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4 things we can learn from jesus' communication

In Part 1 of our blog on Culture of Communication, we talked about the fact that leaning into and improving interpersonal communication skills is essential to being a good leader, and crucial to being an effective disciplemaker. If you haven’t yet read Part 1, I’d encourage you to pause here and go read that before continuing. In this blog (Part 2), we’ll dive into the practicalities of HOW to improve our interpersonal communication.

As with any question about HOW to go about something, it’s helpful to ask if anything about Jesus’ life gives us some clues. As the perfect representation of the Father mysteriously incarnated into human form and living among us, surely there’s a lot we can glean from the way Jesus moved through his earthly life and navigated his own relationships and interactions with people. 

Let’s talk about four things we can learn from Jesus’ communication:

1 – Jesus was willing to be interrupted.

In fact, MOST of Jesus’ recorded interactions in Scripture could be considered interruptions! But He never seemed bothered by them. Whatever or whomever was in front of Jesus, He chose to be completely present in that unplanned moment. This is the God-man who came to earth in order to accomplish the most important task in history, and somehow He never really seemed task-oriented.

It’s as if He’s modeling for us that our ONE PRIMARY task is actually to display and point to God’s Kingdom in whatever we’re doing, whether it’s part of our plan for the day or not.

How are you at being interrupted? I’m admittedly terrible at it. During my workday, or moments when I’m busy or occupied with a task, I have such a hard time stepping out of that gracefully if I’m being honest. But I recognize that it’s something Jesus did beautifully, so I need to learn to grow in this area. Amazingly, when Jesus allowed Himself to be interrupted, it always ended up being a powerful ministry moment that set someone’s life on a different trajectory. 

2 – Jesus didn’t ignore people.

He never gave the impression that other people weren’t worth His time. If someone came to Jesus, He responded! He didn’t brush them off or treat them flippantly. He always acted out of compassion and empathy.

Jesus, the only person to walk the earth who actually was better than everyone else, never acted like it!

When we habitually don’t respond to people (I would argue even if we respond in a way that’s unclear), it’s essentially communicating that they don’t really matter. They’re not worth our time or attention.  

Goodness, that should make us evaluate our heart posture, right? Jesus sees each one of us as being fully and completely worth His time. He modeled what we’re so quick to forget: we’re all made in God’s image, we’re all valuable, and the Father sees each of us through eyes of love. And hey, if you don’t know the answer or have the ability to respond quickly to someone’s question – just tell them that! I promise you, they’ll feel more loved than not getting a response at all. 

3 – Jesus asked great questions.

He didn’t generally go around just telling everyone what to do, though He could have. Instead, Jesus engaged with people in a way that encouraged thoughtfulness, reflection, and ultimately growth. It’s part of the way He showed He cared, because it was less about Him showing off His knowledge and more about people discovering something for themselves. It allowed them into the journey with Him! Think about it:

When someone asks you great questions, it leads not only to you feeling known and cared for by them, but also to you knowing yourself a little better in the process. 

If you’re in ministry, I hope that (like Jesus), you’re ultimately in it for the sake of the Kingdom and the people you serve. Most of the time, though, it feels easier to not take the time to be curious about where other people are on their journey. We’re all just trying to survive and figure out our own lives, right? But maybe we’re missing the point.

Jesus’ example seems to indicate that it’s less about us having all the right answers, and more about a way of being and moving through life that leads to deeper connection with others so they can discover Kingdom truth and freedom themselves.

4 – Jesus had different circles of closeness.

This one might sound surprising, but not everyone had the same access to Jesus in a relational sense (we’re not talking about a salvific sense here!). We know He walked through life with the twelve disciples, but we also see that Jesus shared some things with Peter, James, and John that all twelve weren’t invited into. Those beyond the twelve didn’t spend as much time with Jesus as they did. There were crowds who experienced some of Jesus’ ministry and miracles, but they may never have had a conversation with Him.

Could Jesus have modeled unlimited, supernatural capacity, even in His earthly life? Maybe so. But He definitely didn’t!

This one is especially tough for us to wrestle with in our all-access technology culture (or the ‘illusion’ of all-access at least). There’s a gift and challenge to be had here. The gift is the lifted weight that you cannot be all things to all people. Release any expectation that that’s the goal. You can’t personally disciple everyone in your church. You can’t be everyone’s closest friend. The challenge is that you DO have to identify who you are meant to be intentionally investing in, and prioritize those relationships. If we spend more time scrolling through social media and responding to comments or likes from people who aren’t an active part of our life at the expense of our family or community, then something’s off. The people with the highest access to us and our time should be those within our day to day sphere of life and influence. 

One additional note on this: if your job involves you being on a platform of any sort, particularly a larger one, you will likely experience extra pressure when people in your community want more access to you than you’re able to give well. This is undoubtedly a tough thing to navigate in ministry, and it does need to be handled with care and compassion. Always be clear and kind with people who want more of your time or attention than you can healthily give. Sometimes this might mean explaining those commitments or your own capacity limitations to them (again, kindly). It’s also another reason why being in discipling relationships is so important – who else in your team or volunteer group might have the capacity to spend time with them? Who can you connect them with? You can only hold so many relationships closely, but those relationships are ideally raising up others in your community you trust who can help you steward additional people as they’re added to your number. 

This is a lot to digest, and I’m sure you can probably add even more to this list! But I hope it’s given you some food for thought on how to improve interpersonal communication skills. I’d encourage you to name a few practical ways you could better practice this with your friends, family,  team, and volunteers! If you want even more discernment, it’s always helpful to ask those in your life what it’s like to be on the other side of your communication. Just prepare your heart to be receptive to whatever they share!