Valuing People: Every Person is Significant
Carlton L. Coon
The late Doyle Spears was an international evangelist. His family had traveled the globe and ministered in thriving churches all over North America. After his children were grown, Doyle and his wife Faith pastored Powell’s Grove in Jayess, Mississippi.
Jayess is decidedly rural, but this world traveling evangelist settled there to pastor. Why? Because this mighty man of God knew the importance of building a work among the people in that area.
Norma and I had the opportunity to preach there and to care for the church during one of Bro. Spears’ missions trips. The Spears returned home some days before we completed our time in Jayess.
I sat nearby as this polished evangelist made every person who dropped by his office feel important. He talked about their gardens and the worms that were attacking the tomato plants, he commiserated that the fish were not biting, and on and on. Each person left feeling as though they were significant to Doyle Spears.
By contrast, someone recently told me of a fellow who had been on a church staff for eighteen months. His unfortunate testimony: “During our time on staff, the pastor never spoke to my wife even one time.”
I’ve an idea a lot of other people were not being spoken to either. Such behavior leaves people feeling as though they are unimportant and simply do not matter.
George Barna said, “Tens of millions of Americans, young and old, are struggling to gain an understanding of why they exist and what life is about.”‘
Simon Peter must have felt nothing but remorse and shame after his denial of the Lord. How much healing was brought by the angel of the Lord telling the women at the tomb, “Tell his disciples and Peter (emphasis mine) that he goeth before you into Galilee: there shall ye see him”?
Whether responding to Thomas’ doubt—who among us cannot relate to Thomas in some way?—or to the hesitant woman who had an ongoing issue of blood; Jesus made the person feel better about their possibilities. Jesus was positive about people who were doubtful about themselves!
Revival in a Plain Brown Wrapper churches are led by pastors who give significance and hope to individual people. It does not matter what the person is, has been, does, or has done, the need to be significant lives on.
Much of North American society seems to struggle to value average people. Blue collar people like fishermen, shop-keepers, revenue-collectors and the like are often overlooked or maybe even shunned. But Jesus has no problem valuing us all!
Here are some keys to giving significance to people:
1. Let them know specifically that you value them by saying the words “I love you!” and “You are important to me!” If those terms are not natural to you, begin practicing them in front of a mirror. You do love these people don’t you? Tell them!
2. Have a “Touching Place.” In Bible times the gate(s) of a city were where men of importance would go to interact with the common people. It was a “Touching Place.”
3. In today’s world, extra-ordinary pastors like Leland Briggs (Bentley, LA) could generally be found at the main entry of the church as people arrived. Bro. Briggs gave people significance as he touched them and spoke to them. If I were to visit that thriving church, at some point during my visit, Bro. Briggs would say, “Bro. Carlton, I love you. Your Grandpa would be proud of you.” Where is your “touching place”?
4. Respect people’s right to be wrong. Respecting someone’s right to be wrong is not condoning error. Jesus allowed people the opportunity to fail. Some, like Peter, came back from failure; others like Judas and the rich young ruler were never heard from again. Either way it turned out, Jesus made no big deal about the bad decisions, but simply moved on.
When someone backslides or makes a dreadful mistake, does it become part of the gossip grapevine or is their situation dealt with as graciously as possible? We must always act in a way that allows for reconciliation and hope.
5. Resist the thought that you must treat everyone the same! Did Jesus treat everybody alike? Of course not. There were different approaches based on different factors.
* Jesus had an inner circle. Peter, James and John had a different level of long-term responsibility; these three were privy to things others were not. Jesus had the twelve, and then there were the 70. On occasion a multitude gathered around Him. Any in the multitude were not inconsequentia but they could not expect to be part of the inner circle. In this regard, I’m not talking about fellow ship time; I’m talking about the business of the kingdom of God.
RIPBW leaders will always be spending some time with people who have only just now moved to the edge of the crowd.
* There are also different motivational gifts. (See Romans 12:6-8.) Jesus let each person use their abilities in a manner that best suited them and their ministry to the Kingdom. Judas was a good manager otherwise he’d not have been the keeper of the purse. The disciple who said of the boy’ five loaves and two fishes, “but what are they among so many?” may have had a gift of mercy or of servant-hood.
