The Table Podcast

Mentoring Across Generations

In this episode, Bill Hendricks and Paul Sohn discuss mentoring, focusing on how and why experienced believers should mentor the next generation. Note: This episode was recorded before March 2020.

Timecodes
00:15
Sohn’s background in helping young adults discern their callings
03:34
Why are young adults especially driven to find their purpose?
07:14
Quarter-life crises and the need for identity and meaning
11:53
The importance of mentoring for emerging adults
15:18
Finding or being a helpful mentor
21:57
The transformative power of having someone believe in you
30:15
Mentoring for character vs. competency
33:19
A vision for Christian leaders to influence all spheres of culture
40:37
Sohn’s heritage as a “third-culture kid” and our identity in Christ
44:06
Generation Z contrasted with Millennials
Resources Quarter-Life Calling: Pursuing Your God-Given Purpose in Your Twenties, by Paul Sohn Men of Influence: The Transformational Impact of Godly Mentors, by Bill Hendricks and Howard Hendricks
Transcript
Bill Hendricks
Hi, I’m Bill Hendricks, Executive Director for Christian Leadership at the Hendricks Center and I want to welcome you to this edition of The Table Podcast where we discuss issues of God and culture.

Today, I have with me Paul Sohn who is from Biola University, a long-time sister institution, I guess you’d say, to Dallas Seminary and many of our graduates have taught there. And many of our students have come from Biola. It’s a great school. And at Biola, you are at the Crowell School of Business where you are the director of Strategic Career Initiatives for Crowell. Tell us more about what that means. I can guess but –

Paul Sohn
One of our visions really for the business school is to be a leading Christ-centered business school in the nation and I think for us to achieve that, we really have to help our students discern their sense of calling and also connect it with potential job opportunities, whether it’s internships, different career opportunities. The whole role was birthed out of that vision, and how can I specifically as someone who has a big heart for young people to discern their calling, kind of lay out a roadmap for them to understand what that process might look like?
Bill Hendricks
So this is different from – you’re not just a career-placement officer.
Paul Sohn
Right, absolutely.
Bill Hendricks
I mean, a lot of schools have that, and you’re thinking in much, much bigger terms. The issue is not just your job. It’s a vision for what are you gonna do with your life?
Paul Sohn
Yes.
Bill Hendricks
It’s about life purpose, I guess.
Paul Sohn
I think that’s a big part because oftentimes, just the career services, they provide interview skills and building your resume. All are important issues to address, but I think the deeper question that especially this generation is asking is, “Why am I here? What is my purpose? What is my calling in my life?” And I think the university understands the need for it. And that’s been my heart. I just joined about four months ago full-time at the Biola University so it’s really been a fun journey so far.
Bill Hendricks
Your own story I think kind of illustrates what you’re talking about. You’ve got your job at Biola and that’s what you’re paid to do. But what you are made to do, this sense of calling, on one of your websites, you talked about you’re committed to empowering 20-somethings to discover their God-given identity and calling. That’s your purpose in life.
Paul Sohn
Yeah, that’s my purpose and I’ve been going through this journey for the last probably seven, eight years asking God and myself, “God, how did you design me? Why am I here? What is the purpose of my life?”

And if I were to summarize it in a sentence, that’s really it. It’s about focusing on Millennials and emerging adults, those from 18 to their early 30s, and helping them understand their unique design and be grounded in the identity in Christ. And then, also propelling them to live out their calling in their lives. That’s been something that I’ve been spending a lot of time thinking about and writing about and just sharing with others.

