Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Hot Dogs and Preaching

Recently Aubrey and I met some friends at a bar in nearby Abbeville for dinner. It's not a place that we are accustomed to frequenting, but it has pool tables and hot dogs, two things I don't complain about.

We settled in, got a couple games of eight ball going, and ordered our hot dogs from the bar. They came with onions, mustard and the option for chili. When the dogs came out a certain member of our party asked for ketchup. The humble proprietor responded gently, but with conviction, that in 32 years of running his bar he had never served ketchup, and he certainly didn't intend to start now. Although I myself was not the ketchup requester, I was more than a little caught off guard by the concept of a hot dog dive that didn't carry ketchup.

I will admit to having mixed feelings about chefs whose stern "my-way-or-the-highway" ethos is allowed to dictate what the customers eat. We are the paying customers, after all, and I feel deeply that the final buck of condiment authority should stop with us. If I want a tomato based sauce on my processed meat product, so be it.

But I can also respect a chef like this. He knows hot dogs, he loves hot dogs, he lives hot dogs. He is a connoisseur of the perfect dog. He is convinced deep in his heart that the best dog is a ketchup-less dog, and he's not about to let you come into his shop only to have a sub-par hot dog experience.

Pastoring a church is a little bit like running a hot dog bar with pool tables. One of our main duties as a pastor is to serve the people. Every week we bring a message from God's word, and present it for the people. And like the snobby hot dog chef, we must also eschew the "customer-is-always-right" mentality. Paul says as much in 2 Timothy 4:3. Our calling is to be a connoisseur of the word of God. To know it, to love it, to live it. And to be able to present it to our people as the wonderful, gracious, life-giving, soul-reviving, wisdom-imparting thing that it is.

More than this, sometimes the calling of pastor requires a little holy meddling, a little sanctified butting in. As the novice hot dogger will willingly, but unwittingly, degrade his dog with improper condiment selection, so we sinful people are all want to mix our holy living with sinful practices. It is the calling of the pastor to develop a taste for pure holiness, and to come back week after week, to extol the wonders of Christlikeness, and to announce gently, but with conviction, that no, you may not have a side of idolatry with your sanctification. Want a scoop of adultery with your Old Testament meditation? Not in my shop. I happen to know that such things will totally ruin Christian living and the enjoyment of higher pleasures, such as God. You think you would like them, but trust me, they don't go.

1 comment:

Joel Pearce said...

Great thoughts! We were out to dinner last night, and the menu explicitly states that the chefs will not cook steaks any other way than between medium rare and medium. I heard at least two customers having heated discussions with the wait staff about this, though the wait staff held fast. I just didn't connect it with preaching :-)