A Peculiar and Profound Mentoring- By Jim Van Yperen

Mentoring usually comes through people we know in one-on-one conversation. But, the most influential mentor in my life is someone I never met and never talked to because he never existed, at least outside the mind of the Scottish novelist, George MacDonald, who wrote Thomas Wingfold, Curate1 in 1876.
I stumbled on George MacDonald because of what another mentor and writer, C.S. Lewis, said of MacDonald, “I fancy I have never written a book that does not quote him.” So, I picked up and read, Thomas Wingfold, and found a most peculiar mentor.
The novel follows a young curate newly placed in a country parish, Thomas Wingfold, whose faith is abruptly challenged one day by a haughty atheist who asks, “Tell me honesty—do you believe one word of all that?” The staggering question riles Wingfold, first for its presumption and then more deeply for his inability to affirm that he truly believed anything at all.
I saw myself in Wingfold. In my thirties, I had been through a period of great doubt about my faith and disillusionment with the church. Yet, I still felt called to serve. But how?
As in many MacDonald novels, help comes unexpected, often in what the world counts the weakest places. Wingfold encounters Polwarth, a humble man trapped in an ailing, dwarf-size body with crooked spine, who becomes his mentor, and mine.
Wingfold asks his new-found mentor for help in rebutting the atheist’s question, but Polwarth changes the question and gently sets the curate and me on another path, “Your business is to acquaint yourself with the man Jesus; he will be to you the one to reveal the Father . . . Take your New Testament as if you have never read it before and read—to find out. It is the man Christ Jesus we have to know, and the Bible we use to that end — not for theory or dogma. In that light, it is the most practical and useful book in the world.”
Wingfold and Polwarth talk frequently but Polwarth is careful not to answer every question, so as not to “weaken by presentation the force of truth which, in discovery, would have its full effect.”
In one exchange, Polwarth asks, “What, primarily, did Jesus from his own account of himself, come into the world to do?”
“To save it,” answered Wingfold.
“I think you are wrong,” returned Polwarth. Jesus’ “passion, if such I dare to call it, was the light of his life, dominating even that which would yet have been enough to make him lay down his life.”
Discovering what Polwarth meant occupies the narrative and moral of the book. Along the way,
The Salvation Army: March 2018 Article Mentoring from Books
By Jim Van Yperen
MacDonald’s commentary about faith and the church challenged my assumptions and supplied new perspective about my life and purpose, with quotes I still return to for wisdom and counsel:
“There are those who in their very first seeking of it are nearer to the kingdom of heaven than many who have for years believed themselves in it. In the former there is more of the mind of Jesus, and when he calls them, they recognize him at once and go after him; while the others examine him from head to foot, and finding him not sufficiently like the Jesus of their conception, turn their backs, and go to church or chapel or chamber to kneel before a vague form mingled of tradition and fancy.”
“The great evil in the church has always been the presence in it of persons unsuited for the work required of them there.”
“Our crimes are friends that will hunt us either to the bosom of God or the pit of hell.”
“I doubt if anything makes one so unforgiving as unrepentant guilt.”
“It is in trusting him that we move into higher regions of life, not in knowing about Him. Until we have his life in us, we shall never be at peace.”
“Trust is born in love, and our need is to love God, not apprehend facts concerning him.”
“For what are doubts but the strengthening building blocks toward summits of yet higher faith in him who always leads us in to high places? Where there are no doubts, no questions, no perplexities, there can be no growth in to the regions where he would have us walk. Doubts are the only means through which he can enlarge our spiritual lives.”
So, what was Jesus’ primary reason for coming into the world, if not to save it? Wingfold discovers, as I did, that the primary motivation and purpose of Jesus life, (from incarnation to crucifixion that produces salvation,) was to hear and to do the Father’s will.
May we do the same.
–Jim Van Yperen
1 Thomas Wingfold, Curate, by George MacDonald, originally published by Hurst and Brackett, London, 1876, printed and published by Johannesen, Whitehorn, CA, 1996, 2002

‘Meanwhile back in the narrative’…

‘Meanwhile back in the narrative’…
In Manuel-Miranda’s musical, Hamilton, was without doubt the theatrical sensation of 2017. Inspired by Ron Chernow’s 2004 biography of Alexander Hamilton, the show has become a runaway box-office hit in the UK and the US.

