Then, he taught me how to memorize a few key passages.
And before long, I got involved in a little ministry, and those four or five people ended up two hundred and fifty students in personal Bible study. And, then, Thursday nights, I would go up to Dave’s house and eat dinner. And I would watch, he had three boys, and a girl. And I’d watch his kids, and he went out, every Thursday, on a date with his wife.
And you know what? If Neil Lance taught me what it looked like to be a man, and my sister taught me what it’s like to be a Christian, Dave Marshall taught me what it meant to be a man of God. I learned to treat my wife the way he treated his wife. I learned to stop for people who were broken down on the road, the way Dave always stopped. I learned to discipline my kids, and love my kids, the way Dave did. I learned to get up in the morning and spend time with God, the way Dave did. I learned to deal with crisis – when his wife went in the hospital – the way I saw Dave did.
I remember getting to work with him for a few months. I watched him build a whole a Haydite-block foundation. And it was off, just barely out of square. And the inspectors are never going to see this! Man, we spent two days on it, and I watched him rip it down. I said, “Dave, man, what are you doing?” I said, “That’s not off enough to make any big difference.” He said, “I’m not doing my work for inspectors, and I’m not doing my work for these people. I’m doing my work for the Lord, and I don’t think that represents my best work.” I learned to work the way Dave worked.
See, more really is caught than taught. Who are the people in your Mt. Rushmore? Mine was a coach, another my sister, another Dave, and the fourth, over here, is Howard Hendricks. And you’ve heard lots of stories, but I learned, from Howard Hendricks, that you could take your gift, and you could dream a dream, and you could have clear…
I still can remember, on the board, him writing, “Objectives, Priorities, Schedule, Discipline.” “God will never love you more than He loves you right now, gentlemen,” he said, “but His blessing, His blessing is dependent upon your obedience.” You can never earn His favor. There are no brownie points, no gold stars on the refrigerators in Heaven, but every man needs to make up his mind, what do you want to do with your life.
So, you need to have an objective and a target. You want to be a man of God? Then determine, I want to be a man of God. And if you want to be a man of God, it has to be a priority, more important than anything or anyone else. And then, you have to put that in your schedule, and say, What does it look like? When will you get up, what will you read, what will you do? And then, you’ve got to discipline yourself to do it, not to earn anybody’s favor, but God’s. Those four things.
You know, Prof. taught me that you’re given gifts and life’s a stewardship, and God really does want to bless ordinary people.
Who’s on your Mt. Rushmore, mentally, right now? Who are those people? Because it’s going to tell you where the needs surface. It’s going to tell you what antennas, because those needs that those people met are going to be the needs also, probably, in the future.
Well, I’m going to give you my last one. Right in the center, where everyone else looks, is the person who has impacted my life, more than Howard Hendricks, or Punky, or Dave Marshall, or Coach, and that is my wife. My wife has had more impact on my life than anyone else, because she has more integrity, I live up close, she has more integrity than anyone I know. She has more devotion to God, evidenced by watching her get up for years, and get up in the wee hours of the morning, even when we had small kids. And I’ve seen her on her knees, and I’ve heard her cry out for God. And I’ve watched her pray, and I’ve watched her support me.
She is more mentally tough than any player, in any game, on any team I’ve ever played on, and it’s something I admire. There just ain’t no “give up” in Theresa. And those of you that know her story – she was a single mom for a while, and she had a tiny little boy on each hip, and no way to support herself, and trying to figure out what to do. And she clung to God, and came to Christ, and God supplied.
And I’ll tell you what, we’ve been through some really, we’ve been through times digging quarters out of the backseat – five, six, seven eight dollars in a co-op, and taking the fruit and vegetables to live on. And you know what? I’ve never heard her complain about our lifestyle. I’ve never, ever heard her. So far, every time we move, she knows for sure it’s God’s will, and she knows she doesn’t want to do it. It’s just a pattern. “Don’t take me out to that little place!” And she cried in the Chinese restaurant.
