Here we are. The mentor who has influenced me mos. (Who I’ve never personally met). This is an easy one really. And I think it’ll surprise you. I’m not even sure it SHOULD be this person – as I’d rather it be Jesus (the obvious choice here), but it’s the Apostle Paul.

Like some of you, I grew up in church. I can’t even begin to guess how many hours I’ve spent in churches during my life. Mostly listening. Only in the last 10 years or so have I been the one doing the speaking. And even now, I’m probably in some setting once a week where I’m listening and learning from someone else. It’d be a conservative guess that I’ve spent 2 hours a week for my entire 51 years of living in a church-type setting. That’s over 5300 hours of listening and learning. And maybe another 2000 hours of me listening to myself (always scary) and 1000’s of books read – that equals a lot of stuff.

And if I were honest, and added up the totality of who I’ve heard talked about the most in those 5300 hours of listening – it would have mostly been Paul. Jesus would have been a close second for sure. Then David. And Peter. And Moses. And so many other greats of our faith. But I think Paul would win.

In recent years, I’ve critiqued the church’s over-focus on Paul. It’s been easy for us to get stuck on him and not do what he clearly said – which was to follow Jesus. He said “Follow me as I follow Christ” but we’ve often remained stuck on Paul. It’s a simple reason – he’s easier to understand. He fits in with our Western mindset. He’s logical. Speaks like a lawyer – we get him. Jesus is a bit confusing with his not answering questions and hanging out eating and drinking with sinners. When Jesus does teach, it’s often hard to reconcile with what we already believe. Paul’s easier, so we teach him.

And I like it. Here’s what I’ve learned from hearing and reading Paul:

1. He points us to the Kingdom and the King. He does this over and over. We sometimes miss it – but he’s a Kingdom guy. And all about King Jesus!

2. He spelled out some of the mystery Jesus left us with.

3. He was the master of living a No Fear life. He wasn’t afraid of anything. “To live is Christ, to die is gain.” He’s a stud.

4. He exemplified what Jesus taught and lived out.

5. He loved both preaching to the crowds and spending time with the ones and twos. He preached. Encouraged. Loved. Argued. Contended. Persuaded. Cried. And he did it with large and small groups. The man had passion – and focus!

Paul – thank you. You’ve taught me so much and you lived it out. One day we will meet face to face and I do have a few questions for you…..