The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us.
Jedd Medefind and Erik Lokkesmoe’s book, The Revolutionary Communicator, stresses seeking connection as an important communication tool that Jesus modeled, as he engaged people “on their turf and in their terms” (The Revolutionary Communicator, 23). This story they share of a little boy visiting a grieving elderly widower illustrates the power of seeking connection:
The mother noticed the little boy crossing into the neighbor’s yard and climbing up into the old man’s lap. He remained there for some time, sitting quietly. When the boy returned home, his mother met him with her hands on her hips. “I told you not to bother him!” she scolded. “What were you doing?”
“I wasn’t doing anything,” the little fellow answered. “I was just helping him cry.” (p. 23)
One of our longtime church members has been homebound for several years and is unable to come to church regularly. Though I email him and speak with him on the phone, I don’t visit Jim as often as he and I would like. But when I did visit recently, I learned something about him that I had never known before. A large black and white photo of Jim in a flight suit from 1964 leaned against the wall.
“What’s this photo of?” I asked.
Jim replied nonchalantly, “Oh that’s when I was a scientist on the plane that achieved the first flight from the South Pole to the North Pole.”
Jim began to share with me the details of this amazing story from his past that I had somehow missed in all of our previous times together. There’s something about proximity that makes a difference in leadership.
In the Message, Eugene Petersen describes the incarnation of the Eternal Son as having “moved into the neighborhood” (John 1:14a). Throughout the gospels, Jesus connects with people. He touches lepers, dines with outcasts, prays for the unclean, enters Samaritan villages, and cries with the grieving. Jesus, the prophesied Immanuel, made it a leadership habit to come near, enter in, and be present. We continue the ministry of Jesus when we cry with others, listen to their stories, and are simply present. We can carry the presence of Jesus wherever we go.
In a digitally connected world, where our smartphone is our most precious device, perhaps physical proximity has become even more important. Communicating with our words and statuses alone cannot replace coming near to those we lead. Tomorrow, we will look at a passage in which Jesus connected with his disciples deeply, choosing to draw near by taking on the role of a servant.
Something to Think About:
“In a media age, we assume that… effective communication must come from a position of power. In every age, the truth is… the best communication requires drawing near, whatever the cost.” (The Revolutionary Communicator, 22).
Something to Do:
Think about a few relationships you want to deepen in the coming months. Perhaps there is someone you need as a mentor or someone you can mentor. Set up a face-to-face meeting. Pray that God would reveal how you are to invest in these relationships. Define a measurable goal that could be achieved in the coming months through these interactions, and make sure to celebrate any growth with another face-to-face meeting.
Jesus, you made it a point to connect with people and come near to them. Forgive me for when I am distant physically and emotionally from those I lead. Help me to not rely solely on words or status to communicate my leadership but to learn to be present with others. Encourage me in the coming months with relationships that flourish because I committed to making face-to-face time with people you have revealed to me. Amen.