Being involved with pastoral and apostolic-type ministry for more than three decades, I have attempted to prioritize building relationally through covenant, and mentoring. This experience has shown me that in order to be successful I must discern between three types of people: protégés, partners, and parasites.
The following are my observations regarding these three kinds of people:
By protege I mean a person who I am mentoring who is open to grow with a heart to serve together with me for the kingdom. Usually it is a younger emerging leader who I see leadership potential in, which motivates me to invest my time into him or her.
The greatest call upon my life is to mentor and nurture the next generation of leaders so that God’s kingdom influence can penetrate every facet of society! In order for me to accomplish this, there has to be a generational impact in which the next generation of leaders is equipped to stand upon the shoulders of those leaders who preceded them.
A protege would develop a deep relationship of trust with me, have access to me, and allow me to speak into their life. In many cases, we have to choose our successors in every aspect of our life’s work; our successors will most likely arise out of the pool of proteges we are mentoring. That being said, I am constantly looking for potential proteges to pour into—some will be short term for a season and some will have a lifetime relationship with me. Discovering a divine connection with a new protege is one of the great joys of my life!
In order to establish kingdom influence in a community, city or nation, we have to establish many partnerships. No leader, organization or church will be able to bring societal transformation by themselves!
Another great joy in my life is when God connects me to have peer relationships with other like-minded leaders who have high levels of influence in their particular spheres.
For example, in the word of God we find that in order to rebuild Jerusalem during the post-exilic era God partnered together Nehemiah, who was a politician (who received a government grant and safe passage from the Persian king for his assignment to rebuild the walls of Jerusalem) and Ezra, a religious leader who taught the word of God to those repatriating back into Jerusalem from exile. In my more than three decades of ministry I would not have been able to accomplish much in the way of church and marketplace ministry if I did not collaborate with key leaders in both spheres.
Partners must have a certain amount of influence depending upon the task at hand, they must have a willing heart to serve, be trustworthy, have no hidden agendas, and be willing to do what it takes to get the job done. If they are all talk and no action I cannot count upon them to be a partner.
Last, but not least, there will always be parasites who want to use your name, influence, authority and gifting to benefit themselves while not having a mutual motivation to benefit you. The scientific definition of parasite can come in handy in this article: a parasite is “an organism that grows, feeds, and is sheltered on or in a different organism while contributing nothing to the survival of its host.” Thus, in this context, a parasite is someone who feeds off of other people to sustain themselves, while not reciprocating a mutual benefit.
Of course, some are not in a position to have a mutually beneficial relationship with anyone, such as young natural children and newly born spiritual children, as well as some people in trauma. But, in the context of this article, with parasite I am referring to a person who should be in a position to have mutually beneficial relationships but because they are self-focused they only relate to those they can take advantage of since their only agenda is self-preservation and/or self-aggrandizement! They have no motivation to give blessings back even though they may talk a good talk!
These are the people who drop names to get ahead, who use your influence to get what they want, and who will feign friendship with you as long as you are doing something for them!
Consequently, if at all possible, avoid these kinds of people and do not waste your time investing into them (except to win them to Christ) because, unless they change, they will go from one relationship to another and never bear long-lasting fruit for the kingdom! Their very nature, motivation and behavior totally repels the attitude of the Lord Jesus who came not to serve but to serve and give His life as a ransom for many (Matthew 20:28)!
In closing, not every person in the Body of Christ has the same motivations, maturity levels, goals and emotional health levels. This is why we need to properly discern between the above three kinds of people. If we do not, we will try to make a parasite a protege and/or make a protege a partner prematurely, and we will experience much failure and frustration in our lives!
Joseph Mattera is overseeing bishop of Resurrection Church, Christ Covenant Coalition, in Brooklyn, N.Y. You can read more on josephmattera.org or connect with him on Facebook or Twitter.