A large crowd followed and pressed around him. And a woman was there who had been subject to bleeding for twelve years. She had suffered a great deal under the care of many doctors and had spent all she had, yet instead of getting better she grew worse. When she heard about Jesus, she came up behind him in the crowd and touched his cloak, because she thought, “If I just touch his clothes, I will be healed.” Immediately her bleeding stopped and she felt in her body that she was freed from her suffering. At once Jesus realized that power had gone out from him. He turned around in the crowd and asked, “Who touched my clothes?” “You see the people crowding against you,” his disciples answered, “and yet you can ask,‘Who touched me?’ ” Mark 5:25-31
I have listened to so many John Maxwell talks and have read so many of his books, I do not even remember now where I heard or read some of the best leadership advice I’ve ever heard/read from him: “walk slowly through the crowds”. It is outstanding leadership counsel because genuine leadership is, after all, entirely dependent upon relationships and people skills. It is perfect for ME, because I get so narrowly focused sometimes (maybe especially on Sunday mornings) that I can walk right past hundreds of friends without even smiling or acknowledging them! I am still working on this.
It is a challenge, isn’t it? It is especially challenging when we get focused on the task at hand, on the ministry ahead, even on the relationships in front of us…but there are still people all around us who are hoping for our attention as well. It is a delicate balance between competency for the task at hand and caring for everyone else in the meantime. In this passage from Mark 5, Jesus demonstrated just how extreme that balance can become. I have never raised anyone from the dead, so I have no experience with what kind of focus it requires, but I am going to take a stab in the dark here and surmise that it requires some extraordinary single-mindedness. That is the focus Jesus surely had as he walked through the crowd toward Jairus’ house. And yet, he walked slowly enough to have permitted and felt the touch by one woman in the crowd. Unbelievable balance, wouldn’t you say? Even the disciples who were with him thought so.
So there is a great lesson here for each of us as leaders. But I wonder if there is an even more important lesson here for the church corporately? What does this balance teach us about being the Body of Christ in the communities our churches serve? How can a church “walk slowly through the crowd” so that it doesn’t miss important ministry assignments? Here are some ideas…
First, it’s regular weekly rhythm should include a vibrant corporate prayer time. That gathered prayer, after all, is how a church develops the kind of extraordinary focus Jesus showed. There are lots of promises in God’s word for a people who pray…but none for a people who do not pray.
Second, it can develop a regular, systematic approach to strategic planning. Keeping God-ordained mission and vision ever before us, and practical, measurable objectives always on our radar screen will help keep us from getting “lost” in the busy-ness of church. On this note, evaluation and assessment becomes a critical skill. We need processes to help us know when a program or ministry is succeeding and when it is not. Andy Stanley calls this “clearly defining the win”. By the way, it is just as important to know why something succeeds as it is to know why something fails.
Third, we can be ever watching and paying close attention to whom God is bringing us in our newest attenders. One of the easiest ways of knowing what God is doing in a church is to understand whom he has brought to us recently…what is their background and their passion? What are their gifts and their abilities?
Fourth (and I realize I am meddling with this one), a church can unify its small group curriculum, so that the entire church is studying the same Biblical passages at that same time all year long. I cannot even begin to tell you how much that has helped my own church in getting us on the same page on various issues. Such a benefit!
These are just a few ways a church can “walk slowly through the crowd”. I’d be interested in hearing any additional ideas you might have.