Wednesday, October 15, 2014


What do we mean by 'reliable'? I forget the source now, it may have been one of Tim Chesters excellent  books on culture and mission, but one insight has really stuck with me. It's the difference between two sorts of availability.

People like me, with diaries, watches, appointments etc., work on chronologial availability: we agree to be in x place at y time, and we are. (Mind you, those who know me and work with me might observe that I'm frequently a few minutes late, but that's another issue). We book things into the diary, that's how we organise our availability.

Or there is emotional availability: the person who is always there when you need them, but don't expect them to agree to a cup of tea a fortnight on Monday. Availability is organised around need, relationships, family and the present moment; rather than schedule, priorities and ordered time.

To the latter, the former group might seem a bit distant, standoffish, over-busy. To the former, the latter might seem a bit chaotic, unreliable, high maintenance - needing to be reminded about meetings and appointments.

Chronological availability is more typical of middle class culture, but will come more naturally to people of a certain personality type (yes, Myers-Briggs again, I'm a 'J' - i.e. a natural planner/organiser/strategist), emotional availability is perhaps more typical of working class culture, (or the Myers-Briggs 'P', go-with-the-flow type)

All too often, people start a conversation with me with 'sorry, I know you're busy....', I wonder if that's to do with all of this, or the fact that I tend to whizz around at high speed a lot of the time. Perhaps that's the nature of this role, with over 200 church members, double that (at least) of community/'fringe' contacts, never mind friends and family. I'm aware of relationships which struggle because the two partners work with different types of availability, and the mindset of the other seems deliberately contrary, rather than just a different way of being available.

Jesus seemed to manage both, he was emotionally/spiritually available in the moment - the blind man at Jericho, the woman in the crowd - but also managed his time and his priorities ('let us go to the other villages, for I must preach there also').

A challenge in church leadership, and in discipleship generally, is how to blend the two. Being on time for a meeting is just as much about caring for and valuing people as being on the other end of the phone when they need you.

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