In the last couple of months I have had two men whom I was seeking to influence toward a deeper walk with Christ politely pull away from me. One gently stated that the turn off was that I had been “didactic” with him. Mirriam-Webster informs me that synonyms to didactic are dogmatic, prescriptive, and holier-than-thou. Yikes, no wonder these men pulled away! Apparently I had assumed that “one size fits all” in how we are to minister to people.
According to Marcus Buckingham, good spiritual directors play checkers, great spiritual directors play chess. “In checkers, each piece moves exactly the same way. One checker is pretty much interchangeable with any other checker. But in chess, the possibilities vary according to the piece. Skill at helping people grow spiritually, like skill at playing chess, depends on understanding and valuing differences.” 1
Consider Jesus’ varied approach in his dealings with people: He was genial with children, severe with the rich young ruler, gracious with the thief on the cross, and kindhearted toward the woman caught in adultery. In his evangelism he never approached two people the same way. Being omniscient, he knew exactly what each person needed from him and how he could influence them with the right approach.
How freshly original is the Father in his dealings with people: “He has Abraham take a walk, Elijah take a nap, Joshua take a lap, Adam take a rap. He gave Aaron an alter, Miriam a song, Gideon a fleece, Peter a name, Elisha a mantle. He gave Jacob a limp, Esther a crown, Joseph a dream, and Naaman a bath.” 2
If our inclination is to assume that how we think, process, and respond to people is normal for the rest of humanity, dream on! If we are to operate at the chess level in our discipling of others, we need to respect…even celebrate each person’s uniqueness by listening, caring, observing, and praying for the Holy Spirit’s guidance before speaking into their lives. Clearly, Paul understood and practiced this flexible and measured approach: “ To the weak I became weak, to win the weak. I have become all things to all men so that by all possible means I might save some” (I Cor. 9:22). (See Pro. 18:13, 17; 19:2)
QUESTION : Do we?
This week, may you experience His grace, peace, and protection.
R. Dwight Hill
1 “Spiritual Direction for Weird People.” Leadership Journal, Summer, 2013, page 71;2 “Spiritual Direction for Weird People.”Leadership Journal, Summer, 2013, page 72;