Bill Hendricks
Why do you think it is that that burning question, “What should I do with my life? Why am I here? What’s my purpose?” Why does that seem to come together so much in somebody’s 20s?
Paul Sohn
That’s a great question. Well, I think we’re living in a very interesting time because compared even to my parents’ generation or my grandparents’ generation, there weren’t really that many options, right?
Bill Hendricks
Right.
Paul Sohn
You just kind of did what your parents told you to do and there were not that number of different opportunities. Even in college, maybe there were a limited amount of –
Bill Hendricks
Majors?
Paul Sohn
– majors and opportunities. But today, there’s so many different opportunities and –
Bill Hendricks
And more on the way all the time –
Paul Sohn
Absolutely.
Bill Hendricks
– with new technologies.
Paul Sohn
The type of change we are seeing in this world, it’s just mind boggling. They say that today, the Millennials and the next generation, they’re living in a VUCA world, which is an acronym for – V is volatile and U is uncertain and then C is complex and A means ambiguous. That’s the world that a lot of the next generation are living in.
Bill Hendricks
Wow.
Paul Sohn
And it’s so much change. And I think in the midst of that, they’re trying to identify, “What is my purpose?” They want to understand that their life matters. And they’re holding onto things that often are from this world that leave them very empty. So I think that question continues to come up.
Bill Hendricks
Well, and of course for many young people, young adults, the narrative that they’ve – one of the dominant narratives that they’ve grown up with is that we’re basically here by random chance. And you sort of think about that. And then, you think, “What’s my contribution?” And I mean, depending on how you see it, basically your only real contribution is to make a contribution to the gene pool. And after that, it kind of thins out. And the ramifications of whatever you contributed really won’t be seen until millions of years later. I don’t know how you build a life of meaning and purpose out of that.

But the notion that, no, there’s actually a God and He’s a person. And He created you as a person because He wants to have a relationship with you. And, in fact, look here. He’s designed you for a very specific and personal purpose in this world to cause the world and its people to flourish. That’s a different narrative.

Paul Sohn
Yeah, it is a different narrative and my goal is, how do I help them to see their life as a story where God is the author of their lives and He’s also inviting us to be a co-author? We’re not just being a passive audience, but God wants us to understand that we play a significant part of our story, and I think the biggest thing is when I talk about calling, we’re living in a world where it’s all about me, me, me, me. That’s why Millennials are often called the “me, me, me generation.”

But calling is rarely about me or you. It’s about the caller. It’s about God, who is the designer, author and creator of our lives. And He’s inviting us into a relationship. And for us, we have to understand that we’re not the center of the world. And I think that’s a big part that I want to convey, especially with young people who are seeing things all from the perspective of “me.” And that’s when it, they understand that it leaves you wanting.

Bill Hendricks
Now, you’ve packaged kind of what for you has become a life message, particularly in a book entitled Quarter-Life Calling: Pursuing Your God-Given Purpose in Your Twenties. I can’t help but ask if there’s any sort of relationship in that title, if you’re sort of riffing off the book Halftime.
Paul Sohn
[Laughs] I’ve been influenced by Bob Buford’s book Halftime and I actually really enjoyed it. But I realized that, when I read it in my 20s, all my friends, they were wrestling with a very similar version of Halftime but happening in their 20s. And many would experience a quarter-life crisis, which is like a mid-life crisis but it’s happening a lot –
Bill Hendricks
20 years early.
Paul Sohn
– yeah, 20 years earlier. And in fact, one study from LinkedIn said 75% of those who are between the age 27 to 33 have experienced a quarter-life crisis. And it’s created so much anxiety, so much depression and confusion of your identity, of who you are and what you’re supposed to do. And there’s really not many resources out there to help this group of people who are wrestling with that.

My premise is in your quarter-life crisis, this is a perfect opportunity to discover your quarter-life calling. And the earlier you start thinking about that calling and start living out that calling, then you don’t have to go through a mid-life crisis. That’s really, my thought is, “How can I provide practical tips, and exercise and activities for young people to start to think about these important issues?”

Bill Hendricks
You’re validating a notion that I’ve had for quite some time. The model for the boomers was, you experiment in your 20s, then you finally land a job and then you work in that career for 30 years. And you kind of make a deal, as it were, with a corporation that you’re gonna work. And then, they’re gonna pay you. And then, you get your life back when you retire. And of course, Bob Buford came in there. And he turned 40. And he’s like, “I got all the money I need but I wanna do something significant.”

Peter Drucker, who knew more about management than anyone else in the 20th century, was his mentor and said, “Well, you need to move from success to significance. You need to start giving your life to, particularly social-sector work, and to benefitting the world in ways that are not necessarily monetized.” And so, of course, he did all that.

But Millennials who came of age just in the last 10 years or so, 15 years, I mean, they said, “We’re not waiting. We want meaning and purpose now.” And it makes sense that they would. And so, you’re saying the statistics really sort of validate that.