And then, when we went from Kaufman all the way out to California, she and all the kids cried, all the way to Amarillo. And then, when it was California back to Atlanta, she cried. And you know what? There are a lot of women who say, “Honey, if you want to go, you just go ahead. My family’s here. Things are here.” My wife submits to God, and does what He wants her to, when it feels good, and when it’s terribly painful.
And when you live up next to that kind of loyalty, and courage, and integrity, and devotion, I’ll tell you what. That exaggerating in messages? You can only do that so long with someone, after each time you do it, says, “Chip, why did you lie to those people today?” She looks really sweet and everything, and she is. But she’s a very, very tough sweet, and she has changed my life more than anyone else. She has filled the gaps, and the wounds, and the deficits more than anybody else.
If you want to pursue great people, start, first, with your rearview mirror. And I would encourage you, as just a little discipline – you can change the faces, you know? It’s okay. But go through and jot down the four or five people that have most impacted your life, and you will begin to see exactly who God has used, and, likely, the roles that He’ll want to use in the future.
Next, I encourage you to look out of the windshield of your life. And out of the windshield, we all need three kinds of people. And since Howard Hendricks was my mentor, I want to give credit here. This isn’t from me; this is from him. But see, I caught it more than it was taught.
And Prof. Hendricks would tell you, and tell me, we all need three kinds of people. Number one, we all need a Paul in our life. We need someone to learn from. Second, we all need a Barnabas: a friend, a peer, someone to share life with, someone with whom you’re just hand in hand, arm in arm. You’re on the same page, at the same level. And, third, we all need a Timothy. We need someone that we’re helping grow. A Barnabas, someone you share life with; a Timothy, someone that you give life to; and a Paul, someone who helps you.
So, let me ask you, you got a Paul in your life? Do you have a person in your life that is a go-to person that helps you grow, that you know they’re a few miles further down the road, spiritually, than you, and you can talk to him, and ask him, and pray with him? Do you have a Barnabas? Do you have a soul mate? Do you have someone that you can just, you’re in this life together. You can pick up the phone, and, instantly, you’re on the same page? And then, do you have a Timothy? Do you have someone that you are building into their life, and praying, by God’s grace, that what Dave did in my life, and what Prof. did in my life they’ll be in yours? I’ll give you three quick examples, because it’s very rare to have ones that are in your life for a long period of time. Right? We move. A lot of things happen. What I find is, that Paul may be this person this year, another person two years from now, another person – and different roles for different seasons of your life. And you know what? You might, but now and then, you get a Paul that sticks around, and a Barnabas that sticks around, and a Timothy that sticks around, that I think is both rare and precious.
But I went to a little country church, and, man, I needed a father figure. And there was a guy on the elder board there, named A.C. And he just took me under his wing. And we worked out together, and I shared struggles with him. My older boys were, like, in third grade then.
He’s counseled, rebuked, invested, painted bathrooms in the house with me, and just done life.
When I was coming out here, I’m going through issues like you’re going through issues. And he’s got issues, and my life. I came out a day early, and I came out a day early so we could meet with one other guy. But I wanted just to get with A.C., so there was one man I could unzip my heart and say, “Hey, man, here’s the hot ones in me. How are they going in your life? And we took some walks, we ate some meals, we got a couple workouts, and then, we just data dumped, heart dumped. I need that. I’ve got to have a Paul in my life. I don’t think you ever outgrow it.
And then, we were eating lunch – and this is what Pauls do, because they have the freedom. He had this little card. I couldn’t read it; it was really small. We’d been eating and talking – and we’re really close. And he pulls out this little, white card, and he has this goofy – he does a lot of goofy stuff, to tell you the truth – but he had this goofy look. And he said, and I could tell he’s reading off this card. “Have you viewed any sexually explicit material in the recent past?” And I’m thinking, like, What happened to “pass the hamburger” or something?
And you know what I knew? What I knew was, he was dead serious. I said, “No.” He said, “Have you, in any way, misused your finances, or used them in a way that wouldn’t honor God, in the past sixty, thirty, ninety days?” And he went through my thought life, my sex life, my integrity. And then, the last question, after he went through this list – he smiled, and he said, “Have you lied to me in your answers to any of the last five or six questions?” Got a Paul? You know how much that protects you? So, you’ve got to pursue great people, got to go after them.
