If your answer is no, then read no longer. You will not like this post.
But if you are like me, you’ll probably be open enough to observe and evaluate what others are saying yet not too open that your brains fall off.
“Papa Francis” has been making some serious headlines over the past few weeks. This is not new for the charismatic leader who has been on the spotlight since his induction as the Shepherd of the universal Church more than two years ago.
Pope Francis is known by many people for many things. But over the last two weeks, he was known by the people of the Philippines and Sri Lanka as a leader who was worth listening to. His pastoral spirit, atypical of most Popes, was clearly evident in his dealings with those who were weathered by years of climatic and political storms.
Once I heard that the Pope went to Sri Lanka earlier this month – the place of my heritage – I was all ears.
After some reflection and evaluation, these are just three things I think current ministry leaders can learn from the Pontiff’s recent dealings.
1) HIS MESSAGE OF RECONCILIATION
The theme of Pope Francis’ homilies to the south-Asians was the need for reconciliation. To a crowd of over half a million Sri Lankans, including over an estimated 1000 men and women disabled from the civil wars which ravaged the country, Pope Francis’ wish was for “all people to find…inspiration and strength to build a future of reconciliation, justice and peace for all..”
I’m reminded of the apostle Paul who had a similar thrust to his message in the second letter to the Corinthians.
17 Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here! 18 All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation.. –
2 Corinthians 5
Paul makes it clear that our message is one of reconciliation. Even though the impetus for the Pontiff’s message was more sociopolitical than theological, leaders may do well to recognize that reconciliation is to be the theme of their Christian ministry.
As ministry leaders, are we seeking to reconcile people to themselves and their Savior?
Are we striving to break walls of strife and prejudice to facilitate that?
The world needs to hear this message and the Pope seems to be doing a decent job at letting ‘em know.
2) HIS MINISTRY OF PRESENCE.
When the Filipinos dealt with the aftermath of typhoon Hagupit and needed a voice of comfort and cheer, the Pope was there. When the people of Sri Lanka needed encouragement to move toward a future of peace and solidarity, the Pope was there. When the Koreans mourned the loss of the victims of the MV Sewol ferry disaster and were struggling with socio-political strife, the Pope was there.
During this year alone, the Pontiff has scheduled visits to 7 countries spanning 4 different continents and unscheduled visits to 3 more countries.
He doesn’t have to do that. But he does.
Regardless of his motives and intentions, the incontrovertible truth is that the Pope was on location when no one else was. The ministry of presence, exemplified by this Pope, is arguably one the most underrated, under-utilized aspects of ministry. The saying still rings true: people don’t care how much you know till they know how much you care. If the Pope himself can put it on his agenda to travel half-way across world to visit my country, which has a Catholic population of a mere 7%, you and I can do well to visit the members of my our church or ministry groups.
3) HIS ABILITY TO DIALOGUE WITH THE ‘OTHER.’
On one occasion during his apostolic visit to Sri Lanka, the Pontiff spoke to an auditorium filled with Buddhist, Hindu, Evangelical, as well as Catholic leaders of the country. His message, predictably, was one of reconciliation and solidarity. Yet what fascinated me about this event wasn’t so much the content of his sermon as it was the candor in which he spoke.
The Pope was honest and uncompromising in his faith, yet tactful and considerate in his approach.
The more I follow his conversations with those who are not part of his flock, the more I am irked at myself.
As a ministry leader on a college campus, I wonder why I, at times, hesitate to interact with those who don’t believe what I believe. I also wonder why I don’t display tact when I do interact with them.
I’ll get off my soap-box and admit that, if you’re like me, there’s a thing or two we can learn from the Pope about interacting with our brothers and sisters from other tribes.
Are there common points that we can share and celebrate?
Can we engage in loving dialogue and live out our theology?
Do we have a message to share and ears to listen?
I think so.
While I may not endorse everything that the Pontiff is saying or doing, I have to admit:
I like this guy.
His message of reconciliation, ministry of presence, and ability to dialogue with those who don’t share his beliefs are some traits that I want to inculcate in my own ministry.
What about you? What resonates with you? Anything you want to add?
Fire away below!