Lead with Needs; Follow with Words
The average person living in American cities, communities, and towns today is struggling to adjust to the new postpandemic world. Add to that mix racial tension, political animosity, cancel culture, the war in Ukraine, global uncertainty, and economic turbulence, people who were already struggling to survive before these waves of disruption are seeking hope for a better future. People who respond to others in need stand out from those who just talk about it. In other words, today is the day to lead with meeting needs rather than spending words, at least initially.
During the past 15 years of serving at Buckner International, I have been in a position as a former pastor and ministry leader to lead with meeting basic human needs among children who need a family, single parents who need help getting back on their feet, or families who struggle to survive. I was trained to shape thoughts, develop strategies for sharing good news, study the scriptures, and craft sermons and Bible studies, and to share good news with people through words, primarily. I tell my story about this approach in my latest book, Hope Now: Peace, Healing, and Justice when the Kingdom comes near. I am grateful for the training I received to prepare me for the pastorate. However, as a pastor I have had to learn to lead with meeting needs first and save my words for a later opportunity. A hurting world is not demanding an amazing sermon. They are not expecting us to say something that will help. What they are waiting for is what we are willing to do to make a difference. People are moved more by what we do than by what we say. Those tangible actions make a world of difference in the life of a person who needs help.
It is a matter of sequence and approach. Of course, you can lead with saying, preaching, sharing, and teaching and hopefully meet spiritual needs and then tend to physical needs as well. Or you can lead by meeting needs and then explaining the reason for your actions when the time is right, or the question is asked. Both approaches will work. But what seems best now? I say showing is better than sharing currently in our history. Remember, the first followers of Jesus were the ones who went to the city dumps to save throwaway babies. They went into leper colonies at their own peril to serve and ministry to those who had leprosy. At Buckner we move into zones of pain and hurt to shine hope. We lead with meeting needs first. We are frequently asked about the “why” of our actions. Our answer is the same: Jesus taught us to do this. It is His love, His example we are following. The answer is Jesus. Those conversations turn into prayer, they graduate into Bible study, then a profession of faith, then discipleship in a local church and this happens hundreds of times each year. I invite you to come with us to show your faith in practical ways and be ready to say a word of your hope when the opportunity arises.