You also need a Barnabas. I had a fellow that we just linked hearts, the first basketball trip out, a guy named Glen Miller. And Glen was a man of devotion, and heart, and love. And he went off later to be a missionary in Sri Lanka, later became a pastor. And for twenty years, Glen and I have stayed in touch, and he’s just been a peer. He’s a little bit older than me. He’s like that little bit older big brother. But I was a little farther ahead, early, spiritually.
And so, the first trip we went on, we memorized the book of Philippians together. The next trip we went on, we memorized the book of James together. This guy has got zeal that is over the top. He leaves me voice messages in Tagalog: [sings in Tagalog] “Hey, Ingram. How you doing buddy? Are you rejoicing in the Lord? Ay, ay, isn’t it sweet?” He talks about God like He’s just in the room. And he’s just winsome Barnabas. And what I know, and what he knows, is, no matter where we’re at in the world or the country, it’s just, we’re peers.
He’s got a dream, where he’s building orphanages now in Africa, along with pastoring a church. And someone who is just running at the same place on the track with you that you can bounce stuff off of.
The third area is a Timothy, someone you get to invest in. And there was a guy who was a football coach in that little town. And A.C. had me and him meet together, and we’d review and memorize these verses. See, you do life together. The thinking great thoughts and reading great books – I don’t know about you, but I’m not disciplined to do that. But you find a couple guys, or you find a couple gals, and you say, “Let’s do it on this morning, at this time.”
And we went to the feed store. And we’d eat a little breakfast, and we’d all go over our verses, and memorize a couple verses. And little by little by little by little, you grow. And pretty soon, he’s a football coach, defensive back – his name was Steve. And Steve came on staff at that little church, and it started to grow. And then, I went to California, and he came and did the college group. Then, he did the small groups. Then, he did this, and then, he ran the staff.
And then, he hit forty-five. And I’ll never forget the day – because we worked together for eighteen years. I got way more credit. I could kind of dream it, and he could make it happen. And he hit forty-five, and I hit it about a year or two before him. And he said, “You know something? You know that agreement we had? We’re going to work together, as long as we live, until God brings us to a point where we think we can do more good for the Kingdom apart.”
And since we’re both a couple old coaches, he said, “Hey, dude, I think the run has ended.” And I said, “I think you’re right.” And we were learning some things in leadership together, and he said, “I’ve done every job in this church, and there’s only one I really want to do, and you’re not retiring, are you?” I said, “No, I’m not.” He said, “Then I’ve got to do what you’re doing. I’ve got to be a senior pastor.”
Guess what he’s doing – you know what he’s doing? He’s doing what I got to teach him, and what I got to learn from Prof.
See, you pursue great people. And, now, you get on the phone, and sometimes those Timothys just turn into Barnabases. And I learned more from Steve than, I’m sure, he’s ever learned from me. Pursue great people.
And you’ll never have time in your schedule to do it. Busyness is the curse of our day, and I struggle with it as much as you. You will have to come up with a specific plan. But you’ve got to look out the windshield, and ask yourself, Who out there could be a Paul in my life right now? Who out there could be a Barnabas that I could share life – who could be a Timothy? And you know what? You only have to be a half a step ahead of someone to teach them what you know. You don’t have to have it all together.
The final thing I’d like to share here is, to get you started without getting you discouraged. And, so, I want to give a warning to heed, a warning to heed. And the warning is this, for Timothys looking for Pauls: Often, God will use a variety of people. Don’t believe there’s some person, who will have it all together, that’s going to be this person who is going to sustain and help you grow, for the rest of your life.
It’ll be more like a revolving door of different people, different seasons, to meet different needs as you grow. Now, sometimes you get that special person that you stay in touch with. I think that’s more rare than it is normal.
So, when you’re looking for that Paul, don’t get your expectations, like, they’re going to meet with you every week, and it’s going to be this way, or that way.