Paul Sohn
Yeah, it does and I think because of – especially with the next generation, we’re seeing all these keywords like mental health, anxiety, and depression and there’s a lot of different factors that contribute to that. But definitely one of them is a question that many young people are asking, “Why am I here? Who am I?” Questions of identity and calling are probably one of the most predominant themes that I’ve seen with it.
Bill Hendricks
It’s almost, I guess you’d say, a predictable life stage now.
Paul Sohn
It is and they’re calling it “emerging adulthood,” literally between the age of 18 to 30, and it’s considered a time of, you’re kind of caught in between. Many of those emerging adults, if they were asked the question, “Do you feel like you’re an adult?” And the answer would be, “Yes and no,” because they feel like an adult because they have the ability to –
Bill Hendricks
Physically, yeah.
Paul Sohn
– yeah, to be there, have their own control of their lives. But at the same time, things are going so fast and they don’t really understand what does it mean to grow up as an adult so the whole “adulting” kind of word and term kind of exploded. What does it mean to be an adult? A lot of times because of technology, they just kind of do things in a very digital, easy way, but then, life doesn’t work that way all the time. So it’s like, “How do I navigate around that?”
Bill Hendricks
And so, this is a good segue to explain how it is to how I met Paul, because what you’re opening up the door to here is the subject of mentoring. How do I become an adult? And what I’m gonna suggest is that mentoring is one of the primary ways that that happens.
It just so happens that I, too, had recently come out with a book called Men of Influence
The Transformational Impact of Godly Mentors, and that was the sequel, or updating, of a book that I had done with my dad called As Iron Sharpens Iron

And by the way, I might just mention here in passing, we actually have a rock star here on the program of podcasting with us. You’ve got –

Paul Sohn
My blog, mm-hmm.
Bill Hendricks
You’re ranked number 15 of the world’s top leadership blogs. On an average month, you’ve got 100,000-plus visitors, so thank you for your work.
Paul Sohn
And thank you. It’s been a fun journey, and when I started blogging, I had no idea this could be an outlet for me to share my thoughts, my heart about leadership and the next generation. But now, it’s been over almost a decade, I think, and it’s just been a great outlet for me to interact with people. I’ve met so many people just through my blog and developed great friendships and great relationships. It’s been a fun journey.
Bill Hendricks
How would you articulate the importance of the need for mentoring for emerging adults, young adults?
Paul Sohn
It’s vital. It’s non-negotiable in my opinion, because more and more, this generation is characterized by living in a fatherless generation. Without a father who needs to play many roles but one of them being a mentor, many young adults are living a life without any sort of healthy, godly role models and I think that is causing so much havoc in our society, even with anxiety, depression, so many issues we’re seeing, is all stemming from a broken family.

To me, the importance of mentoring is huge, and even young people who may not have any idea of what they could become, mentors can serve as a role model who are living out their life in a way where people can look up and aspire to become like them as much as their biblical individuals like Daniel, Joseph, Moses. But these are living examples and maybe someone comes from the same faith background, the same ethnic background.

And when you have people like that and the conversations you have, it really sticks with you. Even for me, I can remember a number of times where I have had a number of mentors who share certain things that just are etched into my heart. And I feel like that’s a huge need for young adults, to understand the importance of mentoring. But not only to understand it but actually do something to cultivate that relationship.

Bill Hendricks
Now, I’m sort of listening to what I perceive to be the thoughts of countless listeners at this point, okay?
Paul Sohn
Yeah.
Bill Hendricks
If the listener is under probably 30, let’s say even 35, they’re hearing this and they’re thinking, “That’s exactly what I need is a mentor. Well, where can I find one? Where are they?” There’s no website where you can go sign up for one. And then anybody who’s probably over about 45, 50, they’re sitting there thinking, “Boy, those guys are really right. We need mentoring more than ever. But man, I certainly am not qualified to do that.” How would you respond to that conundrum?
Paul Sohn
That’s a real good issue, and I think at least from the Millennial side and next generation, part of it is when you think about mentoring, there’s a number of types of mentors. For me, I’ve always been an avid reader and there’s people that I specifically love to read some of their work. For example, one is any books by Ravi Zacharias. I have been a huge fan of his and consider him a mentor, even though I’ve really never had a personal mentoring relationship. Mentors doesn’t have to be –
Bill Hendricks
You can mentor from afar.
Paul Sohn
Right. Absolutely. I mean, to understand this idea of what mentoring looks like, I think you should really first think about multiple different types of mentors, but when we think about maybe more of in-person mentors, I would just start by thinking about, what type of mentors do you need? What are you looking for, for a mentor? And I think that’s where you share – competency is important but, more importantly, it’s character because we are living in a world where there are more leaders who might be competent but they lack the character.

