Fifty years ago or more I came across a 4-sentence quote that changed how I do ministry. I’d already been a pastor for a dozen years, but somehow in my training I had never picked up on this irrefutable principle. So to make sure I would never forget it I wrote it on a small piece of paper, folded it, and put it in my wallet. I still carry it. It has outlived several wallets. That is one high-mileage piece of paper.
If you follow this column for any length of time you have often read the principle expressed…it’s one of my favorites. It goes: “The Kingdom advances among friends.” I know it’s true. I’ve observed it too often to question it.
Here’s the quotation from half century ago that gave it birth:
“Christ’s method alone will give true success in reaching the people. (I really want that so I read on…) The Saviour mingled with [people] as one who desired their good. He showed sympathy for them, ministered to their needs, and won their confidence. Then He bade them ‘Follow Me.”
Look at the steps, the process. It’s solid gold. Sharing your faith in Jesus isn’t like throwing gospel gum at the wall hoping some of it sticks. Rather it’s intentionally making an expensive, authentic investment in another person.
What would that look like in your journey? In a high percentage of congregations, “church” consists of a scad of people looking at the back of each other’s heads for an hour one day a week. A bit like theater where a group of folks pay to sit and watch a handful of specialists exercise their talents. Not God’s idea of church, I think.
But in the quote above, what does “mingle” mean? Mix? Blend? Unite? I get the sense of life lived together. Given the mix of gifts in your church there is hardly a situation to which your church family cannot bring rescue. Strength. Healing. Wisdom. Matt Brown says, “We can’t just speak the truth louder, we’ve got to love louder.” I think that’s what Jesus modeled.
And here’s the part that fascinates me most: As we bear one another’s burdens, it shapes us and matures us and helps knead the selfishness out of us. One Christian leader I know said, “We begin to grow when we take responsibility for the growth of another person.” Starts with our prayer list. Builds as we take time to listen to peoples’ stories. Strengthens as we engage them in finding people to bless in surprising ways as God nudges us. Mingle writ large.
By Don Jacobsen