Secondly, a warning for Pauls looking for Timothys: You can’t get where all you do is give. Some of you are in a season of your life where you’re giving to people, you’re giving to people, you’re giving to people, but there’s no one giving into you.
You can’t figure out why you’re losing the joy, and you’re tired. Because you know what? You need some V.E.P. people in your life – very encouraging people.
When you’re a Paul, and people are looking to you, and you’ve hit a time of maturity, and you’re helping this guy over here, in a Bible study with these women over here, and then you’re teaching over here, and you’re trying to raise this – you can give, give, give, and Pauls – what’ll happen is, a lot of people really get burned out because no one’s giving to them.
You don’t give yourself permission to get renewed. You don’t give yourself permission to have fun. You don’t give yourself permission to let someone build into your life, or have a few relationships – this is hard for some of you guys, and some of you driven women. Have some relationships where you don’t have to get anything done, you just get to hang out.
Tonight, at supper, I got to eat with a couple real buddies, guys that I go way back with. And part of it – they have so built in my life, but one of the great things about them, we just hang. We laugh. We play golf. We play tennis. We just cut up. We share our hearts.
But just having some people in your life that, when I’m around them, I don’t have to be anybody but Chip. I don’t have to be a pastor. I don’t have to perform. I don’t worry about, they just love me. They just love me, and they like to be with me, and I like to be with them. And if you’re a Paul, you’ve got to have some of that in your life. And if you don’t, you’ll find yourself hurting.
Let me give you now a word of perspective to consider. I think what happens is, we get these categories. And I’m going to suggest that every category of Pauls and Barnabases and Timothys is, God often will give role players in your life. And I’ve put a few of them here, and I’ll give you a couple highlights. They may be a Paul, but their role as a Paul is a father figure. That was A.C. for me. Huge, huge impact in my life.
But then, some people, God gives you a cheerleader – someone who just cares, and gets excited for you.
And I was a young guy in this church, and the little church was growing. It was becoming a medium-sized church.
And I had this dream in my heart, and I couldn’t even say it out loud. I wanted to be the pastor of a large church. Doesn’t that sound arrogant? Doesn’t that sound terrible? Doesn’t that sound like you’re trying to make a big something of yourself? But I just had this desire. I just saw how they worked, and I wanted that kind of impact.
And I remember saying out loud to Don Geiger, “Don, I just feel so bad, and so terrible, because I’ve got this desire.” And he said, “Well why do you feel bad?” “Well, isn’t that ambitious, and isn’t it wrong?” He said, “Well, why do you want to be the pastor? Is it so you can be a big someone?” I said, “No.” I said, “I just think that’s where I would really flourish.”
He said, “Chip, I get people calling all the time.” He was a pastor of a large church. He said, “They are really hard to find. It’s a unique gift mix, and you have that gift mix. It’s God calling you to do that.” He was my cheerleader. He just said, “Go for it, man.” And you know what? Within a year and a half, Santa Cruz called. But I couldn’t have gone there if that cheerleader wasn’t in my life.
Sometimes, God will bring a prophet in your life. A guy named Bill Lawrence.
My wife and I sat in a little room, and he evaluated my preaching, and he looked me right in the eye, and he said, “Chip, you’ve got some real gift, you’ve got some real gift in communicating.” I’m thinking, Thank you. He said, “But I can’t figure out something.” I said, “What’s that?” He said, “I can’t figure out whether you’re just downright lazy, or you don’t believe in preaching.” I mean, a real man would never do that in front of your wife! I said, “Excuse me?”
He said, “Yeah, I just can’t figure it out.” He said, “I can see how your mind works. Oh, you do a good job with the text. The last ten percent, you’re just lazy. You’re shooting shotguns. You don’t shoot bullets. Tell you what. You need to put another five, six, seven hours in on that last part of the sermon. It needs to be clear. It needs to be concise. It needs to be focused. You need to shoot a bullet, a Teflon bullet, that – bang! – goes through, and God uses. And He’s given you the gift to do that. You’re shooting shotguns, little BBs. It doesn’t take you much time to prepare. You like to study, but you’re not doing the hard part at the end. Now, is it because you’re just lazy, or you don’t believe in the power of preaching?”
