Friday, June 15, 2007

Sermons and Cookouts

Huh? What do sermons and cookouts have in common, I hear you ask? I've been recently reflecting on some great advice I got from a mentor of mine a while ago, and on how that advice is impacting the way I think about and approach ministry. As I met with my Lead Team yesterday (the guys and gals who help me think, so that I can do a better job of leading The Well), something stood out to me. We got a ton of stuff done but in the process we laughed and joked with one another a lot. We genuinely enjoyed being with one another and that point was borne out by the fact that we all hung around for a full hour after the meeting concluded.

Our lead team meetings are a little different now from how we started out. We used to meet around a large conference table over at the church offices, and in an attempt to create a warm and relaxed atmosphere (which really engenders creativity), I would make sure we had snacks and a bowl of candy in the center of the table. I don't know how much community we built, or how relaxed the atmosphere was, I'm not even sure how much we accomplished, but I do know we all got a lot of sugar.

We do it a little bit differently now (I call this, "progressive revelation" which is simply a more polite way of saying I'm learning and growing into my role), as we meet rotationally in the homes of the different members of the Lead Team and we do a potluck meal (If all else fails, make sure there's good food available). The relaxed atmosphere is definetely not contrived, and because of it, we are more open to throwing around ideas without the fear of getting them "shot down" since there is a lot more trust and cameraderie.

This brings me to what my old mentor once told me. In response to a discussion we were having about impacting people through ministry, he remarked that I was at my finest when I was behind a barbecue grill at a cookout. At first I was a little affronted by this as I supposed it to mean that I was better at barbecueing that at teaching the scriptures. With further clarifying conversations and the passage of time, I have come to realize that he was simply speaking about the relaxed, easygoing and comfortable style about me anytime I was hanging out with friends at a cookout. He insisted that my preaching and teaching skills were abundant, but that if I could just transfer the persona that was behind the grille to the pulpit, I would connect with and impact people significantly more.

In hindsight I'm truly thankful for men like my mentor who are willing to tell you the truth about you, even at the risk of offending you, so that you can become all that God has called you to be. As I've continued to "evolve" in my leadership and pastoral skills, I am learning to apply this idea consistently so that I am the same person on the platform as I am off it. Besides, people just seem to identify better with someone who seems more human and flawed, rather than hyper-holy and near-perfect. Sometimes though, I think I need a big old barbecue grill beside me on the platform to remind me to relax and enjoy the moment. Steaks anyone?