Pastor Terry Tatum
The past few weeks we have been in a sermon series entitled Becoming Great. That word “great” has always been intimidating to me. In fact, I’ve struggled with it for a long time.
Great = above the normal average. How can I become great? What does that exactly look like? Have I not been doing things right my entire life? It can get scary. But today I want to tell you one way you can begin to become great, Pursue Great People.
Proverbs 13:20 says: He who walks with the wise grows wise, but a companion of fools suffers harm. God truly cares about the company we keep. In fact, God’s word is emphatic about the company we keep. Consider these other examples from God’s word:
– Do not be misled: “Bad company corrupts good character.” 1 Corinthians 15:33
– Even though you have ten thousand guardians in Christ, you do not have many fathers, for in Christ Jesus I became your father through the gospel. 16 Therefore I urge you to imitate me. 1 Corinthians 4:15-16
– As iron sharpens iron, so one man sharpens another. Proverbs 27:17
I can remember wise sayings I’ve heard throughout my life affirming what we just read in scripture, such as “We become like who we admire and who we are around the most,” or one my favorites, “Show me your friends and I’ll show you your future.” Can I get an amen? Here’s another one:“If you want be rich, hang around rich people, if you want to be happy, hang around happy people.”
You see, God truly does care about who we associate with, but we don’t just come into this world knowing what to do. Someone has to show us the right way to do things. I am of the opinion that “more things are caught than taught” …… Good and bad things. We see people’s actions and we learn from them: Friends, teachers, coaches, parents, bosses. We are constantly seeing how to do things and how not to do things. So, if you want to be truly great you have to pursue great people, not look for them, but pursue them actively. Seek out people who trying to be all they can be in God’s eyes.
How do you pursue great people?
1. Start in the REARVIEW MIRROR.
2. Look out the WINDSHIELD
While preparing this message I began to think about all the people who had poured into my life over the years and people I have poured into. One of the first people that came to mind was my first small group leader, Troy Nevins.
Early on in my walk with God I realized that I wanted more than just one hour a week worshiping God. I believed that God wanted more out of me as well. I was willing to do what God wanted me to do but I had one major problem…… I didn’t know what to do or how to do it. I wasn’t even sure I was praying right. So around 15 years ago Carrie and I began attend a small group led by Troy and his wife Pam. Troy took time out of his life to mentor me. He helped me become a better husband, father, and Christian. And you know how he did it? We just spent time together, we did life together. It became a relationship like the one you see in the Bible with Paul and Timothy.
In Acts 16 we see the beginning of one of the relationships that has truly impacted history and has been talked about for centuries. In Lystra, during Paul’s second missionary journey, he learned that Timothy had an exceptional reputation among the local Christians (Acts 16:1-2). Timothy came from a mixed racial background, in which his mother was Jewish and his father was Greek. Timothy’s familiarity with the Jewish and Greco-Roman cultures made him an ideal protégé of Paul. In later years, Timothy served as Paul’s emissary at various locales, where the apostle had established churches on his missionary journeys.
You see Paul saw something special (something great) in Timothy and he reached out to him to try and help him become what God has called him to be. They traveled together, they learned things together and from each other. They just invested in each other. Much the same way Troy did with me. I can promise you, without Troy Nevins influence and encouragement I wouldn’t be where I am today. It was that impactful. But I had to seek him out. Troy was like a Paul to me!
While in that small group I met Chas Longo. Chas and I had very little in common but we both loved the Lord and wanted to get closer to Him. Chas and I enter the ministry at about the same time and still check on each other. He has the permission to ask me anything he thinks he needs to, the the permission to hold me accountable to be the man I am supposed to be. Much like Paul’s relationship with Barnabas.
In Acts 11 we see the beginning of Paul and Barnabas’ relationship. Paul was a bad dude who had come to Christ and Barnabas was a well-respected Christian. Barnabas basically vouches for Paul at the beginning of his ministry and that relationship led countless numbers of people to a faith in Jesus Christ. They were in it together; they were peers and gaining from each other. And they showed me that life is closer to the way it should be when you are sharing it with other. Just like me and Chas!
Then I began to think: Troy poured into me Chas and I shared our experience and helped each other… who have I ever truly poured into? Then I realized I had me very on real life Timothy at my house. My son Timmy is 16 and I have been trying to raise him to be all God called him to be since the day he was born. I’ve tried to encourage him, guide him, correct him, and I have failed miserable more times than not. But it’s okay, he doesn’t want perfection out of me, he just wants me to love him. He wants me to be there to help him if he needs it, but mostly just to be able to talk to someone who’s been there and done that. A lot like Paul and Timothy!
In my life today I’d tell you that my Paul is Craig Carter. Craig selflessly pours into my life professionally and personally. He challenges me to be better today than I was yesterday and always says, “I hope today is the worst I’ll ever be”. Meaning he always wants to be getting better. You see Craig realizes that he is probably near the last decade of his career and that I probably have another 30 or so years to go. He wants to help me not make the same mistakes he made and to enjoy the successes he’s had. Craig has invested in me, my family, and my ministry and I can thank him enough. He is my Paul!
I also have a group of 5 guys that I meet with weekly to pray and talk. They are my prayer partners. I don’t have to be a pastor when I am with them. There is no expectation, we are just here for each other, helping each other along the journey. They serve as my Barnabas’.
So, who am I trying to pour into now? Well I still have a kid at home… might want to start there? But I have been using abilities God has given me for the last four years as a chaplain for a local high school football team. I attend 2-3 practices a week and games on Friday nights. During the off season I get to spend one hour per week with these boys doing character/team-building. Do you know where the greatest character lessons in the history of the world can be found? In the Bible. You see we talk about character, how to treat a lady, what it means to be a man. “What’s my job? What’s your job?” And those boys are going to know two things by the time they graduate high school: God loves them, and I love them. They serve as my Timothy today.
A couple important things to keep in mind as you spend time figuring out who is your Paul, your Barnabas and your Timothy:
1. You can’t get to where all you do is take
2. You can’t get to where all you do is give
You have to pursue (actively seek out) people who can fill these roles in your life, or you can fill these roles in theirs. They aren’t going to just fall in your lap. You need action plan. Here’s one I would recommend:
1. Pray earnestly
2. Take initiative
3. Start in your relational network
4. Ask for help
When it comes to #4, our staff is here to help you anytime. In particular, Katie Fanning, our director of missions, can help you plug in to one of our partner schools as a mentor or a lunch buddy (perhaps finding your Timothy!) and Mindy Clemons, our discipleship director can help you connect or start a Life Group (perhaps finding your Barnabas and/or Paul!)
I truly believe we should all have a Paul, a Barnabas, and a Timothy in our lives at all times. Can you name your three?