Man, I’ll tell you what, he rocked my world. And I looked over to this sweet, lovely Teresa, looking for compassion, like, “Tell me it’s not so, honey.” And she looked at me and goes, “He doesn’t believe in preaching. He’s not lazy, but he doesn’t believe in – all he wants to do is these discipleship groups, discipleship groups. He doesn’t believe in preaching.”
And I’ll tell you what: I decided that I, before God, would – I wrote on a card: “My goal is to preach great messages for God.” Does that sound arrogant? What, do you think God wants okay ones? Bad ones? So-so ones? And I decided, whatever it would take for me to learn to preach great – and then, I listened to people preach. I went to people who preached. I listened to tapes. I read books. And then, I did that last seven to ten hours, to get it from a shotgun to a bullet.
Got any prophets in your life? People who aren’t worried about offending you? See, they’ll be Pauls at times, Timothys at times. But they’re role players. How about a sponsor? You ever been in a situation where you needed someone to lift you up, and move you to a place that you could never get to on your own?
I was in a little breakfast nook, and a guy had come by the church and said, “Hey, we’ve got a wonderful plan for your life, and we think you’d be really good on radio. And we couldn’t use you on our station, but you really ought to consider it.” And I was eating breakfast with a guy named Dick. And we were doing five services, video overflow with five services. I thought, That’s the dumbest thing in the whole – Radio, who listens to radio? Isn’t that crazy? I can’t believe that.
Because he was a mentor in my life, and we’d play golf about every Thursday, or every other Thursday, and I’d bounce my sermon off him, and I’d ask him all my leadership questions. And he always was helping me grow personally and learn how to lead. I’d ask him all kind of questions and just glean.
And I remember him sitting across from me. He said, “I’m going to call you tonight.” I said, “Okay.” And then, toward the end, he said, “I don’t need to call you.” I said, “Okay.” “You need to do the radio thing.” I said, “What?” “You need to do it.” This is a sponsor. This isn’t like, “It’d be a good idea. Why don’t you pray about it. God has shown me.” It’s, “You need to do it.”
I said, “Well I don’t know anything about radio. I don’t know how much it costs. I don’t know…” He said, “It doesn’t matter.” I said, “What do you mean, it doesn’t matter? We’ll have to do –” He said, “Just do it.” I said, “Well, how?” He said, “Well, I’ll pay for the first year.” I said, “Well, how much will it cost?” He said, “I don’t know.” He said, “But whatever it is, I’ll just pay for it. God’s in this.”
God used him to launch – I didn’t want to do it. See, God will bring people into your life that will sponsor you, but guess what, you’ve got to pursue and get around people. Find great people who pray. Find people with great marriages. Find great leaders. Find people that are raising good kids. Find people that are doing the kinds of things that you want to become like, and figure out a way to get next to them. Pursue great people.
And God will bring sponsors, and cheerleaders, and a counselor, a hero. Joe Stowell – I wasn’t kidding. He was one of my heroes. I think you always want to have someone to say, that is in your line of work, “I want to be like him. I want to be like him.” So, I listen to Joe. When I have a big decision, I call Joe. A hero.
I think God wants a counselor in our lives, someone that you can open up your heart, and share. There’s a guy named Dick Meyer. He was a counselor, counselor. And you know those wounds, and those things we talked about? Sometimes you’ve got to pursue a great person – you’ve got to pay them, because there’s stuff you don’t know how to figure out, and you’ve got friends, and they’re counselors. And you just say, “Hey, I don’t know how – my ball is lost in the weeds,” as Prof. would say, “but I don’t know how to get it untangled.” And they sit down with you, and they share insight, and life, and truth.
Which of those, in that list, do you need in your life? Which specific role player? What do you need? What kind of person? Even as I’m speaking, what kinds of names or faces are coming to your mind that aren’t on your old Mt. Rushmore, but if you were going to build a new Mt. Rushmore, who could go on there to say, “I think this person could have a positive impact on my life. I want to be more like him. I want to be more like her”? Have you got it?