Letting people use their abilities (regardless of how limited and/or common) to feel significant in some aspect of ministry benefits the person doing the action. Fitly Framed (a free download from Truth-Publications.com) is a series of lessons that deal with these gifts. Fitly Framed includes a gif test and instructions on how to put people into ministry that fits them.
Some days back, a fellow in the Springfield library greeted an older couple who were strangers to him. The couple’s arms were laden with books about woodwork. The fellow said, “It looks like she has got some work planned for you.” In seconds the older gentleman was showing off the plans for what was to be done; then he showed off the pictures he had drawn for his wife. The older man walked away saying, “Thank you for being interested in what I’m doing.”
* Jesus also dealt with people according to each person’s temperament. Think of how blunt and abrupt Jesus was with Simon Peter. Did Jesus ever deal with John the Beloved in a similar way? Simon Peter had a crust, but John was more sensitive. Some people can take blunt, straightforward talk; a greater majority will need soft words that strategically come to the heart of a matter
6. Express positive things about a person to others in his or her circle of acquaintances. Your compliment to someone other than the person to whom you are referring will be repeated. Philosopher William James pointed out, “The deepest principle in human nature is the craving to be appreciated.” Eventually, the person of whom you spoke will hear, “The pastor is talking good about you!” Moffat’s translation of Job 4:4 reads, “Your words have kept men on their feet.” There may be times when your affirmation of the sheep will be what keeps them going.
Here are some “don’ts” when it comes to interacting with others.
1. Don’t devalue the person with whom you speak by looking past the current conversation to notice someone with whom conversation might be more important or enjoyable.
2. Don’t give in to social elitism. I once attended the funeral of a man who grew one of the great churches in America. Hundreds walked by the casket. Men in thousand dollar suits intermingled with rough-hewn farmers wearing freshly pressed blue-jeans to celebrate the life of their pastor. Women who wore cotton dresses they had sown on their sewing machines were interspersed with women who were more fashionably attired. Common people who had been welcomed and won were among politicians and the social elite of the community. I’m concerned that the “older edge of effective Pentecost”— churches fifty and sixty years old—have no welcome for the common people. We say we do, but really let’s probe for a minute. The lady in the cotton dress. Would she sing the solo for the choir? Do the children being brought up with various extended family members in a two bedroom, 1 bath apartment fit in with the youth group? We devalue people when we devalue their time, their children, or what is important to them such as their culture, traditions, and history.
So how are people made to feel as though they matter?
Historically, the Pharisees began their work with dedicated enthusiasm, and they did fine work. As time went by they became separated from the common people they should have been helping. The Jewish Sanhedrin said, “This crowd, that knoweth not the Law, is accursed.”
Instead of teaching men a better way to live and validating the hope to live that life, the preservation of the law became an end in itself rather than a means to a greater end.
Everyone has inside of him or her a piece of good news. The good news is that you don’t know how great you can be! What you can accomplish! And what your potential is!
The surest way to become special in others’ eyes is to make them feel special. Make people feel insignificant and your significance to them shall certainly diminish.
Establish your touching place. For Charles (Sonny) Nugent it was a seat in the foyer as people were entering for church. For me it was the door through which most people exited. You don’t have to say anything or announce it. Just be there consistently and people will begin coming there to be blessed by your touch and words.
Consider the person with whom you are speaking. What is important to him or her? What concerns does he or she carry? What is his or her temperament?
Refrain from gossiping when you should be shepherding. Perhaps we need our spouse to call us on this particular behavior. Does it seem that some pastors have a taste for mutton?
Rather than examining our sheep for flaws, let us help them see themselves as Christ sees them. We do this by showing them their value and significance, both to God and to us. Through this, they will be drawn into a perfecting relationship with the Shepherd.
The above article, “Valuing People: Every Person is Significant,” is written by Carlton L. Coon. The article was excerpted from page 1-3 of North American Missions’ Director’s Communique, July – August 2013 issue.
The material is most likely copyrighted and should not be reprinted under any other name or author. However, this material may be freely used for personal study or research purposes.