Jason Whitlock (Pictured on the left), the prominent sports columnist, recently dropped by the Bill Simmons podcast to chat with the Grantland.com chief about returning to ESPN, his joy of writing, and his passion for mentoring young black writers. It was this last statement — his goal of helping identify and train up a new generation of black sports writers — that caught my attention and provided some compelling commentary about the role of mentoring in society and life.
Around the 12-minute mark Simmons asks Whitlock to talk about his relationship with deceased columnist Ralph Wiley (Pictured on the right). Riley, along with Michael Wilbon, are perhaps two of the more prominent black sports columnists in America over the last 20 years and are viewed as sports writing pioneers in black intellectual circles. For Wiley to intentionally mentor younger writers is a big deal, as Whitlock shares with Simmons. Two particular statements jumped out from this interview:
On the way in which Riley mentored Whitlock and other young black writers . . .
“He just made me a part of his routine and his life . . .”
On reaching the next generation of black writers . . .
“I don’t think I could benefit from that relationship [with Ralph] and not do what he did . . .”
If you replace “black sports writing” with “The Great Commission,” then Whitlock is essentially talking about discipleship. I talked about this concept recently in a sermon series on Followship. I could have easily just replaced the language with that of Whitlock on Riley. One could even make these statements into a form of catechism:
How do mature believers disciple younger believers? By making them a part of their routines and daily lives.
What is the code that disciple makers live by? I don’t think I could benefit from a relationship with an older believer and not do what they did — namely to disciple younger believers.