I always say look for character. but also, if you feel like there isn’t anyone immediately in your first degree of relationships, I would think about a profile of someone that you would love to be mentored by and maybe you don’t immediately know who that is. But why don’t you start asking people that you know –

Bill Hendricks
If they know anybody like that?
Paul Sohn
Exactly. And they will have people that they know. And it’s just leveraging the power of relationships there. But also, with the next generation, social media is our communication channel now, so using social media and maybe finding people based on, whether it’s LinkedIn or Facebook or Instagram, people you feel like, “This is someone I can look up to and learn from.” To simply make the first step, send a direct message or leave a comment and start building relationships. And sooner or later, you will start having a phone call, and that turning out to be a monthly call, and maybe meeting in person. And that’s how it really works.
Bill Hendricks
Just building a friendship.
Paul Sohn
Absolutely. It’s one step at a time, but I think many people feel like, “I have to be part of this formal mentoring program or relationship.” And they’re looking for a website to sign up. But oftentimes, it builds more organically and naturally.
Bill Hendricks
Well, those are the best ways to do it, is that informal, relational dynamic. Obviously, a lot of companies and organizations have formal mentoring programs and you get assigned. And it sounds good in principle, but of course, you have this mysterious thing called chemistry.
Paul Sohn
Exactly.
Bill Hendricks
And I might hit it off with you, and I might not. And if I don’t, I mean, I’ll show up because it’s a requirement of employment. But I mean, I may or may not get much out of it.

I appreciate what you’re saying, because again, I think that we’ve created this sort of mythology around mentoring and, again, the word “mentor” itself comes from the epic poem, The Odyssey. And there’s a character in there named Mentor and what’s interesting is everybody thinks, “Oh well, Mentor in there, he was mentoring Telemachus and that’s the prototypical mentor.”

But when you do some research, you discover the Mentor that’s in The Odyssey really isn’t like that – that’s not at all his role in there – and that the view that we have of mentoring today actually came from a 15th century Christian mystic in France named Francois Fénelon. And he took Mentor from The Odyssey and he created a whole new character out of him, because Fénelon was mentoring, or he was the tutor to, the future kings of France. And so, he wanted to show what a perfect royal king or queen would be like. And he has Mentor, this wise sage, travel around with young Telemachus to show him how he’s going to end up ruling.

And so, this myth of the wise man, the smart man – that Mentor has all this wisdom and knowledge and knows the answer to every question. And the result is, for a lot of people, they think, “Oh, I could never be a mentor. I don’t have all the answers.” That’s the point, is most of the questions I find any knowledge worker is asking is some form of the statement, “Hey, I don’t know what I’m doing here. I mean, I don’t know which job to take or which path to even pursue. I don’t know. Who do I hire? How do I make this decision?” You know?

Paul Sohn
Mm-hmm.
Bill Hendricks
“How do I solve this problem?” And what they’re most looking for is somebody to come alongside and say, “Well, tell me about that.” And just listen. And then say, “Well, you know, I’ve not faced that situation exactly, but here’s one that I have faced and here’s some of the things that occurred to me as you were telling me. Here’s some people over here that faced something like that, and here’s kind of what they did. And if I was in your shoes, I would be asking this question and this question. And I’ll tell you what. Armed with all that, why don’t you go decide what you’re gonna do and I’ll walk with you alongside it? And let’s just see what happens.”

And they never use the word “mentor” in there, but that’s effectively what they’ve done. They’ve had an impact, an influence. They’ve rubbed off on this other person. That’s really what mentoring is about. One life is going to rub off on another life, which is why the character piece is so important.

Paul Sohn
Yes, I resonate with everything you said, because I think one of the best things a mentor can do is just to believe in the mentee.
Bill Hendricks
Absolutely.
Paul Sohn
And that’s so important because when you have someone who believes in you, there’s something that goes on inside of you that transforms you. And it’s almost like, “Wow, I am known and someone believes in me.”

