Friday, July 27, 2012

Three Individuals You Need In Your Life

By Jeff Reynolds

I had a coworker who had a sign which read, “Each day, I do the work of three men.” Underneath were pictures of Moe, Larry, and Curly. Sometimes I can relate, though in my case I'd be more likely to have photos of Groucho, Chico, and Harpo.

I once heard that we need three people in our lives. No, this isn't a reference for the Stooges, or the Marx Brothers for that matter.

Maybe the Joker, the Penguin, and the Riddler? I think not.

How about the Scarecrow, the Tin Man, and the Cowardly Lion? Believe it or not, that's a correct step down the yellow brick road. And a guess that I'm referring to Randy, Paula, and Simon (with a case for Ryan being the fourth) will get some favorable comments from the judges.

Seminary professor Howard Hendricks writes in his contribution to Seven Promises of a Promise Keeper that every man needs three individuals in his life: a Paul, a Barnabas, and a Timothy. I guess in a woman's case it would be a Pauline, a Barbara, and a Tina – or in roles, maybe a Naomi, a Deborah, and a Ruth; possibly a Priscilla, a Phoebe, and a Rhoda.

If you're guessing I'm speaking about mentoring, give yourself a pat on the back. And I doubt Groucho and brothers or Moe and his friends would be the type of mentors you'd like – though I consider the Riddler a major influence in my life. (I grew up a couple of miles from Disneyland, and consider my role models to include Goofy, Dopey, and the Cookie Monster.)

Hendricks was dealing with life in general, or is it our Spiritual life? Same difference. Not at all disagreeing with him (and I doubt you would as well), I would like to narrow his concept for the sake of this blog to writing. In other words, we need a Paul, a Barnabas, and a Timothy as authors.


A Paul (or Naomi or Priscilla) is the typical mentor role. It's fitting I'm writing this on Father's Day, since fathers and mothers are the prototype for that role. Others who fill that spot include teachers, pastors, and coaches. A writer needs this leadership as well.

I currently do not have any conscious writing mentors – meaning those who fill that role do it without knowing they're doing it. Agatha Christie, Allistair MacLean, Frank Peretti, YA baseball author John R. Cooper, and Randy Singer are those I consider mentors, and I hate to admit Stephen King fits in that role as well (his worldview is 100% the reason why I hate to admit it). Some songwriters also deserve some credit: Steve Taylor, Keith Green, Rich Mullins, and Don Francisco would fit the bill, as would hymnists Isaac Watts and Charles Wesley.


A Barnabas (or Deborah or Phoebe) is a peer. Hendricks puts this as a person who likes you but isn't impressed by you. For those familiar with Toastmasters, the evaluation program fills that role – a good evaluation points out the strong points but also has a point for the speaker to improve.

My Barnabases – actually, they're more the Deborah/Phoebe types – are my critique partners. Since November, I've been in a small critique group with fellow ACFW members Marguerite Gray, Kristi Ann Hunter, Joanne Meusburger, and Ellen Parker. That has been a great experience working with these ladies, each of which have different styles of critiquing as well as writing. Kristi and Ellen, by the way, were Genesis semi-finalists (Historical Romance and Romantic Suspense, respectively). I find it interesting having critiques from people who aren't quite my genre.


A Timothy (Ruth/Rhoda) are people to be mentored. After an elective session at the Indianapolis Christian Writers Conference last November, Keith Drury told me that writers are looking for people to mentor them when they should be concentrating on looking for someone they can mentor. I say a hearty amen to that. As an unpublished author, I'm not sure if I'm at a place of being a valuable mentor, but then you never know.

Do you have a Paul, a Barnabas, and a Timothy? Or are you settling for a Moe, a Larry, and a Curly?


  1. This was interesting. I completely identified with your choice of mentoring musicians and have found that authors and sometimes fictional characters have had huge mentoring impact in my life.

    Overall, the influencers in my life have been short term although they've had impact. To my way of thinking, mentoring is more long term and pretty involved. Perhaps this is one reason why I've been notoriously shy about being a mentor. I think a lot of people are like this. I'm trying to adopt a more relaxed view of mentoring. I do try to be an encourager.

    1. Thanks for your comments, Mary.

      I might have a different thought of mentoring. To me, the difference between mentoring and influencing is more the involvement than the time. In Toastmasters, a club-assigned mentor to a new member serves in that role through their first three speeches, so it's not as long a term. However, a mentor -- MOO -- is more interactive, who actually talks to the mentoree, while an influence can do so without knowing of the influence.

      Another thought. Yes, we need an encourager, but the best kind not only show you what you're doing right, but they'll encourage you to do better when you need to. (Again, it makes me think of Toastmasters, of the role of the evaluator.) But I don't see a whole lot of difference between a mentor and an encourager, except that the mentor might be more of a fatherly/big brotherly role as opposed to that of a twin, a companion/friend.


  2. I really enjoyed this post, thanks!

  3. Jeff & Becky,

    The first thing that popped into my head while reading your post was the song by Michael Card, Bearers of the Light. The song contains a very poetic description of the three relationships a man needs in his life, a mentor like Paul, someone to come alongside and encourage like Barnabas, and someone for us to mentor as Paul did, a Timothy. Thanks for reminding us and thanks for reminding me of a great song I haven't played in a while. I think I'll listen to it right now.