Will You Be a Torch Passer?
(Today’s guest post is from John Ortberg, author of If You Want to Walk on Water, You Have to Get Out of the Boat, Everybody’s Normal Till You Get to Know Them, The Me I Want to Be, and most recently, Who is This Man? The Unpredictable Impact of the Inescapable Jesus, published August 2012 by Zondervan. John is a pastor at Menlo Park Presbyterian Church in Menlo Park, California.)
There’s something that kind of comes to life and comes to mind when we see families and children. It’s something mysterious, often taken for granted…a sacred process by which a soul gets shaped…character gets formed along with attitudes and an identity. The books we read, the classes we attend, the media we watch, the sermons we hear, the people we know, the relationships we enter into…all of these affect us, but if you had to name one of these forces as the single most powerful impact in shaping your heart, your character, and your life, what would it be?
When it comes to spiritual formation, it’s hard to find anything that rivals the impact of a mentor…a ‘torch-bearer’ who becomes a ‘torch-passer’.
We’re all being nudged toward the life of “torch-passer” in the unique way you will express it. It’s as if God gives this torch of life, this light of life with Him and anytime somebody receives it He says, “Now, I want you to be a keeper of the flame. I want you to be a passer of the torch. I want you to use this life I’ve given you to build into the lives of other people.” This is absolutely a fundamental need for every human being whether or not they’re a parent, whether or not they’re young or old.
Paul writes to Timothy when Timothy is quite young and Paul is aging and he says, “You, my son be strong in the grace that is in Christ Jesus that is in this life with God. The things you heard me say, this Good News about Jesus and the life, the forgiveness, the direction He offers, the Good News that you have heard me say and trust to reliable people who will also be qualified to teach others”. In other words, Timothy is young, but he is to be a torch passer as well. Paul gives the torch to Timothy and he says, “This is not just about you. You give it to reliable people. But don’t let them keep it. They’re to give it to reliable people as well.” This is one person to another to another to another. Everybody who knows Jesus had somebody, some people, pass the torch to them.
The question is who are you building into? Who are you passing the torch to? Who are you investing in? When you get to the end of your life, who is going to say, “I’m a better person. I walk a little taller. I stand a little straighter. My faith is a little stronger because I was loved by a torch-passer?”
When you build into another person, it always requires a certain generosity of spirit, a generosity of time. We can romanticize… “I want to pour into this person, and they’re going to be so grateful. They’re just going to admire me so much.” But it’s not a romanticize thing. There is always a cost…always a cost to building into somebody. It’s never convenient. Never smooth. You don’t just get a protégé who follows you around saying, “Golly, you’re the greatest. I’m so glad you’re my mentor.”
The church is filled with potential torch passers. When somebody says, “I see a gift in you, I see a possibility, I think I see a hunger in you, I see a passion. I see a history. I see a scar, a wound God could use to heal somebody. Do you want to have a cup of coffee? Can I pray for you? Would you like to come watch while I do something? Do you want to be a part of it?” That’s a potential torch-passer.
That’s the kind of community we all want to be a part of…one where mantles are being distributed and torches are being passed. That sends ripples for generations!
The choice is in your hands. You can do this. This is not a program. It’s not a service. It happens one mentor at a time. It happens when someone says “Alright God, I want to be a part of this deal.”
And for those looking for a torch-passer, here’s some questions.
Do you have a teachable spirit?
Are you open?
Are you coachable? or do you get kind of defensive and kind of cocky?
If you want a friend who will shape you, then when you’re with them, every once in a while…shut up and just let them speak into your life.
The greatest torch in the history of the human race was passed to those 12 and then beyond and then beyond and then beyond and then beyond until right now. It’s the only torch that matters. Who are you passing it to? It doesn’t really matter how well you think you carry the torch if you’re not giving it to somebody else.
When the time comes for your life to end, don’t you want a group of people saying “I’m a better human being because of him?”
Pass the torch.