Most folks who know me are aware that taking students with me on driving trips forms a significant part of my mentoring philosophy. Whether bringing a student or several one time only or going on multiple trips, the time in the vehicle allows for a less formal but no less significant time of learning. And, because many of the trips students join me on involve places where I preach or teach, we also reflect on those events on the return as another learning opportunity.
And I make them drive which is always a plus.
Yesterday I visited the place where 30 years ago almost to the day my new wife Michelle and I journeyed to spend the next several years. I began my MDiv at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary where I would earn my Masters and then the PhD with Dr. Roy Fish. I would never have the joy of teaching at SEBTS had I not paid the price academically to be able to do so. While visiting the campus I had lunch with two men I mentored in their PhD studies who now teach at SWBTS, Matt Queen and Tommy Kiker. I also saw several others I once taught including Thomas White, Josh Williams, Jason Duesing, and David Mills. There are others I missed seeing, and I certainly missed getting to see my mentor Dr. Fish who was under the weather.
Matt and Tommy did not only earn their PhD with me. They joined me on trips as well. In fact, Tommy went with me to Ukraine. And he helped me plant flowers and clean gutters. Matt was my grader along the way as well.
Jason Duesing reminded me of one of those ministry trips I took many years ago. I was going to preach a rally for Stephen Smith, son of Bailey Smith, whose endowed chair I am honored to hold at Southeastern now. Stephen was a student then. I took with me two current students, a brother and sister named Ashley and Jason Cherry. Two prospective students also joined me, Jason Duesing mentioned above and Nathan Lino, whom I had met as a young person when I preached for his dad in Kingwood, Texas, years before.
Stephen and Ashley later married. I am a super match-maker when I have no idea I am involved. Stephen is now the dean of the college at Southwestern, and he and Ashley just had their first child. Jason and Nathan ended up coming to Southeastern as well, and now as mentioned Jason teaches at Southwestern and Nathan is a pastor in the Houston area.
One trip to a rally in Richmond played I tiny part (I do not at all want to overstate my influence) on the eventual marriage of a couple, and the education of others. All those who rode with me on that trip and Stephen who invited me to preach had me for evangelism class as well. And almost all of them have continued to influence many others as educators themselves.
My point is that often we overestimate the importance of the big events we do, like speaking to big crowds. Those opportunities of course do matter. But sometimes the little things, like taking a few people with you, make a much bigger Kingdom impact over the long haul than the surface reason you went to minister for an evening. I have no idea what I preached that night. I do not honestly remember anything about the service. But I remember the students. I remember the relationships forged or strengthened that night, relationships that continue.
May God give those of us to whom He has granted the opportunity to educate others the wisdom to see the mentoring opportunities in often overlooked tasks like the journey to an assignment. The joy is in the journey, especially when you journey with great people like those I mentioned above.
Note: To read more check out my ebook With: A Guide to Informal Mentoring.