Dave Newton considers what it means to be a mission-hearted leader.
One thing I love about visiting a new town or city is to get out of the car, off the bus or train and start walking around. As you pound the pavements, brush shoulders with strangers, see the sights and smell the smells at walking pace, it is amazing what you notice.
In ancient times travel options were limited but, again and again, Scripture refers to Jesus walking from town to village.
In Matthew’s Gospel we see Jesus on the move. What is fascinating, however, is that his wandering is anything but aimless. We are reminded that as Jesus walked, he taught in synagogues, announced the good news of the Kingdom and healed the sick (Matt 9:35). Not just a Sunday afternoon stroll, then. How do we develop a heart for mission, and what does it mean to be a mission-hearted leader?
I believe one of the first clues lies in this example of Jesus and his proximity to people. As leaders, do we take the time to get close to people? See the reality of the situations people are facing? Not only those attending our churches but in the surrounding area. Do we travel slowly enough to really notice others, feel what they feel, see what they see? It is easy for leaders to parachute in and be so focused that we miss the people and the potential mission God has planned. Why did Jesus have compassion for the crowds? Because he ‘saw’ them – confused and helpless, and without direction.
A key reason we need to be mission-hearted is that so often our heart is the motivation for our action. If we love something or someone, we will go the extra mile, put ourselves out or prefer their needs above our own. When we set our heart on something it demands our focus, determines our action and even develops our thinking. There is a big difference between being ‘tasked’ with a mission and having a ‘heart’ for mission.
A mission-hearted leader will be first in the queue to help those around them, responding to physical, social and emotional needs. However, ultimately, we must remember that mission is about God’s presence in the world, and it is his intervention into humanity which we demonstrate, declare and call people to decision about. If we reduce the mission of God to our activity, we are robbing the good news of its transforming power.
As Jesus declared centuries ago, the harvest is plentiful, but the workers are few. Perhaps it’s time for Elim to be raising a movement of ‘mission-hearted’ leaders, who get close enough to see the need, who are motivated to make the change, and whose focus is on God’s mission in the world.