Hamilton is one of America’s most influential and, prior to this production at least, less recognized founding fathers. Having served as a senior General under Washington in the Revolutionary War, he wrote the majority of the Federalist Papers. To this day these documents provide the most authoritative interpretation of the US constitution. As a member of Washington’s first cabinet, Hamilton ran the US Treasury and founded America’s first National Bank. A trained lawyer, later in life he helped to end the legality of the slave trade. But how did such an unlikely hero and from such humble beginnings emerge to scale such historical heights? Or, in the words of the libretto, “How does a bastard, orphan, son of a whore and a Scotsman, dropped in the middle of a forgotten spot in the Caribbean by providence, impoverished, in squalor, grow up to be a hero and a scholar?” Hamilton the musical endeavors to wrap up the mystery.

Behind every great man, or so the saying goes, is a great woman. From her first entry Hamilton’s would-be partner and will-be long-suffering wife looks to take centre stage. While gender inhibits her own ambitions, a partnership with Hamilton brings promotion to higher echelons and locates her at the centre of a historic social circle. There is much to be exploited and enjoyed. That is until she discovers the humiliating details of her husband’s infidelity. Beating a tragic retreat Elizabeth, in her own words, “erases herself from the narrative,” swapping politics and power for seclusion and solitude.

Elizabeth’s story doesn’t finish here. In the grand finale she announces her comeback. From hereon she “puts herself back in the narrative,” and in the closing moments of the production she prophecies a long list of future achievements. In the years to come Elizabeth Hamilton would become a renowned social reformer and philanthropist in her own right, speaking out against slavery and among other feats, establishing New York’s first private orphanage. As the curtain falls Elizabeth Hamilton is warming up for fifty years of campaigning, fundraising and social activism.

The story of Elizabeth Hamilton haunts me. Not simply because my youngest daughter can’t stop singing it! In times of personal disappointment, rejection or failure, many of us long to withdraw and hide. No matter how much we long to be the centre of attention, we all experience times when we would rather “erase ourselves from the narrative.” For some, failure leads to an identity crisis or a crash of self-confidence. For others betrayal by loved ones, colleagues or even the organisations we serve, paves the way for intense anger, suffocating bitterness and the occasional irrational outburst. Where some find themselves wracked with fear and anxiety, looking over their shoulders — the first symptom of ‘Imposter Syndrome’ — others endeavour to carry on regardless, working through gritted teeth and all the time concerned that this next year might just finish them off. It’s no wonder that we feel tempted to erase ourselves in or from these challenging narratives. However, as with Eliza Hamilton, there is another option. We do have choices.

As we think about the choices that we can make in 2018 here are a few things to remember:

Remember — You are not a victim. As a coach, I often hear people using the language of victimisation. In my charitable work for WeSeeHope I spend a good part of my year supporting children and families in Africa who have had their lives turned upside down by HIV and aids, war, famine and other atrocities besides. These people are the real victims in our world. They have little control of their own story or personal narrative. In my work as a coach I have occasionally witnessed a genuine victim in corporate life. However, the great majority of people I have the privilege to work with wield significant influence, are well remunerated, enjoy fantastic lifestyles and could choose to do something else at a few months or moment’s notice. By playing the victim we adopt a defeatist posture. We cheat ourselves. We start to pretend and eventually believe that we are not the authors of our own story or that others have chosen to erase us from the narrative. Shifting our posture from the powerless victim to a person who can make authentic and powerful choices, is a critical first step to a more positive future.