And many times, for example, for me, I may not even believe that I can do it. Kind of like Gideon. Like, who am I? I don’t have the qualifications.

Bill Hendricks
Correct.
Paul Sohn
But if there is someone who believes in me and sees things inside of me and is affirming things, then it gives me this renewed sense of confidence.
Bill Hendricks
As well as hope.
Paul Sohn
Absolutely. So I think it’s so important that when mentors, when you truly believe in someone, because maybe you’ve been in the same kind of seat as they were in and similar transition points or problems that they faced, it really could change a person’s legacy and their entire future of life.

I am reminded of the story of Thomas Edison, who happens to be one of the greatest inventors of America.

Bill Hendricks
Of all time, right.
Paul Sohn
And the story goes when Thomas Edison was about six or seven, he went to school. And he brought a note to his mom. And Mom’s like, “What is this note?”

And Tom Edison says, “I don’t know. My teacher said to give it to you.” The mom opens the note and suddenly she breaks out in tears. And young Tom Edison was so shocked, like, “What does it say, Mom?”

And the mom says, “The note says that your son is a genius and he doesn’t have, we don’t have instructors to instruct him, so you need to instruct yourself at home.” So his mom kinda helps him. Tom Edison just kind of roams around, explores.

Bill Hendricks
Poor mom. That’s kind of good news, bad news.
Paul Sohn
Yeah, trying to educate this genius.
Bill Hendricks
Genius. [Laughs]
Paul Sohn
But long story short, because of probably his mom, Tom Edison became who he became today. But years later, after his mother died, Thomas Edison was rummaging through his mother’s belongings and he found the note tucked away in a book. And when he read it, he broke out in tears because the note didn’t say that at all. It said that, “Your son is mentally ill and we don’t have the instructors to instruct him so you have to instruct yourself at home.”
Bill Hendricks
Oh, wow.
Paul Sohn
And as I thought about that, I mean –
Bill Hendricks
Wow.
Paul Sohn
– just think about just the power of the mom who believed in her son more than anybody else when the world and the teacher said, “This guy is hopeless.” I truly believe there is something, God has put something inside of you that I’m going to pray into it, I’m going to call it out. And I think calling out the greatness that God has stored inside of us when it seems so hidden is one of the greatest things that could happen. And when I read that story, it reminded me of my story because growing up in Korea and America, I moved around as a third-culture kid.

But when I was in Korea, I was struggling to learn the language. I came from America so the culture was so foreign, and academically, the Korean education is very hyper-competitive. They rank you. So every single time I feel like I’m just a nobody and I would tell my mom at age nine, 10, 11 that I don’t want to go to school, I feel like I’m a loser, there’s no hope for me. That continued for years, and my mom always would say, “Paul, no. I truly believe that you have a destiny God has for you and you’re gonna be gradually improving.”

There is a word, a Korean proverb, which means, it’s [Speaks Korean 0
26

And I always told my mom, “What are you talking about, Mom? I don’t even see that about myself. But what do you see? What do you mean?” But she continued to believe in me when everyone else didn’t. And as a result of that, I truly am indebted to her to become who I am today because there was someone who believed in me what I didn’t even believe about myself.

And I really want everyone who’s listening to understand that there is someone who is believing in you. And for you to understand that. And if you’re a mentor, potential mentor, and maybe there are people that really God is putting into your heart, then you need to invest more into that young person. It’s not about what you know. It’s that God has given you this burden, this holy discontent, and it’s for you just to spend time, be a friend, believe in that person and let God do the rest.

Bill Hendricks
Well, that’s the thing about mentoring. You always have to know that God is already at work inside the life of this other person, no matter even how dark and desperate things may appear. The very fact that God’s got you in proximity to this person, that ought to be a signal to you that that’s not by accident. God’s put you together. If you have the Spirit of God living inside of you, God has put you in that situation and you can trust that He’s already at work somewhere in this other person’s life. And so, then you start looking for, “Where might that be?”

And of course, one of the first places you can start is with how God has designed that person – their giftedness, as we would call it. And what is it that they do well? What do they enjoy doing? Because they live inside their skin, they don’t see that. You see it and you’re like, “This kid’s a genius,” but they don’t see it. They think it’s just normal. They wouldn’t think of doing life any other way.

