This semester I have been writing about the character traits and skills of effective missional community leaders. I wrote about missional leaders being proactive, hospitable, and generous. This week I will write about missional leaders being available.
If you’re like me, your calendar may look like this one – completely packed full of meetings and activities. Sometimes our calendars are so full of activities that we have no time for the people, even the people to whom we’re sure God has called us to love.
If you know me well, you know this is a place where I struggle. I like things to be planned out. If you want time with me or I want time with you, then let’s schedule an appointment. That, I can keep. But interruptions and spontaneity, now that’s difficult for me! But that’s just what God has called us to be as we live like missionaries – to be interruptible and available.
To grow in this area of my life, I like to look to the Matthew 14 where Jesus models availability so well. For the sake of making it easier to read, I will not include references to the verses in Matthew 14.
Emotional Capacity For People
Matthew 14 begins by telling the story of John the Baptist’s death. He was beheaded by Herod, and John’s disciples go to tell Jesus.
When Jesus heard what had happened, he withdrew by boat privately to a solitary place.
Naturally, after hearing of Jesus’s friend and relative’s death he is deeply saddened and seeks a place to escape and seek the Father. It’s fair to say that Jesus, in his humanity, did not have the emotional capacity to be with people after receiving this news. Then, the next verse.
Hearing of this, the crowds followed him on foot from the towns. When Jesus landed and saw a large crowd, he had compassion on them and healed their sick.
I find this verse amazing. In the midst of Jesus’s own pain, he is able to feel pain (compassion) for others. Not only did he feel something, he did something. Even in his weakness, he spent the evening healing and ministering to people.
Not Listening To Lies
If you’re like me, you’ll find a number of good reasons why you cannot make time for people in need. Things like: “I am doing something important, I really do need rest, this is not my problem, I can see them later, they did not make an appointment, it’s too late, I really need time with Jesus, etc.”
As evening approached, the disciples came to him and said, “This is a remote place, and it’s already getting late. Send the crowds away, so they can go to the villages and buy themselves some food.”
The disciples come up with what seems like a very reasonable excuse to send the crowds home. Though disguised as concern for the people, I suspect much their “concern” was really an attempt to get some time alone with Jesus.
Jesus replied, “They do not need to go away. You give them something to eat.”
You know the rest of the story. Jesus takes five loaves of bread and two fish, multiplies them, feeds 5000 men and their families, and extends the meeting into the night. He went above and beyond to meet the needs of this mass of people who interrupted his day of grief, a day he wanted to spend alone.
Getting Away From People
Here is what I also love about this story. Ultimately Jesus does dismiss the crowd and get time with the Father.
Immediately Jesus made the disciples get into the boat and go on ahead of him to the other side, while he dismissed the crowd. After he had dismissed them, he went up on a mountainside by himself to pray.
There is a time to dismiss people and get alone with God, but there is also a time to be interrupted and minister out of weakness. Jesus knew the difference and was sure to do both. As missional community leaders, we must learn to do the same.
Justin Christopher is the National Campus Director for Campus Renewal Ministries and the author of Campus Renewal: A Practical Plan for Uniting Campus Ministries in Prayer and Mission. He facilitates CRM’s Partnering Campus Network and also gives leadership to the Campus House of Prayer and the missional community movement at the University of Texas.