Living in the Minnesota Twin Cities area, you’ve guessed why I chose this Oil for today’s Thought—People. Actually, I chose this painting today for two reasons. We just came through our worst storm (depending on your view of heavy snow, sub-zero temperatures and wind) of the season. Secondly, I think of warm people inside, sheltered from storms. I painted this some time ago but didn’t date it. My reference was probably a greeting card.
When I served as a pastor—before retirement thirteen + years ago—from time to time Marj and I would be invited for a meal at someone’s home. As often as our schedule permitted, we were happy to accept. Irene was an excellent cook. We’d been to her home for a meal on several occasions. This time she also invited two missionary families, her adult son and the two of us, for a meal following the Sunday morning Worship Service. I love to hear the stories of people’s lives and this was a great opportunity.
I’ll never forget, and have recounted the story many times, what one of the men shared. He was a jolly veteran missionary to Japan. We had been talking about challenges one faces on the field. His comment went something like this. “Ministry as a missionary, or pastor, would be wonderful, if it wasn’t for ‘the peeeeople!’” We all laughed! He was joking and fully understood it was for the sake of ‘the people’ God had called him, and all of us, into what is often called ‘full-time’ ministry. I believe all followers of Jesus are in ‘full-time’ ministry, but that’s another thought.
Certainly, when it comes to working with human beings, one size does not fit all. Each person is unique and presents a new set of challenges. I’ve been reading back over my many journal entrees in preparation for writing my Memoir. Here is an entry from February 2, 1987 that reminded me of that meal and the comment made by the missionary from Japan.
In his book Restoring Your Spiritual Passion, Gordon MacDonald (a veteran pastor) outlined five categories of people that can affect your Spiritual Passion. An overexposure to any one kind sets up imbalances.
Those Who Bring Joy
1. The Very Resourceful People (VRPs)
They Ignite our Passion.
They are sometimes called ‘mentors’ or shaper of life. Christian VRPs ignite our passion for faith and Christlike performance. The fact that they always make a positive contribution to one’s world is an important distinction about VRPs, and it sets them apart from some of the others mentioned below.
2. The Very Important People (VIPs)
They Share our Passion.
Barnabas was a VIP to Paul as were Silas and Luke. They were yokefellows. They sense when we are hurting or when we are in need. With VIPs we do not spend large amounts of time trying to get along, or debating over whose philosophy will prevail, or determining who is in charge. We are bound together to get a task done, and get it done we will.
- The Very Trainable People (VTPs)
They Catch our Passion.
An example is Paul and his relationship to Timothy, a VTP. Although they tax our strength, we are usually glad to cooperate because we sense the possibilities in them. The further we are along the passage through adulthood, the more important it becomes to have a small collection of very trainable people. Jesus and Paul demonstrated this
The Happy and Hurting
- The Very Nice People (VNPs)
They Enjoy our Passion.
VNPs clap and laugh and build our egos. They make people in public Christian leadership very happy because they fill pews and rooms and programs. They do not add to our passion; nor do they seriously diminish it.
- The Very Draining People (VDPs)
They Sap or Passion.
The long-term answer in any cluster of people is not to rid oneself of the draining people, but rather to understand important things about them and the groups of which they are a part.
First, VDPs will be drawn (like mosquitoes to blood) to any healthy group of people and they will remain until they become self-sustaining or until they are pushed away. Second, a healthy cluster of people will lose its vitality (its group passion) mysteriously and unpredictably because there are simply too many VDPs to sustain. Third, VDPs who are permitted to relentlessly drain leaders of their passion will ultimately create a climate in which no one will want to serve in leadership capacities.
“Some folk bring joy wherever they go; others bring joy when they go.” –An old friend of Gordon MacDonald