Are You Truly Approachable?
JEHOVAH God highly values approachability on the part of those who serve him. We should expect this. For God himself has set a superb example of approachability, being accessible to the prayer of people of all kinds, at all times, under all manner of circumstances.—Ps. 65:2.
Evidence of God’s high regard for approachability is found in his sending his Son to earth and causing him to live under lowly circumstances. For what purpose? Among other things, that this Son, Jesus Christ, “might become a merciful and faithful high priest,” “not one who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who has been tested in all respects like ourselves.” Because of him, Christians can “approach with freeness of speech to the throne of [God’s] undeserved kindness,” doing so with boldness and confidence. (Heb. 2:17, 18; 4:15, 16; 10:19, 21, 22) Jehovah God wants it that way.
Today, people in general are steadily drifting apart; communications—between family members, between those with authority and those subject to authority—are steadily breaking down. This should cause us to appreciate more than ever the vital need for being approachable. We cannot afford to let such unfavorable worldly conditions filter into the Christian congregation and weaken the spirit of warmth and genuine love prevailing there. Who especially need to be alert, and how can they guard against such a danger?
Christian husbands, who are to ‘love their wives as themselves,’ need to guard this quality. Parents also must maintain approachability with their children if they do not want them to become ‘exasperated and downhearted.’ And, in each Christian congregation, elders (overseers) need to prove themselves truly approachable in their dealings with all their brothers and sisters.—Eph. 5:28, 33; Col. 3:19, 21; 1 Pet. 5:1, 3.
PROVING OURSELVES APPROACHABLE
The key to being approachable is having sincere, genuine interest in others. It is not enough to say that we are approachable, that we have an “open-door” policy and the “welcome mat” is out. As the proverb says: “A multitude of men will proclaim each one his own loving-kindness.” But words are not enough. We must demonstrate that we are genuinely approachable by the way we deal with others. (Prov. 20:6; 1 John 3:18) If we really care about people and are willing to give of ourselves on their behalf, they will sense this.
An elder in a congregation has an assignment by holy spirit to serve as a shepherd under Christ Jesus. But this assignment should not make him feel superior to others, for he himself is part of the flock as one of the “sheep.” (Acts 20:28; 1 Pet. 5:2, 4) Instead, he should feel grateful that the Head of the congregation, Christ Jesus, counted him worthy to minister to fellow members of the flock and that God qualified him by granting him a measure of knowledge, understanding and wisdom. (1 Tim. 1:12; 2 Cor. 3:5) Such spiritual riches are like a ‘trust fund’ from God. Rather than feeling important in himself, he will be happy that, by God’s undeserved kindness, he has something to give for the good of his brothers, good counsel and knowledge, all based on and gained from God’s own Word. Exactly opposite to feeling ‘lifted up’ in his own eyes, he will humbly endeavor to use that ‘trust fund’ of knowledge to bring praise to Jehovah and to his Son, the congregation’s Head.—1 Cor. 4:7; 1 Pet. 4:10, 11.
DO YOU MAKE YOURSELF AVAILABLE?
Obviously, you cannot be approachable if you are not available to be approached. Of Jehovah God, the apostle Paul could say, “he is not far off from each one of us.” (Acts 17:27) God’s servant Moses was willing to endure the wearing task of aiding people with their problems “from the morning till the evening.”—Ex. 18:13-16.
Of course, Christian elders may have many responsibilities to care for—they may have their own families that need their attention. And they are also interested in sharing in the announcing of the good news to those of the world of mankind, making disciples of as many as they can. Yet, if they are to be good shepherds of the flock they must balance these and other responsibilities in such a way as to make themselves available to their brothers and sisters in the congregation who seek information or aid in personal questions and problems.
At Christian meeting places it is often simply a matter of letting others see that you are there, available and willing to talk. If one gives the appearance of being constantly “busy,” many may hesitate to approach. Congregational records and paper work have certain value, but these are not what show one to be a true shepherd of the “sheep.” It would be better to handle these after the real, live “sheep” themselves have first received due attention.—Compare Proverbs 27:23; John 10:2-4.
It is a fine thing, of course, to take the initiative in showing interest in others, approaching them. This follows God’s example, for he did not wait for humankind to approach him first, but took the initial steps himself. (Jer. 7:13, 25; 2 Cor. 5:20; 1 John 4:10, 19) Even in this, however, it is vital that we demonstrate that we are not merely being “congenial,” nor just following a “policy” of being (or appearing) friendly and outgoing. Our interest must be sincere and genuine.—1 Pet. 1:22.
Do we really listen when someone presents a question or a problem? The matter may seem minor, even somewhat trivial, to us. Yet to the one presenting it, it may seem very big. Some parents are guilty of “exasperating” their children and making them downhearted through ignoring or even ridiculing them for presenting certain seemingly small problems. Elders should guard against doing the same thing with those they serve in the congregation. For Jehovah God is clearly not like that. As James 1:5 tells us, Jehovah God is not “stingy” about giving us help with our problems—problems that certainly could look very small from his lofty viewpoint—but he hears us and generously aids, not becoming annoyed or reproaching us for having come to him with such matters.
On one occasion certain parents brought their young children to God’s Son. Jesus’ disciples tried to prevent this, evidently feeling that ‘their Master had far more important things to occupy his time and attention.’ But Jesus became indignant on seeing this, reproved his disciples, and took the children into his arms and gave them the attention sought.—Matt. 19:13, 14; Mark 10:13-16.
Surely the fine example he and his Father set for us should move us all to prove that we, too, are truly approachable. So doing, we will contribute to a fine spirit in God’s congregation, a true Christian spirit of warmth and confidence, love and brotherly affection. We will prove ourselves a blessing to others and will, in turn, be richly blessed.