If you name that, if you call that out, you go, “Hey, the way you wrote that report, this is the best report I’ve ever seen and I’ve been at this game for 30 years.”

“Oh, no. Anybody could do that.”

“No, no, no. I don’t think you realize, I think you have a gift in that. Has anybody ever told you that?” It’s that simple.

Paul Sohn
It is, and it’s such a good point because one of the epidemics that I think is just plaguing this generation is what I call OCD, obsessive comparison disorder. And this comparison that is happening constantly, thanks to social media, really has created this idea that I’m not good enough, and you might be talented and you might have these giftings but many, many young people are like, “No, there’s always someone better than me so I’m not that good.”

It could be shown as maybe a false humility, but part of humility, I believe, is understanding that God is the one who’s put that giftedness inside of you, and for you to really recognize that and to steward that is a big part of the process. But because young people, they’re always comparing, and if you think about it, just an average Millennial is spending two-and-a-half hours a day on social media. And that may not seem a lot but if you think about that accumulating for an entire year, just think about the countless hours and decades. So that conditions your brain and your mind, thinking that what you see on the screen is a reality, when you look in your own life and you see the discrepancy or you see the comparison of all your friends seem to be doing amazing things in life. And you’re like, “I’m just kind of –

Bill Hendricks
Lost.
Paul Sohn
– going through the motions. I’m lost. I don’t know what to do.” So it’s a big part of it.
Bill Hendricks
So, in talking about this whole thing of mentoring, you mentioned that it could just be a relationship and it just builds over time. It seems to me there’s a couple of layers, though. Some things are what I’d call maybe top-level issues. If I need to learn how to have a budget, if I need to learn how to hire someone, if I need to learn a skill of some sort, that’s a top-level issue and so I go find somebody who’s got some competency in that. And they begin to show me the ropes, and so forth.

But the character thing is important, because as they’re showing you the ropes, as they’re letting you try your hand, as they’re giving you feedback and encouragement, they bring all of who they are. And so their own personhood is now accessible to you. And you start to – it really starts, I guess, at almost an intuitive feeling level. But you just notice there’s a certain kindness maybe in their voice or there’s a certain authority they have or a certain respect that they have or a certain way that they relate to people and you just, “Huh.”

It’s that kind of a thing, and you find yourself sometimes if it’s going somewhere, you’re going, “I wanna be like that.” And you may even start to emulate that part of it. And you don’t even know that’s going on, and it’s not until years later and this person’s not even in your life anymore – they got another job somewhere else and you haven’t really been able to keep in touch. And then one day you’re thinking, and you’re going, “Man, I wouldn’t be who I am today were it not for that guy, that person.” And so, mentoring takes place at this external level. But the deepest stuff is taking place at levels that we usually in the moment are not even aware of.

Paul Sohn
I think in today’s age, you can Google any information. You can Google all the knowledge content part of it, but character is something you can’t just Google. You have to live it out and it requires perseverance, often trial and pain and adversity in life. And having someone who’s been there, who’s more seasoned in life and has a number of various experiences, who can guide you through this process and really be a voice maybe of a spiritual guide and a mentor is so vital, because Google, Siri, they can’t do that for you. But a mentor who has the best interest for you and who is not afraid to share the truth in love, that is the type of powerful transformation that can happen in mentorship.
Bill Hendricks
Absolutely.

So, I wanted to get into one other thing that I saw as I did a little preparation for our time together and I was really – I couldn’t get past this statement. You said, “My vision is to see more Christian leaders rise to the top of the seven spheres of culture.” What are the seven spheres? I think I know, but for the benefit of our listeners –

Paul Sohn
Right, right. Seven spheres really are part of what – different domains, some people call it, or sectors of what comprise culture. That could be business, the whole entrepreneurship finance area, it could be education, it could be government, it could be family, religion, media, arts, entertainment. Those are different areas where my hope is, what would it look like if we had more leaders who understand and are grounded in their identity in Christ and understand the role they play in the kingdom of God, who goes with this missional mindset to be salt and light and to really affect change in this society? There’s a huge impact because, in some ways, they may not think about it, but later on, they become mentor figures to many of the young generation. Then they become people who are living out their God-given values in the field that God’s given – in their field.

