Mentoring Youth with Bill Warner

Transcript (slightly edited)

Jim: So here with Bill, we’ve known each other for about 25 years, and I just really appreciate you and your ministry. And give us a quick rundown, a few seconds. What kinds of things have you done in your life? And you came to the Lord as an adult?

Bill: Yeah, I came to the Lord as a relatively young adult, Jim. And you know, there’s life to be lived, right? There’s a way things are, and I want to lean into that. And I want to help others to lean into that. I believe Jesus is who he said he is. And I want to help people lean into, discover, follow that kind of Jesus life. This is the way it is.

Yeah, okay. So you’ve done pastoral ministry?

B: Pastoral ministry for a little over 10 years.

You’ve done real estate?

B: I’ve done real estate. I want to say in a former life, but it’s this life. Yeah, I’ve done quite a bit. A number of things. A number of things. And now I teach. I teach in a Christian school. But I always remind myself, Jim, I teach juniors and seniors. So it’s people first, content second.

Yeah, okay. And you’re teaching Bible.

B: Right. The content area is Bible. But within that, I like to frame it as cultural theology, worldviews, those kinds of things, life of Christ.

Yeah, and so you get lots of interesting questions.

B: Oh, gosh, for sure. Yeah, lots of issues that keep you thinking, keep you on your toes. And this generation, Jim, is asking legit questions. And I’m, for a long time, I’ve maintained that legit questions deserve legit answers.

Yeah, okay. Well, so tell me, for you personally starting out, okay, you’re teaching the Bible, alright? How would you summarize the impact that the Bible has had on your own life? How much are you practicing your preaching?

B: So the Bible is, I’m convinced that the Bible is what it claims to be. It’s a revelation of God to us, right? And it’s a story. It’s in narrative form. We are narrative beings. And so that book has formed me. It’s formed me into a kind of a disciple that I think Jesus is looking for. I’m not tooting my own horn here. It’s just in Scripture. It’s there for everybody. But I don’t want to keep that to myself. I don’t see that as biblical. It’s, hey, I’ve been given a gift, and it’s too good of a gift to keep to myself.

Now, there’s a lot of deconstructing out there going on, including people have access to more information. And there’s some folks making a name for themselves, like talking about contradictions, inaccuracies, and so forth. What would you say to that? What are some things that lend credibility to this book or this collection of works?

B: So first of all, when I encounter people, be they my students or a neighbor across the street with those kinds of concerns and questions, I want to get specific. Help me understand where are they, right? Because you can’t talk about specifics if people can’t be specific. So help me understand what do you see. And then we can go to work, then we can talk. But this book, it fits. It just fits. It’s a story from beginning to end. It is what it claims to be. And Jim, I’ve been walking with Christ for over four decades. And I’ve had some of those same questions, and I’ve done the digging.

You do the homework.

B: And I’ve done the homework. And my certainty that Christianity is what it claims to be, Jesus who we claim to be, is higher now than when I first said yes to Jesus.

Yeah. I recently hit on a whole insight from a book called The Book That Made Your World. I may have mentioned that to you. I’ll put a link to it by Michelle Mangalwadi. And he kind of reaffirmed something that I’ve been thinking about, that actually the messiness of the Bible really proves its credibility because there’s just no parallel. There is no other ancient work that records accurate history, that attempts to say, we screwed up, problems, this hero, not so much. None of the hagiography and all that. And so this is real life. And you look at those stories, those Bible stories, why do we teach them in Sunday school? Not because they’re just like stories, but they teach life. And that’s what you’re saying. “This has informed my life.”

B: Totally. Yeah. Totally. To your point, look at the disciples. They rat themselves out. They tell on themselves. If I’m writing a story like that, I’m not saying that I screwed up. I’m not saying I’m not going to write myself in, Simon Peter denied Jesus. I’m not going to do that, right? That’s not how we do things. Which to your point, I don’t know. There’s a validity there. There’s a ring of truth there.

So what are some of the key paradigms or messages? We’ve got to pull this as short as we can. If you’re to…. Elevator speech on the Bible.

B: So the Bible gets it. It gets where we’re at. It gets life philosophically. It gets life on the street level. It speaks to it. It’s there.

All right. Okay. So give me a sense of…. You are obviously living with a gratitude. This, this means a lot. Yeah. This is something that gets you excited, teaching it. How would you describe that?

B: Well, it gets me excited, Jim, because I’ve experienced the living Word, first hand, and how it’s radically changed my life. You know, I look back 40 years and the person I was then the person I am now, and it’s like night and day. And I want that for my students. Shame on me, if I believe that I’ve come upon the truth, like this is life, shame on me for trying to keep it to myself. So I tell my students, especially my seniors, “I’m not trying to convince you of the validity of Christianity. I’m trying to persuade you of that.” The convincing is not in my purview. That’s between you and God. But I believe that it’s real and I’m going to try and persuade you to this. But, hey, you’re 16, 17, 18 year olds. You grow up, man, you’re going to make a choice here. And you will make a choice by default.

