FIRST-PERSON: An extraordinary mentor
ALEXANDRIA, La. (BP) -- A mentor is an experienced, wise and trusted teacher, counselor and confidant. He or she imparts insights gleaned from experience and exemplifies appropriate behavior.
Whatever your profession, it is extremely prudent to learn from a mentor's counsel as well as their successes and mistakes.
The Bible gives examples of mentoring relationships. Elisha learned from Elijah; Paul mentored Timothy; Barnabas tutored John Mark; and, of course, Jesus taught His 12 disciples.
It is a special person who invests valuable time to influence another life. It also requires a unique blend of patience, insight, honesty, humility and vision.
I would not be where I am professionally or personally without the mentors who invested in me, the foremost of whom recently stepped out of this life and into the reality of eternity.
J. Floyd Franks, known by almost everyone who knew him as Brother Franks, was pastor of Memorial Baptist Church in Killeen, Texas, for more than 36 years. I was blessed to spend three of those years on his staff, which may not seem like a lot of time. But the influence of this true man of God was almost beyond words to describe.
When I think of Bro. Franks, my mind goes to Paul writing to Timothy. In two letters, included in the Bible, the aged apostle encouraged the young pastor by reminding of the wisdom he (Paul) had shared about life and ministry.
"For it is for this we labor and strive, because we have fixed our hope on the living God, who is the Savior of all men...," Paul wrote in his first communique (1 Timothy 4:10).
Like the apostle, Bro. Franks' labors were fueled because he never got over the fact that Jesus Christ had saved him from an eternal hell, transformed his life and called him to the ministry.
When Bro. Franks first spoke to me about joining his staff, he had been leading Memorial Baptist for 31 years. The conversation was like nothing I had ever experienced.
He asked few questions and did not discuss specific duties. Instead, he spoke with passion and enthusiasm about honoring Christ and the vision he believed the Lord had given him for the church.
Bro. Franks ended the conversation by asking me to sincerely pray to see if the Lord would have me join him in pursuing his divinely inspired vision. What could I do? I prayed; the rest is, as they say, history.
In Paul's first letter to Timothy, he wrote that a minster "must have a good reputation with those outside the church...." While I was on his staff, Bro. Franks received an honor from a service organization that underscored how people in the community viewed him.
The Exchange Club of Killen presented Bro. Franks with its Golden Deeds Award in 1988 -- to "honor the good deeds of American unsung heroes, recognizing those uncommon men and women, who, if not for this project, might never receive the acclaim they deserve," according to the Exchange Club website.
Bro. Franks had to be lured to the banquet that was to honor him under false pretense. He was asked to offer a prayer. Upon arriving and seeing many church members he became suspicious.
I remembering him asking me if I knew what was going on. I deflected and said something like, I guess we will have to wait and see. When it was revealed he was the guest of honor, he was stunned and, it seemed, a little embarrassed.
Bro. Franks was never one to call attention to himself. Only eternity will reveal all the lives he touched through his good deeds.
Paul wrote in his second letter to Timothy, "The Lord's bond-servant must not be quarrelsome, but be kind to all, able to teach, patient when wrong, with gentleness correcting those who are in opposition, if perhaps God may grant them repentance leading to the knowledge of the truth."
Bro. Franks embodied the apostle's words. He had a kind and gentle spirit, especially toward those who were less than kind to him. He was also more than capable of teaching God's truth.
There is a fact that most ministers do not reveal to the general public -- that every church has its share of cantankerous and prickly members. The congregation Bro. Franks led was no exception.
No matter how he was treated, Bro. Franks was always gracious. He was the same behind closed doors. I never heard him say a negative word about any of his detractors. I never saw him become angry over mistreatment. I did, however, observe him praying for those who were less than kind to him.
I will confess that I became angry on his behalf many times. However, he always cautioned me to take it to the Lord in prayer, to let go of the anger and leave it behind closed doors.
In his second communication to Timothy, Paul encouraged the young minister to "do the work of an evangelist." Of all of Paul's instructions, Bro. Franks lived and breathed this exhortation.
Bro. Franks lived to share the glorious gospel of Jesus Christ. He trained others to do so as well. Whether through preaching, in a home or on the street, he pointed people to the cross of Christ.
I was blessed to have J. Floyd Franks as one of my mentors. I have no doubt when he entered heaven on Feb. 9 he heard the Lord say, "Well done, My good and faithful servant."
Kelly Boggs is a weekly columnist for Baptist Press, director of the Louisiana Baptist Convention's office of public affairs, and editor of the Baptist Message (www.baptistmessage.com), newsjournal of the Louisiana Baptist Convention. Get Baptist Press headlines and breaking news on Twitter (@BaptistPress), Facebook (Facebook.com/BaptistPress) and in your email (baptistpress.com/SubscribeBP.asp).