So for me, I’m always thinking about, how does that process work? What can I do? What specifically can I contribute to them?

Bill Hendricks
Well, we’re sort of back there to the inspirational piece that happens when you affirm someone and you encourage them. And you tell them that you believe in them, because I know for many people, when they are starting out in their career, not only do they not know where they are going – I mean, nobody knows the future – but they’re usually at the bottom of the food chain. They’re doing the menial work. They’re putting in the 80 hours a week to do the grunt work and they’re thinking, “Man, I’m never gonna rise in this field.” And they don’t see their potential. And so they get discouraged. What you’re trying to do is to say, “Oh, no, man. You may be in your salad days now, but God’s got plans for you.”
Paul Sohn
Yeah. God has plans for you, and I’m not saying that you have to be a CEO. I’m not saying that you have to –
Bill Hendricks
Leaders are all through – up and down the food chain.
Paul Sohn
Exactly. And you might be someone where people not value or see you as incredibly influential person. But you still have a circle of influence, whatever area you’re in.
Bill Hendricks
That’s right. Even if it’s just your cubicle.
Paul Sohn
Absolutely. Absolutely.
Bill Hendricks
You have control over that cubicle, to a large extent, so what goes on there, you can bring kingdom impact and influence.
Paul Sohn
It’s so true and even in today’s age, the word “influence” I feel like is changing because there’s now “social media influencers.” It’s people who have a lot of following on Instagram or Facebook. They’re like, “I’m a social media influencer.” But really, I think the greatest influencers are teachers. But nobody sees the teachers today as an influencer today. But I mean, they have an incredible amount of influence.

But because of the cultural zeitgeist and how things are moving today, people are using these words in different ways. But really wherever you are, you have an influence. And God’s given you this influence. And what are you gonna do with it? That’s the question, and I wanna help and guide and equip leaders, and the next generation’s leaders, to see just beyond the next few years but thinking about the next 20, 30 years, what that might look like.

Bill Hendricks
I love that, taking the long view. I think so much of our culture causes us to want pretty quick and instant results. We want it now. We don’t want to wait. We’re impatient and yet, if you step back and think about it, so much of the things that have consequence happen over not just years but decades and even generations that I think for my own part, maybe it’s because I’m getting older, but I think, “What am I passing along to my children and then my grandchildren?” There’s many things I don’t think I’ll see in my time, but if I deposit and invest today some seeds of influence in hearts and in minds, those could sprout up and have significant consequences several generations from now.

I mean, let’s just remember, the church itself began with 120 pretty scared people in an upper room. Not exactly a force to be reckoned with. Once they were filled with the Holy Spirit and they began to do what Jesus told them to go do, which was to make disciples, they ended up taking over a whole empire, but it still took 400 years. And if you do the math – and a guy down at Baylor has – it’s a fascinating study. He’s got factual evidence from that time. He can demonstrate, it’s – for the first 300 years, Christianity almost doesn’t even show up on the horizon – it’s just a blip on the radar. And then there’s a critical mass right there around 300 or so, and it’s like a hockey stick of growth of churches and so forth. And that’s about as profound as you get. And I think we need to be taking that long view when it comes to developing leaders and having generational influence.

Paul Sohn
Yeah, absolutely. I think that thinking long term is incredibly important in today’s instant gratification world that we’re seeing, and as people think about decades – which I think God often works in decades, not just months – and to understand what it means to live your life with patience. A lot of those things, Millennials, they naturally do not like because –
Bill Hendricks
They want it now.
Paul Sohn
– everything’s conditioned for short term. Being able to cultivate that is a significant part of the sanctification process, character growth, all of that.
Bill Hendricks
Yeah, and isn’t it so much a reflection of the celebrity culture that we live in? Everybody’s got their 15 minutes of fame, and you’ve got to, that’s the moment you’ve got to grab for all you can because next week, it’s going to be on to some other headline. And in that sense, life is fleeting, but God is wanting us to build lives of significance, not just success.
Paul Sohn
So true, I agree.
Bill Hendricks
We just have a few minutes left but I can’t help but take advantage of this opportunity. You mentioned that you were a “third-culture” kid. You said, “I call myself a 1.5 generation Korean-Canadian-American.” We do a lot in terms of cultural interfaces and so forth, so you’re an expert for a Caucasian-American white guy like me, so tell me more about that. That 1.5 generation.
Bill Hendricks
I think only Koreans use that phrase. I was born in Korea, but I moved first to America when I was three and they moved around – LA, Dallas, Miami. And then at the age of nine, moved back to Korea. And then just tried to understand the culture and the language. And at the age of 14, that’s when I decided to move to Canada by myself. I ended up going to Vancouver and did my high school and college years there. And then, moved down to Portland And now I’m in Orange County, in California.