Now, let me give you an action plan to go on. Number one, an action plan to follow. I gave you a perspective to consider – role players – and now, an action plan to follow. Number one: Pray earnestly. And we just learned what earnestly meant, right? I don’t think these people were hanging on trees, and I’ll guarantee, their schedule is full. And, so, you pray earnestly: Lord, show me.
Number two: Take initiative. I just, over the years, I just have an antennae. As soon as I got to Atlanta, I thought, Who, Lord? Who? I’ve got to find some guys that are walking with God. I’ve got to find some guys that really love You. I’ve got to find someone that is farther down the road than me.
I just started looking for – I know I need a cheerleader. I need a confidant. I need a sponsor. I need role players. I don’t know if they’re going to be my Paul. And I’m still going to call on the phone, and actually arrange my schedule, but I’ve got to find people who are going to be a Paul in my life.
And then, I’ve got to find some Barnabases. And then, I’ve got to ask myself, Okay, it’s a new world; it’s a new day. Are there some people that You want me to invest my life in? But you take initiative.
And three: Start in your relational network. The Paul, Timothys, and Barnabases are probably already in your relational network. Start there.
Four is: Ask for help. This is amazing. Sometimes we don’t. I was just in Florida, and had a chance to meet with some people who’d been very kind and generous to the ministry. There was a guy there that had been a mentor with a leader that I really respect. He’s a Christian leader who, I think, maybe just in terms of sheer leadership gift, may be the finest that I know. I have read and listened.
And this guy, I found out as we played nine holes of golf, had mentored this guy, and he talked to me about it. And I just couldn’t resist. I thought, I don’t know what role he’s going to play in my life, but you know what? If he mentored that guy, he’s pretty good. So, I played golf. We had a dinner, and then I taught a Bible study.
You know what? You have not because you ask not. And I walked over to this guy and said, “Excuse me, John, can I get a word with you before I go? Got to catch a plane.” “Yeah.” “John, you know what you did for that guy?” “Yeah.” “Would you help me?” This organization is growing so rapidly, I’m over my head. He’s in a way, way bigger organization, that’s way, way more complex.
“Would you help me, the way you helped him? If I called you, would you give me time on the phone, and if I asked you questions, would you help me?”
He said, “I’d be glad to.” I said, “Great. Well, I don’t have any contact information.” And you know what? Someone else was talking, and this guy walks back to me, and he goes, “Here, here’s my personal card, and here’s my other card.” And he said, “Just give me a call any time.” See, the kinds of people that want God to use their lives, they’re looking for eager Timothys who want to grow, and want to learn. Pursue great people.
Pray earnestly, take initiative, start with your relational network, ask for help – here’s the one: persevere. They often say “no” ten times, before they say “yes.” I could tell you my Prof. Hendricks story. You don’t want to hear it. I don’t want to tell it. It took me three years. Persevere, persevere, persevere. Or do it by proxy. A lot of people that have mentored me – I can’t get close to them, but they’ve got books. I’ve listened to them. I find someone close to them. I ask them questions.
As the church was growing, I went around to every major place in America where things were growing, and I tried to get near the guy who did it. And if I couldn’t, I got next to the guy who was next to him. If I couldn’t, then I got, you know what? I’m going to get as close as I can, or I’m going to read what they wrote, or I’m going to listen to it, because there are a lot of different ways to keep growing.
And, finally, make time in your schedule. You’ll never have it. No one’s going to call you on the phone and say, “Would you like to be mentored? Would you like to really grow? Would you like to put in some time, and be very disciplined and very focused for the next five to seven years, that will totally transform your life, and probably the life of your entire relational network, and possibly could change the world in a radical way?” No one is going to call you and say that.
But you know what you can do? You can pursue great people. And you can look for your Paul, and you can look for a soulmate Barnabas. And then, all the while, you find someone that you have a little bit more than they have, and you start giving it away, and I’m telling you, you’ll become great in God’s eyes.