A few years ago my family and I were visiting a church for the first time. We had almost reached the front door, when a man abruptly pushed past us. It was odd and it wasn’t a friendly welcome for newcomers. I joked the man must have been the pastor. Ironically, a few minutes later when the service started, we realized that it was indeed the pastor who rudely brushed past us!
Unfortunately, I can relate to the pastor. I can get so focused on putting out fires or getting things done, that I miss people. I recently did this myself. I was speaking at a series of events for pastors in ten cities. Nine of the ten events were held in local churches. But one event was held in a hotel ballroom because no local church was available.
The hotel event seemed much like all the others. However, at the end of the morning, one of the event volunteers approached me. She asked me if I had noticed the hotel staff who had been coming in and out of the banquet hall serving coffee and replenishing snacks. To be honest, I didn’t. In fact, I was so focused on all the Christian pastors in the room and doing my talks, that I didn’t see or even notice anyone else.
The volunteer went on to share that one of the hotel servers had overheard me talking to the group about Jesus. That stirred something in her, and she approached the volunteer in the hallway to learn more. A conversation began, and before long the server shared that she wanted to follow Jesus. So, right then and there, in the hotel corridor the server prayed to receive and follow Jesus.
Hearing this story made me want to celebrate! God had been wonderfully at work! He had not only noticed this server; he drew her to himself in a hotel corridor. In fact, I began to wonder if the reason we couldn’t find a church venue for our event was because God was on a mission to seek out this one lady at her place of work.
This story is a powerful example of the power of the gospel. It is also a reminder that God is about his business even when I’m clueless. But it is also a story that convicted me. I recognized that I was so focused on the tasks before me, that I hadn’t even noticed this lady or her co-workers.
Thankfully, Jesus didn’t just get things done. He saw people. Though crowds constantly surrounded him, he noticed individuals. His mission was the world, yet he was still able to see each person.
Examples abound. One of my favorites is when he entered Jericho and despite great crowds, Jesus saw Zacchaeus. This short man had climbed up a tree to get a clear view of Jesus. Luke 19 says that “when Jesus reached the spot, he looked up and said to him, ‘Zacchaeus, come down immediately. I must stay at your house today.’”
Imagine everyone’s surprise! Of all the people for Jesus to spend time with, he chose the chief tax collector who had become wealthy overcharging and cheating his own community. You know the rest of the story. Zacchaeus repented, gave half his possessions to the poor and paid back four times the amount to those he cheated. Jesus responded, “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 19:9-10).
People matter to God. This may be basic, but much of living and leading well is about practicing the fundamentals. Here are five practices I am seeking to embrace in order to Lead Different in this key area:
- Asking God to stir my heart afresh for the lost and for people in general.
- Depending more on the Holy Spirit to guide my attention to specific people.
- Serving in a team so there are more opportunities to personally engage individuals and fewer chances of missing people.
- Remembering that tasks are usually secondary to people.
- Planning, preparing and delegating better, so I am less likely to be putting out fires when I should be engaging people.
Keep your eyes out for people this week! They really matter to God.
Cheering you on to Lead Different,
Dr. Steve Brown
President, Arrow Leadership