In today’s political world, when leaders of nations select those people with whom they are going to govern, it is all too common to see them pulling together people with similar views and attitudes. They are usually very well educated and often from the same social class. Perhaps this gives political leaders a feeling of security?
When Jesus gathered His core group together, His disciples, what a mixed collection of people they were. I wonder how many of the disciples you could name? Well of course there were four fishermen: Andrew, John, Simon (Peter) and James. Then there was Matthew who was a tax collector. I wonder how popular would he have been with the others! I think we can be pretty certain that one of the other disciples, Simon the Zealot who was a political agitator, would initially have had little time for Matthew, given a tax collector’s role in society. We know that the name Bartholomew, also known as Nathaniel, meant ‘ploughman’, so perhaps he had something to do with farming. We don’t know what Thomas did for a living, but we know he was a sceptic. We can’t forget that Judas Iscariot, the man who was to betray Him, was also one of the twelve called by Jesus. That leaves us with Philip, James (The Less) and Jude (also known as Thaddeus).
What a motley collection! Yet with the exception of Judas, Jesus took these men and welded them into a coherent group of Christian believers who were to change the course of the world.
When we set up a Christian Workplace Group, perhaps like political leaders we have a preconceived idea of what members of the group might look like, what their theology will be like, how they might behave, how they worship. If we hold preconceived ideas, I wonder if there is there a danger that we will tend to welcome some into the group more than others, those closest to our own personal Christian traditions. For example, how easy or difficult is it for more evangelical members of the group to embrace those from more traditional church backgrounds or vice versa? I myself have been caught out on a couple of occasions when having held conferences and gatherings for group members, one or two people told me afterwards that they felt a little left out because the style of worship was unfamiliar to them.
As with Jesus’ first disciples it is important to recognise that those who come to join a Christian Workplace Group may come from a wide range of Christian backgrounds and traditions. Let’s be careful not to put up artificial barriers, such as rigid and long-winded statements of faith which put people off. This is particularly important for those who have not yet found faith in Jesus but are seeking to find out more.
The early disciples gathered around Jesus simply because of their trust and love in Him as a person. They were initially attracted by Jesus’s personality and what He had to say about the Kingdom of God. Perhaps that is all that’s needed – as one Christian Workplace Group‘s key aim read, ‘To welcome all those interested in finding out more about the Lord Jesus.’ It’s as simple as that, but it remains a real challenge for leaders of groups to ensure that the group is seen as united, bringing together people of all personalities and backgrounds, working together, bound by the love of Jesus.