One-to-one: Matters of love and encouragement
By James Broad, first printed in Compass January 1986, Vol 9 No 1
The first seminar I ever attended on the subject of one-to-one ministry was in a car, in Derbyshire, on a rainy March day in 1967. There was only two of us in the car and the subjects covered were the importance of the individual and lessons on building (from 1 Corinthians 3). I still have the notes and can remember the occasion vividly.
Of course, much more was communicated than just information. The person I was with, by giving up his day off and taking this time with me, was helping me in areas other than knowledge. He was demonstrating the very things he was talking about and communicating his belief that God could use me in a significant way in others’ lives. This was something for which I longed, but did not think possible.
I had stumbled on the idea of one-to-one ministry by accident when I had gone to a meeting and found myself enrolled for four counselor training classes for the 1966 Billy Graham Crusade. The thought of helping somebody on an individual basis really appealed to me, but i was unable to find out how to do it.
I think many of us are held back from attempting to give individual help by this feeling that we don’t know how. We feel that there exists a body of knowledge which no-one has ever shared with us and/or that we lack the necessary skills and gifts.
I remember my wife, Jan, saying shortly after we were married, “It’s no good, I can’t do follow-up. I don’t know how. All I can do is love people and encourage them in the Word.” It occured to us later that to love people and encourage them in the Word was a good description of follow-up!
I’ve often asked people in The Navigators, “Who has helped you the most, and how?” By far the most frequent answer to that question is along these lines: “So-and-so really believed in me … took an interest in me … stuck with me when I was going through a hard time.”
So, come back to love and faith as the key ingredients. The difference about one-to-one ministry is that it gives an opportunity for these to be expressed personally and I believe that this is a vital and increasingly necessary task of the overall work of equipping the saints.
I once went to a conference where the speaker at the beginning of his talks expressed love and respect his audience. When I met him personally, however, he seemed cold and preoccupied. This was exactly my impression of God’s love at that time: God loved the group and certain important individuals in the group, but when He met me He would struggle to remember my name!
One-to-one ministry is a vehicle through which God can express His love for and confidence in each individual and this help each one to become his or her best for Christ. This is so important, since God believes in the importance and potential of every individual.
The Living Bible’s paraphrase of 1 Corinthians 13:7 expresses the kind of love and faith which God wants to communicate: “If you love someone you will be loyal to him no matter what the cost. You will alway believe in him, always expect the best of him, and always stand your ground in defending him.”
At the roof of one-to-one ministry, therefore, are the belief in the importance and ptential of ever individual and the vision of what he or she can become under the mighty hand of God.
“You are Simon … you shall be called Peter.” (John 1:42)
“You are Jacob … you shall be Israel.” (Genesis 35:10)
“You are Gideon … you shall become a mighty leader.” (Judges 6:11)
“You are a worm … I will make of you a threshing sledge.” (Isaiah 41:14-15)
This belief and this vision give us a basic direction. Thereafter come many hours of prayer, with and for the person, and many hours of Bible study, sharing and encouragement. Often these hours have to be given sacrificially – as were the hours for my first seminar – and there will be no obvious or immediate result. Yet in this, as in every aspect of Christian ministry, 1 Corinthians 15:58 points the way: “Therefore, my dear brothers, stand firm. Let nothing move you. Always give yourselves fully to the work of the Lord, because you know that your labour in the Lord is not in vain.”