Investing in Key Relationships

I don’t suppose the phrase was in common use back then, but if it had been then surely people would have talked about Jesus as being a ‘people person.’ Of course, there are various instances where we read of Jesus having gone off ‘by himself’ (and we all know the value of solitude.[1]) Nonetheless, we know him best from his time with people.

And not least with HIS people – his team – his disciples. What can we learn from the way Jesus was with them? Plenty, but let’s pause long enough to acknowledge that ‘with others’ was his chosen approach to ministry.

It seems obvious therefore that ministers of the gospel – in whatever particular form – would see ‘team’ as being non-negotiable. And yet for all that, it can be a lonely business – and sometimes we ourselves carry a portion of the blame for that. There are times when it’s just quicker to ‘do it yourself’ and there are times when, watching someone else carry out a certain task, we’re left thinking: ‘I could have done than better myself!’

But always, we’ll be the worse for such short-term thinking. Developing good teams is where it’s at.

So what did Jesus do?

  1. He called them.

It’s not unusual in church circles for volunteers to be asked for. Of course, occasionally such an approach will bring us someone who wouldn’t otherwise have been thought of, but the problem is that it also implies that ‘anyone can do it’ and therefore that ‘anyone will do.’ It may be true when it’s washing dishes or stacking chairs (important as practical tasks are) but it’s not true when it comes to leadership roles and other key ministry roles within a congregation. In these instances, we need to be specific in our inviting. It’s crucial that we make personal approaches and extend personal invitations as Jesus did.[2] And for that to be possible, there’s no shortcut; we’ve got to get alongside people, recognising that ‘hanging out’ is a hugely valuable way to use our time.

 He invested in them.

Notice the number of times in the gospels when we read firstly of Jesus being with ‘the crowd’ then afterwards with his team.[3] With his inner circle he would respond to their questions and unpack what he had said to the wider audience.
Doubtless there was tremendous pressure on Jesus’ diary (if we can put it that way) – countless people wanting some of his time. And yet he prioritised time with his team. Leaders must be in the business of investing in their teams and not least because such investment goes a long way towards the emergence of new leaders.

 He saw what they could be

which is quite different from seeing solely what a person is. Of course, Jesus called individuals ‘as they were’ but his investing in them was that they might become all that they might be. Who else would have guessed what Peter would become when Jesus signed him for his team? The Rock?[4]

There’s a French proverb which suggests that we’ve got to believe in roses if they are to bloom. Might it be that there are the unlikeliest of individuals in our congregations – ordinary people capable of extraordinary things – who if encouraged by our believing in them might emerge from the background?

To put it another way, we shouldn’t expect to find ready-made leaders. Jesus certainly didn’t! But there are few greater joys in ministry that witnessing someone realising their God-given potential.

[1] Luke 5:16

[2] Luke 5:1-11

[3] Mark 4:1-20

[4] Matthew 16:13-18


By Martin Fair