Yeah. Well, and the point of this video is that we, us old guys, right? We’ve asked the hard questions. We’ve had the doubts. We’ve had the times of giving up, maybe almost or maybe truly say, “Never mind. This is….,” you know, all that kind of thing. Right. And so we have some experience, okay, because we’ve also seen why it does work, right? Now, give us your view and you’re teaching younger people…. And again, the point is that we can have an influence here. What do you see? What are some of the issues that you see going on in the millennials and younger down to Gen Z? What are some of the trends that concern you that you know people are talking about? We’re not going to dwell on those. Just touch on them.

B: Well, they concern me in the sense that my students are being taken in on them. They don’t concern me in the sense that they can’t be addressed. They concern me in the sense…. So some of the issues, Jim, are the postmodern bent, this skepticism of authority. I think there’s a measure of legitimacy there, but really to be skeptical of everything? I don’t…I kind of think not.

B: Technology. I’m a firm believer that we form the habits that form us, Jim, and technology is not benign. It is habit forming. Now we have a choice on how we’re going to use it. But I tell you what. I call it the glowing rectangle and my students cannot live without it. That’s not a good thing. That’s not a win for my students. So this postmodern skepticism, there’s nothing concrete, and all that postmodernism entails. And then technology. Those are two big pieces that my students are dealing with and wrestling through. And what hurts my heart, Jim, is they’re swimming in these waters so deeply that they don’t even see, right? If you want to know about water, don’t ask a fish kind of a thing.

Yeah. The thing that we see a lot in Thailand, because of working with women who are with a lot of trauma, is they pick up the narcissism.

B: Oh, gosh. Yeah. Because of the cultural waters, right?

I mean, we’re talking about a sexy selfie a day, some of them. And again, not even recognizing that that’s what it is. And I see some of that, you can tell me if I’m wrong, in the West as well.

B: Oh, for sure. And if I could add another piece, it would be this narcissistic individualism. That we are, the waters we’re swimming. It’s me, me, me. It’s all about me. But that book, the Bible, it’s a very communal. We bear the image of a communal God, right? And so we in the West have erred way too side of the rugged individualism. I’m not talking about personal responsibility. That’s real. Yeah is individual…hyper individualism.

Right. And so how do they, ultimately, we would say that those are coming out of hunger for relationship, for purpose, meaning, that kind of stuff? How would you kind of summarize that?

B: The hyper individualism… We want to be known, right? I think there’s a fundamental God given.


B: Yes. Does anybody care about me? I believe that’s so innately woven in the fabric of who we are, Jim. We will go to, we will see that that need is met. The problem is, will it be met legitimately or legitimately? That’s the challenge with this. So yeah, there’s a need being voiced there, right? There’s a need with technology. Control, right? Am I in control? And if I’m not in control, is somebody in control? Because I can’t live with chaos, right? So I think there’s a deep seated need there for order. The Bible calls it shalom, right? So there’s, these are legitimate needs. And these are things that people like you and I, Jim, a little bit farther down the road, we ought to bring some perspective to the younger generations to help them navigate these waters.

We ought to and we can.

B: Yes. We ought to. Moral imperative.

Yeah. And so that’s one of the questions that I have for you and what you see back, reflecting from these kids. How do they see you as this older guy? So, are you just somebody who’s a Bible teacher and kind of….alright?

B: Gosh, I hope not. So when we talk about influence, I’m not just in my students’ lives in the classroom. I go to sporting events. We interact in the hallway. I’m always open to an interaction with my current students and former students. I have a lot of former students.

And you get cold shoulders? What do you…?

B: Oh, gosh, no. No, no, no, no, no. It’s interesting. Mr. Warner has been a teacher now for 12 years, going on 13 years. I’m a known quantity when the new juniors come into my classroom. And so they’ve heard about Mr. Warner. So there’s already this established rapport, although it’s a bit one-sided until I get to know them. But there’s also great intentionality. I see my students as individuals within a collective setting. And that resonates with them. Again, back to the point, does anybody care? Does anybody, am I known? And I want them to know that in room 405 they’re known. And that’s an avenue for–

And you see response. You see them coming back for more. And even bringing others?

B: Bringing others. And they know they have the freedom to disagree with me. But they also know if you’re going to disagree with me or something that I’ve stated or a position I hold, that’s, yeah, let’s go for it. But tell me why. What are your reasons? Let’s talk about those reasons. I don’t believe there’s such a thing as blind faith properly defined. Everybody has reasons for why they believe what they believe, right? Yeah, so just great conversation. But it’s relationship first.