Remember — Our nightmares rarely come true. Insecurity and anxiety can play foul tricks on our imagination. In this mode we have a tendency to turn drama into crisis and crisis into catastrophe. The fear of an oncoming catastrophe brings out our tendency to give flight. Now we are running away from the narrative. In my experience, the best way to fight off an impending catastrophe is to phone a friend, or even better to buy them a coffee. In most cases the extraordinary scenarios that our anxiety creates do not survive careful examination with our most trusted friends and mentors. Under the spotlights of facts, wisdom and experience many of our worst fears will dissipate. When catastrophizing take time to ‘cross-examine’ your fears and expose them for what they are. If the anxiety is extreme, seek clinical support.

Remember — Revenge is not a solution. Sometimes we are damaged or hurt by others. It happens. People let us down and sometimes try to put us down. It hurts. At times an organisation will do this, sometimes out of intention and sometimes by simple clumsiness. Getting your own back at best works for a moment. In the long run the cognitive dissonance is often more painful and costly than the initial hurt. Trying to erase someone else from the narrative is no way to direct your own story. Becoming someone you do not want to be, just to get your own back on someone or something that has hurt you, is too high a price to pay for the briefest moment of relief. Far from making things better in the long run psychologists tell us that this is one of the the first steps on the way to psychosis. No one should end up here. Believe me when I say, it is better to forgive. When we’ve been wronged, forgiveness provides the only proven way to wrest control of the narrative, set ourselves free from the hurt we feel and move on to bigger and better things.

Remember — Back yourself or no one else will. Having originally believed that marriage was her only route to influence, only to be publically humiliated by her husband’s infidelities, Elizabeth Hamilton became a major figure in her own right. If you back yourself, people will agree with you. If you don’t back yourself, people will also agree with you! Take time to pause and reflect. Remember your most successful moments. Analyse them, relive them, explore them, embody them. Take confidence from your proven skills and strengths and think about how you can use them to affect the narrative in which you find yourself. Remember who you are and what you stand for. You are bright and talented. You have capability and skills. You have ethics and values that can set you apart. Have the courage to be your unique self. Some of the things you are committed to are of such importance that you must press on, as Eliza Hamilton did, despite your hurts, fears and insecurities.

Thanks for reading and make sure whatever you do in 2018 you take control and put yourself back in the centre of the narrative. Our world is richer when you do.

By: Phil Wall

Leadership Transitions: The Perspectives of the Leader

Transition is essential for growth.  God set up His Creation that way. All living organisms grow through cycles of change. So, to lead well through transition, a leader must understand the organic nature of change.

Scripture describes the church as a living organism–the Body of Christ. The nature and function of the church is different than a business and every other enterprise. The Church is God’s agent to reconcile and redeem a fallen world where things are constantly falling apart, changing and dying. Your call to lead a church is a call to God’s creative, redeeming work of reconciliation..

Here are five principles for recognizing transition and leading dynamic growth in your church:

  1. All living organisms start small. You may have a big vision for your church. But in the Kingdom of Jesus, faithfulness starts small, like a mustard seed. In fact, Jesus has a lot to say about seeds. Seeds represent the source of life, the word of God, and the Alpha of God’s eternal plan. There are seeds that produce grain, and seeds that produce weeds, with sowers of each kind.  There are seeds that grow and bear fruit, and seeds that are trampled and die, depending upon the ground where the seed falls. Seeds only yield fruit “after their kind,” so care must be given to the kind of seed sown.

In God’s Kingdom, growth often begins when one person changes, repents, begins a new way of thinking, speaking, and embodying new life.  When Rosa Parks sat down in a “whites only” section of a Montgomery, Alabama bus, her goal was not to start a civil rights movement.  Her feet were tired and she was tired of injustice.  But when she refused to give up her seat, a movement was born. Jesus inaugurates a Kingdom that starts small and grows big,

moving through cycles of change from birth, decay, death, and rebirth. Jesus says, “unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it bears much fruit.”

