I play a lot of games, and lately I've been running a lot of a game called Dungeon World. It is a fantasy role playing type game where a group of people gather to tell a story together. It is a lot of fun, and the emphasis is on telling great stories instead of fiddling with mechanics. In other words it is one of the simplest games I've played, but at the same time one of the most rewarding. When you run this game as the game master you are in charge of keeping the story moving along, creating a world, and handling the story arcs. The rest of the people are characters. They provide some really sage advice for the game master one piece of which is: be a fan of the heroes. They define this as putting them in dangerous situations in which their particular talents can shine. I've been thinking about that a lot and it seems I apply this in other areas of my life already.
When I teach, I'm my students' biggest fan. My greatest joy is working with them until they gain insights into new ideas and make connections they hadn't thought of before. When I approach my students this way the in class conversations are always richer and I get lots of appreciative comments from the students after class. It is usually easier to maintain this when the classes are new because you are with the students for a short period of time and often see them primarily at their best. You can easily encourage this best.
But pastoring is not a short term prospect, and often you see people at their worst. Yet it is still so important to be a fan of the people you pastor.
Being a fan means you encourage them to be their best. You believe in them. You cheer them on. You rejoice in their responses to challenges. Life throws some vicious curve balls, isn't it amazing when your people respond from depths even they did not realize they had.
We had a young guy come out to a prophetic workshop in our community. He was in the process of coming to faith. At one point he was the recipient of an exercise in speaking words over people and so went home with the sheet of paper on which the words of encouragement were printed. Talking to him some time later he confessed to having anger issues, but that whenever he'd feel angry he would pull out the list and read them, finding the comfort and encouragement he needed to work through those anger issues. I had the privilege of watching him grow in his faith and become a very safe (and generous) person. I'm a fan of this guy.
Being a fan does not mean ignoring problems that arise for people. It is about encouraging the best in them, even in moments when they want to be at their worst. Sometimes being a fan means walking through really hard moments with people - always believing, always hoping. Doesn't that sound like love? (1 Cor 13:4-7)
So I want to encourage you to be a fan of the people God has asked you to pastor. Oh and play more games, there are good things to learn from games.
Frank Emanuel - Freedom Vineyard, Ottawa, ON