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Jesus had Staffing Problems, too…12 of Them

October 17, 2019
Photo: Pixabay

by Steve Cartin, MDiv

“While I was with them in the world, I kept them in Your name. Those whom You gave Me I have kept; and none of them is lost except the son of perdition, that the Scripture might be fulfilled” (John 17:12, NKJV).

Is something not working in the practice or ministry you’re working to build? It’s more likely a training issue, rather than a hiring issue.

Before we see how the ministry of Jesus speaks to this matter, consider my experience early on in my consulting career. I would find myself having the following conversation, usually on my first visit to a client’s office:

Doctor: “Steve, I need you to help me get rid of Suzie.” (Or Sharon. Or Maggie. You get the picture.)

Me: “What’s wrong with Suzie?”

Doctor: “She never does X, Y or Z right.”

Me: “Have you shown her how to do X, Y or Z?”

Doctor: “She knows how to do it; she’s been an assistant (or financial coordinator) for 20 years.”

Me: “Have you demonstrated how YOU want it done?”

That usually ended the conversation, leaving me to wonder if I would ever be invited back. I soon learned a better way to respond to the initial question. Rather than, “What’s wrong with Suzie,” I now ask, “What does Suzie need to learn in order to be the employee you need her to be?” By changing what was a negative question into a more positive one, the doctor knows I see this as an opportunity for Suzie’s growth, not her dismissal.

If something is not working in the practice or ministry you’re working to build, it can likely be resolved by improving the training you deliver.

When Jesus teaches us about training people, we learn that 11 out of 12 times (Judas is the exception), the problem was training. Remember these:

  • James and John: “Lord, do You want us to command fire to come down from heaven and consume them, just as Elijah did?” (Luke 9:54b, NKJV).
  • Peter: “You shall never wash my feet!” (John 13:8b, NKJV).
  • Philip: “Two hundred denarii worth of bread is not sufficient for them, that every one of them may have a little” (John 6:7, NKJV).

Similarly, a man once said to Jesus concerning his demon-possessed son, “…I spoke to Your disciples, that they should cast it out, but they could not.” Jesus did not respond by saying, “I apologize, they were not following my directions,” or “They were dealing with a temporary Spirit outage.” He said, “…Bring him to Me” and He cast the demon out. Only then did the disciples ask Him, “Why could we not cast it out?” When they saw HIM do it, they wanted to know how THEY could do it (Mark 9:17-28, NKJV).

An over emphasis on immediate results to delight the crown (or shareholders) often detracts from lasting success. The difference between building a turnkey operation that can be quickly transitioned and building one that will stand the test of time rests with the person at the top of the organization. When leaders work hard to pad their resume, make a quick profit or ride the wave of what the market will bear—sacred or secular—the answer to why something isn’t working will usually be some form of “they will not,” “they cannot” or “it just isn’t happening.”

On the other hand, when eternal outcomes outweigh immediate satisfaction, the wise leader rolls up his or her shirtsleeves and gets to work setting the example. When the disciples saw how Jesus healed and how He prayed, they said “Lord, show us how to do it, too” (paraphrase, see Matthew 11:1). If the leader can do it, so can followers who are equipped with similar resources and commitment.

The heart and commitment of the leader is always duplicated in the lives of the followers. Judas reminds us that Jesus had staffing problems, too. But the spread of the gospel through the other 11 disciples explains why Jesus focused on training. There were more than enough demands on Jesus—healing, teaching and fellowshipping with ministry partners like Mary, Martha and Lazarus. But He did not let those demands distract Him from the job He had to do in order that the church might be built to last. Like Judas, bad apples tend to self-eliminate in the context of a growing, developing organization headed by a committed leader.

It always requires more effort to bring others along. It’s worth it. As my mentor, John Maxwell, has said many times, “If you want to go fast, go alone; if you want to go far, go together.” The time you would spend orienting and training a new team member could more often yield better results by seeing that your current team member is trained as he or she needs to be trained.

Work with the willing. Teach by example. Build to last.

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