August 31, 2020 • De Pree Journal
Who, then, are the people entrusted to our care? Sometimes they are the people we choose to serve; thus a pastor is called to a congregation or a retiree volunteers in a homeless shelter. Often they are the people planted right next to us—perhaps in the cubicle across the aisle or in the apartment across the hall. But other times they roll into our lives like tumbleweeds.
I really like this image of tumbleweeds that God blows into our lives. Let me give you a couple of examples. A few years ago, I got an email from my alma mater. The college wanted to send someone by to see me. I knew this person was likely a fundraiser, and I really did not want to talk to him. But the seminary where I teach was doing its own fundraising, and I thought it might be interesting to see how another school did it. So the young fundraiser showed up at my office and told me what’s happening at my former school.
Then, just as he was about to leave, he looked around my office and casually said, “You have a lot of books about God. Do you mind if I ask you about God?” What was I going to say? “Of course, I’ll talk to you about Jesus.” So we talked about his struggles and his questions. And I invited him to come back. Over time, he returned about once a month to “talk about God,” and he eventually joined a church and was baptized. At some point, I had to recognize that, even though he was a tumbleweed that blew into my office without warning, he was now one of the people whom God had entrusted to my care. I bore a responsibility for him.
A similar thing happened to my wife. She was at an evening meeting of Bible Study Fellowship, and a woman in her small group needed a ride home. It was on my wife’s way, so she took her. And then the next week, and the next, and the next. And as they drove, my wife discovered the woman’s needs. So she began to help. This was a tumbleweed that God rolled into my wife’s life. Soon that woman became one of the people entrusted to my wife’s care.
Anyone who is paying biblical attention to our conversation will realize that we have stumbled into one of the most well-known gospel stories. When we ask “Who are the people entrusted to our care?” we end up mimicking the young lawyer’s question to Jesus, “Who is my neighbor?” Our calling is nothing more (and nothing less) than loving the neighbor whom God plants nearby.
We must define our neighbor the way that Jesus did. In the parable of the Good Samaritan, the priest and the Levite are so wrapped up in their own business that they never acknowledge the needs of the hurting man: they decline to be a neighbor to the wounded man; they never acknowledge him as their neighbor. In the same way, we in the church can get so caught up in our own agendas that we neglect to listen to the people entrusted to our care. If leadership begins with listening, then we must be neighbors and listen to the people whom God has placed in our lives.
Scott Cormode, PhD, is a senior fellow at the Max De Pree Center for Leadership and is the Hugh De Pree Associate Professor of Leadership Development at Fuller Seminary. The Hugh De Pree faculty chair was established by the family of the late Hugh De Pree, an accomplished leader and former CEO of Herman Miller, Inc., and brother of Max De Pree.
Click here to view Scott’s profile.