zacchaeusThis year I have been writing about the character traits and skills of effective missional community leaders. I wrote about missional leaders being proactivehospitablegenerousavailableattentiveperseveringholy, kind, and culturally aware. This post will look at how missional leaders are present in the moment and present with people.

Jesus entered Jericho and was passing through. A man was there by the name of Zacchaeus; he was a chief tax collector and was wealthy. He wanted to see who Jesus was, but because he was short he could not see over the crowd. So he ran ahead and climbed a sycamore-fig tree to see him, since Jesus was coming that way. When Jesus reached the spot, he looked up and said to him, “Zacchaeus, come down immediately. I must stay at your house today.” So he came down at once and welcomed him gladly. All the people saw this and began to mutter, “He has gone to be the guest of a sinner.” But Zacchaeus stood up and said to the Lord, “Look, Lord! Here and now I give half of my possessions to the poor, and if I have cheated anybody out of anything, I will pay back four times the amount.” Jesus said to him, “Today salvation has come to this house, because this man, too, is a son of Abraham. For the Son of Man came to seek and to save the lost.” Luke 19:1-10

Present in the Moment

I love the way this passage says Jesus was just “passing through.” Jesus never just “ passes through.” Even though the gospel of Luke clearly says in chapter nine that Jesus began his walk back to Jerusalem to do the most important thing in the history of the world, he was not just “passing through” towns along the way. He was present to every moment along the way.

College, more than any time in life, feels like “passing through” period. The temptation is to think these years are just “in between years” before you get to the real purpose of your life. If we allow our minds to see these years as a “passing through” we will miss the many meaningful opportunities that God brings our way.

In this passage it is obvious that Zaccchaeus cannot see Jesus. He is short and the crowd is enormous so he has to climb a tree to see Jesus. What’s less obvious is the fact that no one sees Zacchaes, except Jesus.  The crowds had nothing to do with tax collectors and “sinners.”  But Jesus did.

Like Jesus, missional leaders are present in every moment. While they’re “passing through” their day even on the way to do something very important, they still notice the needs of people around them.

Presence with People

Jesus calls Zaccheaous down from the tree and invites himself over. Missional leaders do this too. They invite themselves over to their friends’ houses, especially those not yet following Jesus. People began to mutter, “Why is he hanging out with such a notorious ‘sinner’?” To bring salvation, that’s why!

This is what I find particularly powerful in this passage. Jesus does not say anything before Zaccheaus repents and believes. It’s as if the mere presence of Jesus and his followers was enough to convince Zaccheaus that Jesus was Lord. Missional leaders make a point to be present with people because they know that God mysteriously works simply through their presence.

I heard it once said that the old way of missional thinking is “believe, behave, belong.”  Meaning, first you have to believe the right things, then behave the right way, and then you can belong in Christian community.  Today’s missional leaders do just the opposite.  They create a place of belonging, that leads to behaving, and then turns to belief.  That’s what happened with Zaccheaus!

People Priority

Here we get one of the few times Jesus clearly says why He came to earth: “To seek and save the lost.”  This is why he came.  Lost people are his priority.  Time is the greatest measure of our priorities. That’s why missional communities make time to be present with people.

DSCN1263_2Justin 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.