This article is written by Jeff Broadnax, Director of Generations Ministry and Assistant Regional Director.
When someone becomes one of the answers to your online banking “security questions,” you know they have made an impact in your life. Hollis Dane Mitchell was such a person. For years he was an answer to the question, “Who is your favorite high school teacher?”
But why Hollis Mitchell? Well, when I was a junior in high school, he was my Advanced Math teacher. I was a good student overall, but I was definitely an undisciplined and distracted student. My character might have reflected my Christian values, but my grades had begun to reflect my lack of discipline at this critical time in my high school career.
One day Mr. Mitchell asked me to stay after class to “chat.” As I sat at my desk wondering which of my in class “activities” he was going to correct me for, he asked me a very pointed question: “Jeff, what do you want to be when you grow up?” At the time, I saw him as a great example and told him I wanted to be a teacher. He said to me, “Jeff anybody can be a teacher, look at me! You have the potential to be something great but you have to get off your ______ , do the work and stop letting your friends lead you around by the nose.”
This stunned me. Mr. Mitchell thought I could be something or someone great! I thought he was great (and I still do). This guy whom I thought was awesome paid attention to me. He told me he saw something special in me and called it up in a way that I would never lose sight of.
In last month’s Equipper, Heber Ticas gave an overview of how healthy leaders create healthy teams by engaging, equipping, empowering and encouraging others. When it came to engaging he said,
…as leaders we must be sensitive to the work and calling of the Spirit in the life of others. As we recognize the gifting in others and we acknowledge the needs of the ministry, we intentionally invite others in and give them opportunity for participation. Let’s acknowledge we sometimes (often) struggle with giving ministry away, and with leader readiness; however, we must be willing to engage the journey.
Just over a decade after my conversation with Mr. Mitchell, I went to see him while on a visit back home to Cincinnati. I told him how much that conversation meant to me and that it planted a seed from God into the soil of my life and that this teachable moment had become a teaching tool in my pastoral ministry.
As a Christian himself, I know Mr. Mitchell understood that God had taken a humble servant and allowed him to see a young man full of potential and invite him to become engaged in a future full of promise, hope and service to God and humanity. Hollis Mitchell is a healthy leader of leaders.
In my life he will always be a reflection of Jesus’ pattern of calling others into discipleship. Like Jesus his approach was simple:
- Pay attention—Whether a woman at a well, a blind man wanting to be healed, or a fisherman needing transformation, Jesus noticed individuals for who they were and gave them personalized attention.
- Say what you see—Throughout the Gospels, we see our Lord show those from the least to the greatest something valuable about themselves that he wanted to transform and use to bring glory to the Father.
- Call it up—Jesus always left those he encountered with the invitation and sometimes the challenge to engage with him and learn to engage others in his high calling of service to the Father by the Spirit.
Consider the calling of Simon Peter. We often quote the calling up moment when Jesus said, “Come, follow me, and I will send you out to fish for people” (Matt. 4:19). But I challenge you to read John’s account of Jesus and Peter’s first meeting (John 1:36-42). You will note that this is the moment Jesus paid attention to Peter and told him what he saw in him: “You are Simon son of John. You will be called Cephas.” (“Cephas” means “Peter.”). Notice how this shows that Jesus patiently and intentionally engaged Peter on multiple occasions.
As we read in Luke 5, it was in a second meeting that Jesus famously gets into his boat by the Sea of Galilee, challenges him to put out into deep water for a catch, reframes his view of vocation and calls him up to ministry.
Jesus has invited us to join him in engaging others for ministry the same way. Who does he want you to pay attention to, validate and invite into ministry? Who knows, you might become the answer to their “Who influenced you the most?” ministry security question.