What has to die in your ministry for new growth to take root?

  1. All living organisms resist control. You cannot coerce change, so don’t try. The opposite of faith is not unbelief, it is control. Now, faithfulness and good planning are not directly opposed.

Stewardship requires planning. But faithfulness belongs to a higher order, a different realm.  Planning is about human control. Faithfulness is about abiding in Christ. The problem is that we equate leadership with control. “The more control,” we think, “the greater likelihood of success.” So, we employ leadership strategies that treat the church like a machine. Control makes sense if you are making widgets. When a machine breaks down, you fix it.  You find the broken part, throw it away, and replace the part.

But the church is about serving people who are living and dying in a dynamically interconnected social, spiritual system. Touch one part and you touch all. Living organisms cannot be fixed, controlled, or managed. Instead, the church and all living organisms must be nurtured, healed, and redeemed. Congregations are animated by Spirit, not invention. The Apostle Paul wrote to the Galatians, “Are you so foolish? After beginning with the Spirit, are you now trying to attain your goal by human effort?” Jesus says that human flourishing and fruitfulness is entirely dependent upon our connection to the vine. “As the branch cannot bear fruit by itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in me.”

  1. All living organisms change in relationship to limiting and reinforcing processes. A limiting process is a barrier, obstacle, or difficult force that restricts and hinders growth. Picture a wall that blocks a plant from the sun. The plant will struggle to survive. Reinforcing processes are the forces that encourage or heighten growth. Now, imagine removing the wall. The plant will flourish under the sun.

What are the reinforcing and limiting forces at work in your church? What is moving with, or blocking, the flow of God’s Spirit? All growth requires change. In nature, to stop growing is to start dying so that, in death, new life might be formed.

  1. Power for growth lies in the underlying structure. Making a river flow in the opposite direction is impossible without changing the underlying riverbed, and not without a lot of excavation. It’s the same in the church. The older and more established the structure, the longer and more difficult will be the change. In fact, any change in the church that does not address the fundamental assumptions and practices of your history will be rejected. Beware of making any change without first addressing what lies underneath. Here is the rule:  any change that is not supported by an underlying structure will not last.
  2. Strength grows through crisis. (Or, obstacles are our best teachers) Living organisms have an amazing ability to adapt and change. Hardship produces character. Pain can be a pathway for healing. Failure can bring wisdom and reorder hope in God. Learn to embrace crisis as an opportunity for growth.

Is your church in transition, perhaps stuck, or stagnant, or maybe dying?  If so, maybe God has you in the perfect place to plant new seeds of life and growth.


By Jim Van Yperen

Leader Development Lesson Series

Welcome to the Leader Development Lesson Series presented by the Jack McDowell School for Leadership Development, in cooperation with and based on, EQUIP’s Million Leader Mandate materials. We are excited to offer this leadership material that can be used to encourage, equip and enliven the current leaders in your area and prepare them to be ready for service.

As indicated by EQUIP, this Leader Development Series will serve to train, grow and equip leaders through lessons that focus on the development of the following key dimensions of a leader’s life:

1. Spiritual Formation ~ Building the leader on the inside (Matthew 7:24-25)
2. Skill Formation ~ The practical doing part of leadership (Psalms 78:70-72)
3. Strategic Formation ~ Compound, or multiplying, results in ministry (Mark 1:16-17)

As you endeavor with your leadership group in this Leader Development Lesson Series, we would encourage you with the words from Dr. John C. Maxwell:

 “Our objective is not simply to give you tools to become a better leader. We do hope this will happen.
Our goal however, is far more than that . . . We want you not only to be a leader, but a leader of leaders.
We want you to be a mentor to leaders, who will multiply in others the training you’ve received.
Do you remember what the Apostle Paul said to Timothy? He wrote . . .

 ‘And these things which you have heard from me, in the presence of many witnesses,
entrust these things to faithful men, who will be able to teach others also . . .’

