#Excerpt “Letters to an Apprentice” by J. Taliaferro

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Christian, Spiritual growth, Christian Mentorship

Date Published: April 7, 2020

Publisher: Lucid Books

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The narrow road is dangerous and full of hardship; it was never intended to be traveled alone. We were always supposed to have guides. And we are also expected to lead others along that path.

Unfortunately, Christian mentorship has been neglected far too long. We are in danger of losing yet another generation to mediocrity and self-interest if we do not act now.

Letters to an Apprentice invites you on a journey–occasionally uncomfortable and revealing–as one young apprentice develops and matures through the influence of one mentor after another. These lessons are shared through a series of letters that use real-life scenarios to prompt innovative ideas that inspire you to become a better mentor or apprentice. Letters to an Apprentice is filled with practical examples and steps to help you:

– find your mentor and make the best of that relationship.

– find your apprentice and pass on what you have learned.

– Create a culture of mentorship in your family, church, ministry, or team.

Join us as we rekindle the ancient discipline of Christian mentorship. Start your own journey, and wade deeper into your place in the body of Christ as you deepen your understanding of the kingdom of God.

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A Tale of Two Seeds: Heirloom or Hybrid?

Organic mentorship is a passing on of knowledge, passions, and lifestyles through relational means. Most of these relationships are life on life, meaning your lives are bumping into each other regularly, often in very informal ways. These mentorship relationships can take place over long periods of time, but they can even happen during short encounters if the apprentice is open and ready to learn and be influenced toward new areas of growth.

Organic mentorship is like planting a tomato plant with an heirloom seed. After the harvest of the previous year, you set aside some of the seeds from the nicest tomatoes and save them to plant next year. You do that year after year, and the tomatoes get better and better. Also, the farmer who uses heirloom seeds never runs out of seeds because he relies on the previous harvest to provide for the next season. In the same way, organic mentorship requires reproducibility. It is deeply dependent on one generation passing on its knowledge, passion, and lifestyle to the next generation.

Organizational mentorship is teaching information and knowledge through organized processes and checklists. This style of mentorship is usually led by chosen teachers or mentors who have an impressive amount of knowledge but may have no natural connection with the apprentice.

Organizational mentorship is akin to planting a tomato plant with hybrid seeds you buy from the store. Those seeds are genetically engineered to produce the biggest, reddest tomatoes. They look amazing on your Instagram account. The desirable features are all there, and everyone is jealous of your garden, but the actual taste lacks the depth of the heirloom tomato. And every year, the farmer has to buy new seeds because hybrid plants produce sterile seeds. They cannot be used the next year.

Before we completely throw out organizational mentorship, we must recognize that it has its place. It works well when training people to safely do a task; it is effective in schools and addiction programs. But its biggest flaw is that it cannot pass on knowledge from generation to generation because the information did not penetrate deeply into the day-to-day life of the apprentice.

Most companies, churches, and organizations focus on the organizational style of mentorship because they can produce the “Wow!” factor. Hybrid seeds (organizational mentorship) produce prize pumpkins that weigh 800 pounds and win prizes even though they taste terrible. But everybody knows the best produce comes from the multi-generational garden of the old farmer who has been using heirloom seeds (organic mentorship) that have been passed down season after season.


About the Author

J Taliaferro is not your stereotypical missionary. From a small Texas town to traveling the world for the sake of the Gospel, J has 20+ years of cross-cultural experience, the majority in partnership with the International Mission Board.

On this journey with him are his wife Susan and four children: Victory, Memphis, Ember, and Daniel.

From church planting with remote tribes in the Amazon and Andes to impacting war torn lands and refugee populations in Sub-Saharan Africa, J has demonstrated his dedication to God’s calling and his passion for Christian mentorship.

The numerous missionaries trained by J are currently serving all around the globe. Check out www.jtaliaferro.com for his most recent thoughts on mentorship, church planting, biblical manhood, Christian growth, and current events.

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