Shepherd Bob and Preacher Lynn were wired up as near opposites.
I have trouble keeping up with my keys, and uber-organized Bob called this a character flaw, while I accused Bob of thinking in rigid, boring columns. I like stories. He likes facts. He was left-brained: cerebral and analytical. I tend toward right-brained: intuitive and relational. Yet, in at least one way, Bob and I were much alike: we both tend toward being control freaks.
Well, because of Bob’s work travels, he periodically missed multiple elders’ meetings. On several occasions, the rest of the shepherds and staff had worked on some project for weeks during Bob’s absence, doing research, running legwork, having long discussions, and finally laying plans. Then Bob would blow back into an elders’ meeting after several weeks’ absence, and (as I perceived it) second-guess all the work done in his absence and try to reshape things his way.
My frustration escalated, till one day I—like a wise, gentle pastor of the people —charged into Bob’s office, stood over his desk, and began to berate him for the “way he dragged down the morale of the elders and how he torpedoed things good people had slaved on for weeks, etc.” With each point my pitch rose and I punctuated my complaints with a stiff index finger. Bob listened a few minutes, then calmly picked up his pen and began jotting notes on a legal pad.
“What are you doing?” I demanded.
“Well, Lynn, you’re talking pretty fast and saying a lot of important things. I need to write them down.”
“And what are you going to do with them?” Suspiciously.
“I just…need to think about them.” Calmly.
So I settled down a bit (actually, I felt sort of cheap.) I talked. Bob wrote. And the visit actually ended on a warm note.
Now, here is the amazing part: Bob told no one about our conversation. But the following week each of the people in Bob’s circle—including me—received a very professional-looking envelop in the mail containing two documents. One was a note saying “It has come to my attention that I need to improve some of my professional and interpersonal skills and behaviors.” And he asked for our help.
The second document was a list of questions Bob had taken from his notes on my “input” (but mentioning no names). He asked us to answer each of his questions by rating his performance on a 1-5 scale.
But the most amazing part was this: when he got the results back, would you believe, he actually made some definite and obvious changes!
My stars! What an important learning experience for me. In fact, a few weeks later I asked Bob for a two-hour lunch on my nickel, explaining, “This time, I’ll bring the pen and pad, and you do the talking.”
So we met. Bob talked and I wrote. The resulting pages stayed on the corner of my desk for months. I read and re-read them. Bob significantly changed my life, not by what he said, so much as by what he did! He was a mentoring shepherd—showing me how to live.
This is a prime sample of what I call transformative mentoring. Bob was modeling Christian leadership for me—not from the distance, but up close and personal. He took me seriously, in spite of my immaturity—showing me how to react to criticism, how to absorb hostility, how to be a listener. What humility looks like. How trust grows. Plus he modeled accountability and feedback.
Thank you, good shepherd Bob. I feel deeply imprinted by your heart. Thank you, Lord Jesus, for putting this mentor in my life.
Bob went to heaven this past year, but I will never forget his voice, nor take it lightly. I love Bob.
(Adapted from Lynn Anderson’s book They Smell Like Sheep, Volume One.)
Lynn Anderson is the founder of Hope Network Ministries, which has been coaching, mentoring, and equipping Christian leaders since 1996. His 58 years in ministry include 11 years of church planting in his native Canada. He also served for 19 years as Senior Minister at Highland Church of Christ in Abilene, and 5 years as Senior Minister at Preston Road in Dallas. In addition to personally coaching hundreds of church leaders, Lynn has taught graduate ministry courses as an adjunct professor at Abilene Christian University and Pepperdine University. He has also authored numerous books, including “They Smell Like Sheep” and “Talking Back to God.” Lynn and his wife Carolyn live in San Antonio, Texas. They have four children, 10 grandchildren, and seven great-grandchildren.