Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Peanuts and Traffic Violations

Tom suggested the sesame coated peanuts. He also pointed out the ice cream cooler in the back. We had stopped from a road trip at the Hong Kong buffet, after having spent the morning at Bob Evans discussing how to start an equipping church movement among our fellowship of churches. I was still full from breakfast, but Tom persuaded me into eating more. He has a way with words.

The Hong Kong buffet was hidden at the far end of a strip mall in Van Wert (OH). Years of traveling US 30 between Ohio and Indiana acquainted Tom with culinary treasures in conspicuous places. We took residence in a booth close to a couple of pot-bellied men and a threesome at a nearby table. The waiter stopped picking his fingernails to take our drink order. Tom ordered tea; I asked for water.

It was during this meal that I learned an important lesson about Tom, a detail I should have assumed from years of Bible study, but nonetheless ignored. Tom is not perfect. He ate more than he needed. He admitted to eating more than he needed. He proceeded to get a plate of desserts following his confession.

And then there was the incident of the sesame coated peanuts. Tom's plate was covered with them. The pile on his dish made me assumed they were a delicacy. I secured a few peanuts for myself. They were terrible. Sticky and pungent. I warned Tom; he seemed unfazed. Rather than avoiding them, Tom wrapped them in a napkin and stuffed them in his pocket for secret snacking.

We paid for lunch, and Tom ambled to his car while I stopped by the bathroom. On my way out the front door, I noticed a sign forbidding customers from taking food from the restaurant. I thought of Tom's sesame coated pocket. When he picked me up at the curb, I mentioned the sign; he seemed unfazed.

After returning to the highway, Tom pulled the napkin out and tried one of the peanuts. They were hard to chew. Their taste was nasty. Tom ate several before resigning.

No: Tom is not perfect. He is a godly man who dabbles in gluttony and breaks buffet law. He even ran a red light on the way home. I guess my mentors need the grace of Jesus as much as I do.

(PT 4: Travels with Tom)

Monday, March 19, 2012

Teams and Circles

Tom does not like the word "committees." He considers them an outdated way of doing church. "Teams," he suggests, "better reflect the model of Ephesians 4:11-16. They are opened-ended and everyone has a role. But the team shares a common goal."

Tom is not exactly cutting edge. He's eclipsed eighty. His face is aged; hair, white; and smile, wrinkled. But his eyes betray a youthful fervor when he speaks about the church. He preaches regularly from the Ephesian text, calling it a "vision of the church from God's perspective." He often adds the word glorious.

Clergy and committees, Tom warns, both restrict the church in her effectiveness. Paid staff cannot (and should not) do all the work of ministry. He always grins when telling the story of speaking to seminary students about equipping. He'd asked them if they were "preparing for ministry, or learning to train others in ministry?" Long silence. "They looked like deer in a headlight," he explains.

And committees are ministry momentum killers. Neither passion nor spiritual gifting are required. Merely a name. And a vote. And a year of meetings. I once heard Tom  politely argue with a consultant about the distinction between teams and committees. The consultant referenced a paper he had written. Tom chose not to reference his book.

While Tom's refrain for teamwork often conjures up motivational posters I'd expect to see in a Christian junior high locker room (read: Teamwork makes the dream work), I cannot help but agree with him. Ministry works better in teams. Leadership must become less about playing to the pastor's strengths, and more about expanding the congregation's service capacity. The apostle Paul described it this way, "[God provides leaders...] for the equipping of the saints for the work of service." Surely, this is glorious.

Travels with Tom (Part 3)