My grandmother would pray the same prayer before every meal. Her prayer included the line “and make us mindful of the needs of others“. This week, I will strive to see other people’s needs.
You are so automatically tuned in to your own needs, it requires proactive strategy to get the “God’s-eye view” of those around you.
Whether we prefer the terminology or not, we live in a world of “sellers” and “buyers.” As ministry leaders, we are engaged in the “selling” end of things: pitching a proposition to supporters, workers, and others. Our goal is for them to buy in to our idea — godly as it may be. It’s our calling!
And when something gets in our way — not enough funding, or not enough cooperation, or not enough energy on the part of others — we’re keenly aware of the shortfall. We’re intertwined with our ministry, so our ministry’s need is our own.
The idea that the other guy is needy … possibly hurting … possibly in crisis … doesn’t really enter our mind.
So as a ministry leader, I’m actually less inclined than the average Joe to recognize the needs of those around me!
Jesus — as intent as he was upon the fulfillment of his ministry goals — didn’t fall into this “tune-out” trap. He was the ultimate seller, but he continually thought like the buyer.
He loved people … and he loved them so much that he was more sensitive to their needs than to the ways in which they were frustrating his own agenda.
Even on his tight schedule (save the world in 3.5 years), Matthew 9:35 tells us “Jesus went through all the towns and villages, teaching in their synagogues, preaching the good news of the kingdom and healing every disease and sickness.” He was content with the mission field of Galilee — a cultural backwater if there ever was one — and he was well known for stopping his entire entourage to talk with a single individual. Did such inefficiencies make him crazy with impatience? No. The very next verse tells us, “When he saw the crowds, he had compassion on them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd.”
My fellow workers in ministry are needy people, probably in ways I’m clueless about. The workers and volunteers in my ministry are needy people; our donors are needy people. Jesus sees them that way; I need to as well.
But it probably won’t happen just out of sheer “want to.” Learning to think like the “buyer” isn’t accomplished in a single big brainstorming meeting, or by the adoption of a new purpose statement. It’s a continuous process; it’s an ongoing effort. To see people as God sees them … to see people as needy, with the sensitivity of the Spirit … must become a major commitment of a ministry leader. The issue has to be re-visited every time communication with donors or workers is addressed.
The outcome may not make me a more successful “seller” … but it will make me more like the Seller that Jesus was.
My Prayer for the Next Seven Days… Lord, help me see people with your eyes. Give me the capacity to pause and hear from you, to tune in to people’s needs — not to blast past their hurt and confusion. Give me a heart of genuinely Christlike compassion. Amen.
In addition to being filled with the Spirit, any practical tips for tuning into the needs of others?