Recently I had the privilege of accompanying a mentor of mine to a luncheon in Wheaton. When he first extended the invitation he told me that we would be going to lunch with a few of his friends, and one of them happened to be a famous apologist. On the car ride down to our destination my mentor spent a few minutes telling me about the men that would be joining us for lunch. All of them were, by my understanding, wealthy businessmen, Christians, and were currently involved in some way with the ministry that my mentor presides over. Their involvement in the ministry varied from attendees to elders, but their primary occupation existed outside the church. He then began to explain to me how he met the apologist in the mid nineties at an event. After a period of time my mentor was offered a position within the ministry of the apologist but he declined choosing instead to take the position he now currently holds. Nevertheless the two have remained very close for nearly twenty years and my mentor often gets people involved, in one way or another, with the ministry of the apologist.
So while I was very honored to be there I was sorely out of place, sort of a non-contributing “eater” I guess. Nevertheless in my quiet observance I was able to take away a few valuable considerations —valuable to me in any case. One more brief note, my understanding is that this lunch date was created in order to give these businessmen an opportunity to get involved financially in the ministry of the apologist. They had previously expressed interest in doing this and so my mentor was giving them an opportunity to meet him face to face. Interestingly enough there was no discussion of need, numbers or of giving at all; in fact the guest of honor simply shared his story with us. So while the meeting was called for this reason, it was extremely informal and concluded with an exchange of business cards. While I am no expert at how these “giving” functions usually take place the horribly uncomfortable stereotype in my head didn’t happen and so I was thoroughly refreshed. I wanted to take a moment to share with you a couple of my observations.
First, the entire circumstance in which I found myself sitting was unusual for me. Perhaps it is because I am still… fairly… young or because I go to a Bible college that I found being surrounded by wealthy, ministry-oriented, proactive about involvement, gospel saturated men who weren’t pastors so strange. Now don’t get me wrong, I believe there are men out there who share these qualities, I am simply saying that the majority of them, in my experience, are employed as pastors. More often than not it seems that those are who are passionate about ministry are thrust into or thrust themselves into full-time vocational service inside the church, but the gentlemen surrounding me were serving the Lord in the business realm. While this in theory isn’t new to me, having heard many stories about passionate Christian entrepreneurs involved in kingdom work and having experienced a little of this last year at Acton University, seeing it in practice was good for my soul. For me it felt real, like this was a tangible part of the package that is supposed to be passed from one faithful generation to the next. I was observing mature men, serving God in a variety of vocations, meeting together to discuss how to advance the ministry of a godly individual, not in a church with pastors, but in a restaurant on Thursday afternoon with lawyers and CEOs while eating a chicken club sandwich.
This is something that needs to become more commonplace for young Christian men. We need to be taken in and involved in the activities of our elders because we are the next generation of shepherds. This type of involvement cultivates maturity and acclimates us to a side of ministry that we rarely see. Not only this but I am learning how valuable networking can be. Knowing mature Christian people who have various backgrounds and vocations can be extremely enriching to one’s own life. Their friendship and wisdom is more than profitable and knowing them can open up amazing opportunities.
Secondly, I briefly want to comment on the man himself: famous in Christian circles, erudite, funny, internationally known, and he was sitting next to me. He cut his salmon into small pieces with meticulous care pushing them onto the back of his fork, a great feat of balance in and of itself, while talking about his recent discussion on the resurrection… with a Saudi prince. There was something about the guy that just amazed me. Was it his intelligence and elegance? Granted he is a genius and an embodiment of Chrysostom, but that wasn’t it. The thing that amazed me about the man was something that I had noticed in the videos I had seen of him, something I had witnessed in His writings, something I was seeing in person—his graciousness. This guy has the ability to intellectually crush people, but chooses not to. He has the résumé and schedule of a guy who would normally be inclined to ignore a no-name Bible college student, but he didn’t. Considering the situation, most would expect the man to focus on the gentlemen that would be giving him money, but he actually just talked to me for the first part of the meeting. He asked me about school, about the aviation program, about growing up in Seattle, and plans for the future. Naturally as the meeting continued we got down to business but the few moments he took to get to know me taught me about the power of a gentle and gracious soul. I won’t say much about the adventures he’s been on other than he is preaching the gospel in what most would consider spiritual “Fort Knoxes.” My only comment on that is this—his intellectual prowess plays only a part in opening these doors. Internationally people don’t like jerks, let alone smart jerks, but a gracious demeanor and a peaceful spirit is invaluable—a lesson to all aspiring intellectuals.
When we shook hands to say goodbye I thanked him for his time. At that moment I remembered something my mom made me promise to share. The year his ministry started she listened to him speak in Seattle and it rocked her world. She simply wanted me to thank him, and so I did. He grabbed my hand, thanked me for the conversation, told me to tell my mom “your welcome” and blessed me as I left.
Having had some time to process the whole experience, I realize that the two hours I spent at that restaurant in Wheaton has and will continue to play a pivotal role in my maturation. Not because it was some cataclysmic, life-altering event, but because I noticed the power of humility and graciousness when coupled with brilliance. We often talk of the importance of having godly men to imitate and it becomes very easy to want to follow in the intellectual footsteps of our academic heroes, inheriting their mantle as it were. But for me, this time, I realized that I wanted to capture his demeanor not his mind, and that’s something new.