Being a Mentor
1 Thessalonians 5:11 Therefore encourage one another and build each other up, just as in fact you are doing.
Revival leaders inevitably reproduce more revival leaders. I saw the reproduction principle illustrated well by my mentor, Rich DeVos, Sr., the co-founder of the Amway Corporation. DeVos, a dedicated Christian, built a business with his partner Jay Van Andel whereby anyone could afford to build a business. He died in 2018.
I remember in 1993 when Rich DeVos began to mentor me. I decided to join Amway as a business owner associate. I decided to join because I reasoned that if the co-founder of Amway was mentoring me, I should walk the path he helped create. My Amway experience was excellent.
I saw ordinary men and women do extraordinary things. People that you would not think could build a business, actually succeeded. I also saw that some people who looked like they had the complete package to build a business quit after a couple of weeks. I signed up over 80 new distributors in 6 months and really enjoyed the business. In fact, I had to figure out whether being an Amway distributor was my calling. After careful prayer and reflection, I renewed my resolve for ministry.
I learned much as an Amway distributor, by observing all these values up close and personal in Rich DeVos. He modeled and understood being a leader. I learned so much that goes into building anything - including a business, a church, and even an online Bible school. These things have helped me greatly in life and have laid the foundation for so much of what I have been called to pursue.
The following are some of the things I have learned:
Get over the fear of meeting and talking to people while letting respect and love guide me.
Treat everyone as an image bearer of God who is worth my time at that moment:
People will see an elitist heart; they will sense if I only talk to them if I have a hidden agenda. I learned that God has a plan in every relationship He puts in my life.
- Be a servant leader, not just an authority leader.
- Leaders create platforms for others to do well.
Jesus himself said to his disciples, "Anyone who wants to be first must be the very last, and the servant of all" (Mark 9:35). People sense if I have their best interest in mind or mine.
Work hard in a focused way:
Hard work is a given. Focused hard work makes the most difference. For instance, sitting at the computer conducting research about selling is not actually selling.
Recruit everyone, but when you find leaders train them well:
Leaders are the key to building anything sustainable. If you want to build a movement, look for leaders and give them the training they need to succeed.
Create a culture of reproducible knowledge, habits, and sharing:
If I wanted to build an Amway business, those I sponsored would need some knowledge of the products and the Amway culture. They would need to use the products habitually, and they would need to learn how to share what they used in their personal life. I sponsored an Egyptian neighbor who sneaked into our kitchen while at our house and checked our cupboards to see if my wife and I used Amway products.
This is so similar to Christianity. Christians get saved into a walk with God. They need knowledge of what Christianity actually is about. Someone needs to teach them who the God of the Bible is and how to walk with him. Someone needs to be able to communicate basic Bible teaching. Knowledge is very important.
The need to walk in daily habits:
This walk with God is simple, involving talking and listening daily in their personal life, their marriage (if married), their family, their friends, their church, and their connection to other Christians worldwide. They need to walk in a path of sharing their walk with God. This simple walk with God in Christ has been reproducible for 2000 years.
When someone does well, say so. Be real about this, but do not err on the stingy side of encouragement. I saw how important recognition was while doing an Amway business. This recognition would bring people to tears because they never thought anyone noticed what they did.
Many times, Christians do not encourage or compliment those who are faithful in building up the church because we do not want pride to characterize our churches. But the Bible does teach that we ought to recognize those who live according to the pattern that was given. Philippians 3:17 says, "Join with others in following my example, brothers, and take note of those who live according to the pattern we gave you.”
See the potential in people without pre-qualifying them:
Rich DeVos sure practiced what he preached. From day one of our mentoring relationship, Rich saw the potential in me despite the fact that I had and still have such a long way to go. The Amway organization teaches this as a core value. So many of their leaders are now leaders because someone gave them an opportunity to start a business with almost no start-up capital. Successful Amway associates were a delight to be around because they were often intrinsically motivated to do business out of passion and calling and not out of the force of debt.
