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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
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.