Last March I put up a bird feeder I got for Christmas. I filled it up with bird seed and my wife and I began to enjoy the new company. I can’t tell you why, but I’ve been enjoying bird watching this past year. Each time I come to the end of a semester of seminary, I find myself in front of the window with a bird book and a camera. If there is one thing I’ve noticed, it’s that birds remind me of people.
As I read through the field guide, there are facts and descriptions about the birds that help to identify them. Some of them look so much alike that telling them apart could come down to a small spot or a different sound in their call. It lists eating habits and preferences, etc. I’m learning a lot.
I started thinking about ministry a few nights ago as I went through some pictures of the birds. I wondered what it would be like if more pastors and churches took the time to identify the different kinds of people that were walking down our streets and entering into our sanctuaries. Not for the sake of some strange categorization. We never want to stereotype or put folks in a box. But there is something so important about what it means to really “know” people, to appreciate their sound and preference, their uniqueness and distinction.
I have a friend in ministry who has taught me the importance of speaking the right language and being relevant for the sake of understanding. We don’t want to be relevant for any other reason than for people to understand the message of the Gospel. Anything else is a distraction or vanity. It’s a thin line we walk and sin nips at the heels of those who bring that message.
I would encourage you to begin to get to know other people better. Notice what sets them apart from others and what brings them together. Speak their language because you’ve learned it and build relationships that are redemptive and loving.