But the best way for me to describe myself, I’ve been thinking about it because when people ask me, “Paul, where are you from?”, it is such a hard question.

Bill Hendricks
Hard to know whether –
Paul Sohn
Very, very hard to know because I feel like I don’t think it’s fully Korea or America. That’s why I think as a third-culture kid, it’s almost like I have to say, “I’m a 1.5 generation who understands both Korean culture and speaks the Korean language fluently, but also American Western culture as well, and in a way defining myself I guess like a hybrid, in a way.” But I think more and more, I’ve been appreciative of the fact that that’s who I am and there’s a specific role that I can play.
Bill Hendricks
You mentioned earlier about identity in Christ and it seems like that supersedes any ethnic identity or gender identity or any other form of identity. It is ultimately something that’s immovable, which is that foundation in Christ, and you know Galatians, Paul talks about, “There is neither Jew nor gentile, Scythian, slave or free, male nor female, but Christ is all and in all.” And in the body of Christ, we have this wonderful opportunity to be, yes, from different backgrounds and therefore different perspectives, but in Christ, we have a basis to become one, as Jesus prayed in John 17, to be brothers and sisters together in Christ. And that’s a wonderful truth that we have, a wonderful grace basically that we have, to do that.
Bill Hendricks
Yeah, it is, and I think it’s important that people know in this journey of understanding who you are, first and foremost you have to know whose you are, and that we belong to God. And our citizenship is from heaven. And having that clarity of our identity is gonna be what is gonna be the foundation of everything that we do with our calling, our destiny. I’m working on a book that is actually going to focus on that for Millennials in the next generation.
Bill Hendricks
Oh, I can’t wait to see it.
Paul Sohn
Yeah, I’ll keep you posted on it.
Bill Hendricks
And we’ve mentioned Millennials several times. Of course, Gen Z is coming on the scene now. I guess many of the students now that you have at Biola are Gen Z.
Paul Sohn
Yes, they are.
Bill Hendricks
How does that differ from Millennials, in your experience?
Paul Sohn
Well, I think Millennials generally, they had a very negative kind of a reputation, especially on media at least. Well, Gen Z, it’s still yet to be known, but I think one of the key defining characteristics is they are very pragmatic and very practical. So they are actually more career-driven. Studies show that, compared to even Millennials and Gen Xers and Boomers. And they are very frugal as well. And they are thinking about life. And they are thinking about, how I can effect change, not in my even 30s and 40s but right into being a teenager? I think I believe I can use my social media influence or other ways to effect change. So they’re a lot more practical and pragmatic, but we will still have to see what it will look like in the years to come.
Bill Hendricks
Well, it sounds like a perfect group for what you’ve articulated in terms of what you want to give your life to, Christian leaders rising to the top of spheres of influence and discovering their God-given identity and calling, and those are your themes. You should be having fun in the years to come.
Paul Sohn
Oh, it is. It’s been a fun journey and I love interacting with young people and helping them, asking thought-provoking questions that they’ve never probably heard of, but guiding them and seeing what God can do through them is really what my ministry is about.
Bill Hendricks
Wow, thank you. Well, thanks for being with us today. This time has flown by, but I have thoroughly enjoyed being able to talk with you about these matters. And thank you, Paul Sohn. If you have a topic that you would like us to consider on The Table Podcast, feel free to email us at TheTable@DTS.edu. For The Table Podcast, I’m Bill Hendricks.
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Bill Hendricks
Bill Hendricks is Executive Director for Christian Leadership at the Center and President of The Giftedness Center, where he serves individuals making key life and career decisions. A graduate of Harvard, Boston University, and DTS, Bill has authored or co-authored twenty-two books, including “The Person Called YOU: Why You’re Here, Why You Matter & What You Should Do With Your Life.” He sits on the Steering Committee for The Theology of Work Project.
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