Sensing Needs

It was a momentous day for the Grace Church. Mary Compton, their new pastor, was to give her first sermon. Mary had been hired six weeks ago with the understanding that she would shadow the existing pastor to learn the ways of the church and its congregants.

For six weeks, she sat behind the pastor and took part in the service but didn’t deliver the sermon. She did get to know the congregants and would spend time during the sermon observing them. She would often take notes.

Her first sermon was based upon the story of Lazarus (John 11: 1-43). Rather than take the normal pastoral approach to the sermon, she told the story of Charlie who lost both his son and wife in a vehicle accident. His life and faith had ended at that moment until a young child asking to borrow his son’s bicycle helped bring him back to life.

The story was certainly a different approach to preaching, but Mary could sense that it was well received. As she told the story, she observed the congregants. She had always been good at reading people, and what she saw was positive except for one woman, Edith. Something told Mary that Edith was struggling. She wasn’t sure if it was the message or something else.

As Mary said goodbye to the congregants at the end of the service, she called Edith aside and asked: “Could I come by and see you today?”

Later that day as Mary and Edith sat down together, Mary asked: “Edith, I sense that something is troubling you, can I help?” That simple question unleashed tears and lots of emotions as Edith shared what was going on with her adult son.

That conversation set the tone for Mary’s career as a servant leader of her church. Mary was of immense help to Edith and her son, but this wasn’t the only case where Mary sensed a struggle in the life of a member of the church. Her ability to read people and reach out to them was the foundation of her ministry.

While she never delivered a direct sermon on sensing the needs of others, it was the theme of every sermon. As Mary’s outreach to others became something that others became aware of, her actions of reaching out and lifting up became the actions of others as well.

The ability to sense the needs of others can’t be taught. It must be lived. Making a difference begins with the ability to serve needs. And sensing the needs around us is central to being an engaged person. We can’t find out life’s purpose unless we can sense what we can contribute to others.

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“One person caring for another represents life’s greatest value.” – Jim Rohn

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