Yeah. And we’ll get to that just a second because we’re going to wrap up. The general idea here, OK. All I want to do right now is just kind of get a vision out there for some folks. And now we know what churches tend to do.And we talk about generational separation in churches. But you and I agree that the opposite of generational separation should occur. Not simply that we’re sitting in the same room. But this very thing that you’re doing with your students ought to be the norm.

B: Yeah. It’s not something that should be, oh, “Wow, here’s a great idea.” It ought to be just…. Let me give you an example. My wife and I, the church we attend, a relatively small rural church. Two small groups. We had a choice to go in a small group of people our age or a choice to go in a small group of 20-somethings. Singles, marrieds. That was a no-brainer for us. We chose the second group. Why? Because we can rub shoulders. We can learn from them. They can learn from us. It’s this synergistic effect that’s great for the church, that’s great for us. And so we’ve had many opportunities both in the small group and outside of the small group sitting down over coffee to speak life into the younger generations. And you mentioned ought and can. I hope whoever hears this is hearing that ought, moral, imperative, can. We can do this. This is something that’s within our purview, within our grasp. It’s not for like these super saints.

OK. Yeah. I’m hoping, again, we can kind of throw out the idea here, alright? Let’s get some folks thinking about it. Now there’s some basic prerequisites that aren’t difficult. One of them that I see, coming kind of as an outsider because I’m more away or have been more away from the US than here, is that folks are pretty bad listeners. I mean, that’s maybe kind of extreme. A lot of talking and not much– because we notice it coming from Thailand. Not too many people are like, “So tell me about some of the people you care about there.” I hardly ever get that question. Maybe once a year, like that. “Tell me about what’s important. How does it work there?” Those kind of questions are rare. Instead we’re getting the flight of ideas, sort of stream of consciousness conversation. Right? And older people can be notorious for offering unsolicited advice and stories.

B: Sure. And no doubt, guilty is charged, right? But what does listening do? It says, number one, you matter. Yep. And number two, what you have to say matters. Number three, I’m not in your life, so bring me into your life. Listening helps us to accomplish all three of those, if I could use the term goals. But it’s, yeah, I want to be listened to. So I need to afford the same courtesy.

Yeah. And yeah, I think there’s a wiring. There’s a wiring in kids to love old people.

B: Yeah. I would not disagree with that.

We don’t have to. And when I was a young adult, I was in a rural church. We didn’t have a cool youth pastor. He was the pastor of the church, an older guy. And the area churches that we would get together with, “Luther League” it was at the time, and these older Norwegian pastors that loved Jesus, we loved them to death.

B: Yeah. Yeah. I think I think the generational differences are overblown. They’re real, but they’re overblown. We share a common humanity. And that’s that’s ground zero for for launching for influence, for launching for discipleship. I just…there’s a narrative out there that we need to just, “No, not doing that,” you know, “no, too much difference, too much age difference.” Jim, there’s there’s 45 plus years age difference now between my students and I–we still seem to click. I ask a select group of students. “Hey, are we am I still clicking with the Susan? Mr. Warner, if you ever leave this school kind of a thing, then so the needs are the same. Yeah. It’s just different, different details, different stages of life. But people are people are people.

Good. All right. Well, that’s the basic idea. So let us know what you think, if there’s something here that we’ve said that you want to kind of interact about. Now, when I have mentioned this to guys and women, ok, “Have you ever considered taking on someone as a mentor?” They’ll say, “I’m not qualified,” and “I wouldn’t know how to start.” Give us a quick kind of….

B: First of all, you are more qualified than you think you are, number one. You have life experiences that you don’t have to think about. You can just bring them to the table, right? Speak to unique needs of whoever you’re talking to. The second piece to what you said, how do I get started? I think that’s one of the reasons for this video.

Yeah. Now certainly in a church. So finding a way to get into the youth group, for instance, right? And then, of course, with neighbors and so forth. And of course, the number one thing to start praying.

B: Ask God to just open up your eyes. We talked earlier, Jim, before we went on the air. God is the one on mission. Long before you and I stepped foot on this planet, God was on mission. Long after we leave this planet, God will still be on mission. It’s his gig and he invites us into what he’s already doing. And if he’s going to invite us into what he’s doing, he’ll equip us for that. Now it’s not done in isolation. It’s in a community environment. But there are more people than “How do I do this? I’m scared.” There are more people than you realize in the same boat. If they had a catalyst, if they knew somebody else was thinking the same thing, we’d be off and running.

Yeah. OK. Good. Thank you so much.

B: Yeah. Thank you, Jim.

So send us a note. Let us know if this is anything worthwhile.

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