Yesterday I attended Dave Sturkey’s “Celebration of Life.” Dave was a mentor, fellow pastor, and friend. In fact, he was one of the reasons I got into church planting. He and I dreamed about me church planting one day, and finally he said, “Geoff, you just got to go the Assessment Center and see what they say.”
Several of his friends, former fellow P.C.A. pastors in Bradenton/Sarasota had the privilege of speaking at this celebration. I would have loved to share how Harbor would not be here if not for Dave’s relationship with me (and of course for my former Bradenton past0r Randy). But to have all of the people who wanted to be up front, who had something legitimate to share about Dave, would have made for an awfully long service!
A ton of people showed up. And I realized why. Dave had impacted a large number of people. Not just through his church but through his mentoring.
Several thoughts bounced around my cranium that day….
1.) I will probably never influence that number of people. I would love to do so. Could Harbor become a huge church? Hypothetically I guess it could, though I would much rather Harbor plant churches then get big. But there is a good chance I’ll never be a pastor of a 400-500 person church. I’m okay with that. But will my life mean something IF I don’t have 1000 people come to my funeral (I get that I won’t care at that point, so this is more hypothetically speaking)?
2.) Will I be okay if I never that influence that number of people? It is one thing to desire to impact others. To mentor them so that they can mentor and disciple others. If a pastor doesn’t desire that, he probably shouldn’t pastor. But could that desire to influence become an idol? Yep. What if God desires me to only mentor a few people, and perhaps not have as many people come to my funeral? Would I still have been faithful, but possibly had less tangible influence? Of course. If I’m not okay, then in the end, I’ve simply used people to make me feel important. That’s not love. That’s manipulation. The only way to steer clear of that is to regularly repent and believe in the gospel.
3.) Can the desire to influence that number of people be a sinful desire? Of course. Neitzche was right in his assessment-at least at some level-on morality. He argued that morality was nothing more than “good” people trying to control “bad” people. And sometimes that is incredibly accurate! Influence can be the same way. Sometimes our desire to influence people is nothing more than a desire to control them or make them look or think or act like us. Of course gospel-centered mentoring involves imitation, but ultimately points people to praise, rest in, and imitate Christ. We can desire influence as a way to control others or as a way to point them to our King.
4.) Even though I’ll probably never influence that number of people, I do want to influence more. I imagine you might want the same thing. Time spent loving, discipling, mentoring others is time well spent. I love mentoring/discipling people because people have mentored and discipled (going back to college) and coached me. Just spending time with one more person might give you the blessing of seeing them mentor/disciple/evangelize more than you. Larry mentored Dave, and that was quite the investment. Maybe you mentor/disciple will do way more things than you. And that would be fantastic!
5.) Consider mentoring people while doing what you/they already like to do. All of the guys whom he spent time with mentoring went hunting or fishing with him. I remember driving down to the Venice jetty with Dave to catch snook. I remember kingfishing with him. Don’t waste your hobbies. Use them to spend time with and mentor/disciple others. I actually need to fish more, which means I’ll need to wake up earlier for sermon prep! I get invitations every week. Sometimes with Christians, sometimes with non-Christians. But fishing, hunting, ________ with people is never wasted time.
I was the only Bradenton/Sarasota pastor who never cried in the pulpit. Now that I’m back in town, I don’t know that I’ll be able to continue the legacy handed down by Larry, Dave, and Randy. But if I do, I’ll know its okay. Dave did teach me that.
Beautifully written Geoff. I can hear from your words that Dave’s Legacy has impacted you and many others as well. Dave was a unique individual who touched more lives than we will ever know. Having said that, you also have an approach to people that is warm, welcoming and so down to earth. You reach out in a real way……..One of God’s given gifts. I love how you say to use your hobbies to reach others……..and that is just what you are doing. Well done…….stay focused on that and I know you will reach many others. Thanks for teaching how to reach out in a REAL way. Stay focused and as you say “Press On”!! ~Alison
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Love mentoring youngsters in language arts; my hobby. May be a long time before the reward is harvested; maybe never in my lifetime. Thanks for your thoughts and encouragement.