In Issue 126 of Keep The Faith, the article ‘Vive la différence!’ showed just how different believers can be. But there are other examples.
Some people are leaders, some followers. Some take the tried-and-tested, well-trodden path. Others march to the beat of a different drum – machete-hacking [JR1] new paths through life.
Some tend to take things as they come, go with the flow, and keep their minds and options open. Others want a plan, purpose, objective or goal, and have probably decided on what that is before other, more reflective and less decisive folk have even got started!
In my last job – before my role at MAF – it became apparent that while some people are ‘lateral thinkers’, others are far more ‘literal’ in how they approach things. So the different way that two very different bosses saw things greatly influenced the way we communicated.
One boss really liked the humorous adverts my team came up with. He liked the idea of juxtaposing black and white images of Victorian missionaries with compelling, full-colour, contemporary expressions of mission.
The old-fashioned photos reinforced the mission’s fruitfully illustrious past. The contemporary images showed us as a modern mission that encouraged young missionaries to share Jesus in dynamic and culturally relevant ways.
The other line manager, however, just looked at the ads and said: “We don’t wear that kind of thing anymore, so why show it? Just use the modern pics,” which totally missed the whole point of the campaign!
And then there are those who find it easy to respond quickly and imaginatively during team meetings – making comments and contributions in real time. Others are more likely to mull things over, assess all the options, and only reach a conclusion after the meeting has ended!
I remember one meeting – again, not at Mission Aviation Fellowship – where a Christian colleague didn’t say a word, but thought everyone knew he disapproved of everything we’d agreed because he’d covered his face in a handkerchief, then buried his head in his hands. Unfortunately, we just thought he was sleepy!
So, if you ever chair a meeting at work, it’s worth giving people time to reflect and consider; encouraging everyone to give feedback, and possibly asking the quiet ones whether they agree, disagree, or have anything to add.
The differences between fellow labourers in God’s vineyard occurred to me afresh when I saw Women of Faith – Beyond the Gates of Splendor[i], a documentary about the widows of the five American missionaries, speared to death by the Stone Age Waodani[ii] in 1956.
The film commemorates the martyrdom of MAF Pilot Nate Saint, Jim Elliot, Ed McCully, Pete Fleming and Roger Youderian in Ecuador.
I was particularly struck by the difference between Elisabeth Elliot and Marilou McCully. Although the two wives and mothers had lost their husbands in the same way on the same day, their responses are quite different.
Made more than 40 years after their husbands’ deaths, the short programme shows Marilou crying on camera, saying: “This is awful, 45 years later…”
Elisabeth, however, is far more composed, commenting: “We just felt that God was in the whole thing and there wasn’t anything that had happened that was not in the providence of God. The older I get, the more totally convinced I am that God does know what He’s doing. He loves us with an everlasting love, and He wants us to trust Him.”
So, if you’d tried to support Elisabeth after Jim’s death, you’d probably have expressed sympathy and reminded her that, ‘unless a grain of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains only a single seed. But if it dies, it produces many seeds’ (John 12:24).
You’d possibly also mention Romans 8:28, ‘In all things God works for the good of those who love him.’
But, if you’d wanted to come alongside Marilou, you’d have probably asked how she was coping, given her a big hug, and acknowledged how hard it must be to lose the man you loved and have your children made fatherless.
In ‘mourning with those who mourn’ (Romans 12:15), you’d have given her time to cry, aware that the Lord Jesus wept over the death of Lazarus and the suffering it caused those who loved him (John 11:17-35).
The moving movie not only shows the different ways people respond to adversity, but is a sobering reminder of how we need to respond differently to different people.
A one-size-fits-all approach has nothing to do with the way Jesus ministered. Nor is it the way He would have us minister on His behalf.
Gary Clayton is married to Julie, the father of Christopher (19) and Emma (16) and works for Mission Aviation Fellowship (MAF). To learn how MAF planes save lives and share Christ in some of Africa’s most isolated areas, visit www.maf-uk.org
[ii] Also called Huaorani and Waorani