At Christian Leaders, we allow leaders and potential leaders to get their ministry training to become leaders or ministers at little cost so that everyone who is called gets an opportunity. This is such a core value that we have learned to keep operating expenses so low that everyone who successfully finishes the "Getting Started" class gets tuition-free education.
We do ask students to become vision partners with us to help other students get the training. This support is especially needed to keep tuition-free courses available to low-income places and developing nations.
We find that the students that finish the getting started classes are intrinsically motivated to do their studies. A large investment of money or relocation is not the force that motivates them to complete their studies. They complete their training because they know they need it. Plus, the low cost to each student allows students from the poorest of poor countries and students from anywhere to get training no matter what their situation is.
Use technology to serve your purpose:
I always loved this about Amway. In the early 1990s, when I was involved with Amway, they were always at the cutting edge of using technology to help their leaders do better. Today, I understand that much of the business is driven by the effective use of the Internet.
Build where you are and with the people with whom you live:
Rich would encourage me to help people bloom where they were planted. The Amway leaders would help each person write down on a piece of paper everyone they knew so that they could contact each of them to promote their products. Some people did not like this, but this is really where the leaders are discovered. If leaders will share their passion and products with those they know, they will be more likely to share their passion and their products with people they do not know.
Christian Leaders is all about having leaders bloom where they are planted. We bring the training to students' homes, to their context with their sponsors. We believe that there already exists relational capital that can be built on for the gospel of Jesus Christ and the building and strengthening of the Church.
I am so happy and feel so blessed by the mentorship of Rich DeVos, one of the founding board members of Christian Leaders. As I look at what Amway has done from an eagle's point of view, it is very much similar to the topic of this course. Amway was about planting a culture of entrepreneurship, a culture where anyone can be a business owner.
This culture is not just about selling books and tapes about how to build businesses; this is a culture where there are actually products and services used by real people. This culture builds to where now Amway is worldwide and there are products and services available everywhere, but more importantly, there are business owners who are leaders in their cultures. The leaders bloom where they are planted. They start reaching people who reach even more people. This culture keeps spreading and includes more and more leaders every day.
From the eagle's point of view, I noticed that every successful Amway distributor was a product user themselves. Furthermore, they too were mentoring others like they were mentored. This meant that they committed to a product-use lifestyle and they trained, and boldly mentored, others into that lifestyle. Some of the most fearless people I have ever seen were Amway business owners. I always admired that boldness. I also noticed that these distributors got into the habit of helping people even when it had nothing to do with Amway. They mentored people into a better life, whatever that would mean in that local context.
Christian Leaders will be giving more and more opportunities for graduates and ministers to do ministry in their local context. In 2022, Soul Centers were added that will also students to have a local religious society clustered around their lives, gifts, and calling.
Everyone is A Sponsor
My involvement with Amway illustrated something that was just plain true. Mentors make a culture grow. And whether in a formal system like Amway, where every relationship is kept track of or in informal relationships, leaders step forward to create culture. Mentors make things happen. Mentors really are the leaders of society. I have noticed that most people have a few topics where they would be considered "mentors.” Just get someone talking about what interests them and you will find that they willingly lead others in those pursuits. If I may put it metaphorically, everyone is building something. I developed a deep interest in having Rich DeVos mentor me in 1993 because I had seen an enthusiastic Amway distributor attempt to get me to join Amway. This distributor truly impressed me.
I concluded that we needed that kind of enthusiasm in Christians sponsoring their neighbors into a walk with God. I realize that we do not want to be annoying or too pushy, but who can fault us for our passion, love, and concern for our fellow humans? If Christianity is true, and we believe it to be, we can't just sit back and say, "Whatever.” We really need to participate in sponsoring this eternal salvation culture to spread through the entire earth.
So while we enjoy many passions and activities on this earth, we need to realize that each of us also is a sponsor in building Christianity. In Christianity, we can take on different types of sponsoring roles, but we are still nonetheless called to build with our time, talents, and resources.