By definition, mentorship is a relationship in which a more experienced or more knowledgeable person helps to guide a less experienced or less knowledgeable person. The mentor may be older or younger than the mentee, but they must have a certain area of expertise.
When I think about those who mentored me in becoming the leader I am now, my mind fills with a plethora of faces. Each one stands seamlessly and miraculously in the forefront of my mind. Almost instantly, a new name or vision quickly arises.
Bishop Larry L. Brandon
One person who mentored and crafted me into the person I am today is Bishop Larry L. Brandon, senior pastor and CEO of Praise Temple Full Gospel Baptist Church in Shreveport, La. He also is the third presiding bishop of the Full Gospel Baptist Church Fellowship.
Although I served under Bishop Brandon for more than three years, his mentorship has been truly invaluable for my personal and spiritual walk.
As a young man, I always was driven and goal-oriented. I always had my eye on the prize. However, after having my chances to play professional football dashed by a severe knee injury that took me from a star athlete to being physically handicapped, I had a chip on my shoulder.
Even after coming to know the Lord, my early years were filled with disappointment and frustration. At the time, I could not understand my purpose and why the Lord chose me. Coupled with my personal feelings of inadequacy, I felt disconnected with my views of the church and how I was to fit within it.
This is how I came to call Bishop Brandon my mentor.
There are many men and women who have helped me learn the ways of Christ. Yet, in Bishop Brandon, I found a man more driven than me. In him, I found a man with a singular focus—to operate in a spirit of excellence as he showed this dying world there is a worthy Savior, Jesus Christ, in whom they can put their hope.
How he shaped me
Our relationship was one of blessings and challenges. Where he was comfortable, I was conflicted. Where he was strong, I struggled. Where he was elegant, I was ill-equipped. Yet, through our union, he walked a path of excellence.
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He taught me excellence isn’t something ministers in Christ should obtain, as if excellence can be obtained one moment and lost the next. Instead, operating in and possessing a spirit of excellence should be who we are in Christ. This teaching caused me to reach deeper, go further, question the status quo, and press past any obstacles that might stand in my way.
Some days were glorious; other days, I swore to quit the ministry. However, God had united us, and there was no turning from this walk. It had to be completed in God’s timing.
To this end, Bishop Brandon’s lessons caused me to earn three degrees, with consideration for a fourth. They led me to pen several leadership, relationship and self-help books for the body of Christ. They led me to pastor three churches: Shiloh Baptist Church and Greater New Hope Baptist Church—both in Texas—and Greater Beulah Baptist Church in Dothan, Ala.
His lessons led me to be the first former pastor to operate as the human resources director for Texas Baptists, as well as being the highest ranking African American within the administrative side of the organization.
Honoring my mentor
I take none of my journey lightly. The accolades and achievements aren’t mine. They belong to God.
Much like Ananias to a troubled Saul—later to become Apostle Paul—Bishop Brandon taught me excellence does not rest its head in pride; it strives to open the door for others.
I honor Bishop Brandon in this writing and as my mentor. He helped craft and mold my focus, holding up a bar of excellence I was called to walk under. No matter my complaints or cries, he did not lower it. He held it where God instructed him, causing a young and wayward preacher to strive, ascend and endeavor to be used completely by God.
NOTE: Photo courtesy of Bishop Larry L. Brandon.