Remember, leadership development is not an ‘event’ but a ‘process.’ We don’t believe you can prepare
to be a great leader in a day.
We are asking that you decide now to be a student of leadership.
Be a part of the process. Learn it. Live it. Pass it on to others.”


Download the Leader’s Information Packet to get started with your Leader Development Lesson Series.

Leader Development Series Unit

Unselfish Thinking

Unselfish & Bottom Line Thinking – Leader Guide
Unselfish & Bottom Line Thinking – Student Guide

Biblical Generosity

The 360 Degree Leader and Generosity – Leader Guide
The 360 Degree Leader and Generosity – Student Guide

Practice to Lead Across

The Principles 360 Degrees Leaders practice to Lead Across – Leader Guide
The Principles 360 Degrees Leaders practice to Lead Across – Student Guide


Influence – Myths of Leading from the Middle of  an Organization – Leader Guide
Influence – Myths of Leading from the Middle of  an Organization – Student Guide

Failing Forward

Failing Forward – Leader Guide
Failing Forward – Student Guide

The Power of Partnership

 The Power of Partnership – Leader Guide
The Power of Partnership – Student Guide

Are We Willing to Focus on Others

Are we Willing to Focus on Others – Leader Guide
Are we Willing to Focus on Others – Student Guide

Leading Different Personalities

Leading Different Personalities – Leader’s Guide
Leading Different Personalities – Student Guide

Are We Wiling to Invest in Others

Are We Willing to Invest in Others – Leader Guide
Are We willing to Invest in Others – Student Guide

Are We Prepared for Relationships

Are We Prepared for Relationships – Leaders Guide
Are We Prepared for Relationships – Student Guide

The Right to Have Followers

The Right to have Followers – Leaders Guide
The Right to have Followers – Student Guide

Managing My Personal Growth

Managing My Personal Growth – Leader Guide
Managing My Personal Growth – Student Guide

I like Your Style

I like Your Style – Leader Guide
I like Your Style – Student Guide

Your Decision Determines Your Destiny

Your Decision Determines Your Destiny – Leader Guide
Your Decision Determines Your Destiny – Student Guide

Leaders Lead Across

Leaders Lead Across – Leader Guide
Leaders Lead Across – Student Guide

Leaders Lead Up

Leaders Lead Up – Leader Guide
Leaders Lead Up – Student Guide

Mutual Trust

Can We Build Mutual Trust – Leader Guide
Can We Build Mutual Trust – Student Guide

Win-Win Relationships

Can We Create a Win-Win Relationship – Leader Guide
Can We Create a Win-Win Relationship – Student Guide

Managing My Family, Thinking, and Commitment

Managing My Family, Thinking, and Growth – Leader Guide
Managing My Family, Thinking, and Growth – Student Guide

Managing My Generosity, Values, and Growth

Managing My Generosity, Values, and Growth – Leader Guide
Managing My Generosity, Values, and Growth – Student Guide

Managing My Attitude, Priorities, and Health

Managing My Attitude, Priorities, and Health – Leader Guide
Managing My Attitude, Priorities, and Health – Student Guide

Leadership Challenges

Characteristics of a Giant Killer – Leader Guide
Characteristics of a Giant Killer – Student Guide

Leadership Credibility

Making the Tough Call – Leader Guide
Making the Tough Call – Student Guide

How Leaders Pray

How Leaders Pray – Leader Guide
How Leaders Pray – Student Guide

The Foundation for Our Leadership

The Foundation for our Leadership – Leader Guide
The Foundation for our Leadership – Student Guide

Leadership and Relationships

Leadership and Relationships – They Make Me or Break Me – Leader Guide
Leadership and Relationships – They Make Me or Break Me – Student Guide

The Leader’s Time: Tick, Tock, Manage the Clock

The Leader’s Time: Tick, Tock, Manage the Clock-Leader Guide
The Leader’s Time, Tick, Tock, Manage the Clock-Student Guide