MY MOUNT RUSHMORE OF MENTORS PART 2
by Trevor DeVage
I wrote about my dad, Jimmy DeVage. He’s my best friend and my hero. His commitment to Jesus and grit in the face of difficulty have set a standard I want to reach.
Mike Baker took a chance on me and hired me as a youth ministry intern when I was just a junior in college. He helped me grow by giving me responsibility. He urged me to use what he saw as my main gift, preaching. He demonstrated a commitment to keeping his word that’s still an example for me today.
This week I want to tell you about the other two who would make my mountain of mentors complete.
I was only 22 years old when I joined the staff at the 1,000-member Highlands Meadow church in Dallas. Drew was the minister, and I was his first hire. In the 10 years I served there with him, I grew along with the church. (Highland Meadows, now Compass Christian Church, was averaging 4,000 on 3 campuses when I left there to come to Christ’s Church 7 years ago.) I watched him lead a very inward-focused church to become one of the most dynamic congregations in the country.
Drew is a really good preacher, but beyond that, he’s maybe the best leader I know. He taught me how to make decisions in ministry, but he also taught me how to have fun in ministry. He always encouraged me to be myself. “I love you for who you are,” he told me more than once. “Always be who you are.”
I don’t have enough words to express what Drew did for me. He set me up for the next 50 years of ministry.
• He let me preach, even though I was young and the church was large. Not long before I left Compass, we tag-teamed the sermon. “This guy is one of my best friends,” Drew said. “I couldn’t be more humbled and honored to share the platform with my favorite preacher.” His comment was like a B12 shot to me.
• He let me experiment. I never got in trouble for trying something new as long as it wasn’t unbiblical. “I’ll give you enough rope to hang yourself,” he once told me. “But I’ll always pull you back up on the branch.”
• He let me, and the rest of our staff, experience the good things in ministry. “Whatever good comes to me, I’ll be sure it trickles down to my team,” he said. He gave us credit when our church experienced a win. He took the blame when we had a loss.
• He let me leave. “I could selfishly keep you here as long as you wanted to be here,” he said, when I was contemplating the move to Ohio. “But I think you need to go lead a church.”
I owe Drew more than I could ever pay back, but I am thankful that he is a friend and mentor.
Cal, senior pastor with Central Christian Church in Mesa, Arizona (attendance 10,000+), knows that leading a church isn’t easy and a senior minister needs much encouragement. And so he’s gathered a group of six younger pastors to mentor them in their ministry. Soon after I came to Mason he invited me to join the group, and it has made all the difference to me.
Twice each year we get away to Cal’s cabin to share what’s going on in our lives. The first time we met, Cal said, “This will be only as good as we’re willing to be honest and open with each other.” He made it OK to talk about things ministers don’t usually talk about. We share the pain and we celebrate the good. And it doesn’t stop at these retreats. Hardly a day goes by that guys in this circle are not communicating with each other, often in a Twitter feed or Message thread that includes encouragement or ideas from everyone in the group.
Cal taught me humility is the first great attribute of leadership. He’s been with the pope and in the company of many other significant leaders, but he always says of us, “These are my favorite guys to be with.”
He beats the drum for mentorship, encouraging other megachurch ministers to copy his example. But most don’t do it because it requires time and energy that contribute little to the growth of their own congregations. But Cal has been free with his time for us. He invited our elders to have our annual retreat with him, and he gave us two full days. I was invited to speak at the North American Christian Convention because Cal suggested it to the program planners. And he gathered the others from our group to sit on the front row at the session where I preached. I could pick up the phone and call him at any minute, and I know he’d answer with, “Hey, buddy, what do you need?”
What I need most is a listening ear and godly input from a guy like Cal. I’ll always be grateful that he and the others on my mountain have cared enough to be my mentors.
Which of my mentors is most like someone who’s meant much to you? Who do you know who needs this kind of influence? What steps could you take to be this person’s mentor?