Tuesday, August 13, 2013

What I Learned From a Baker About Being a Pastor...

Associate's Degree...
Bachelor's of Science in Biology...
Minor in Chemistry...
Master's of Divinity...

I thought I had been fairly well trained.  Hours and hours I spent sitting in class, listening to one PhD after another as I was taught how to exegete a text, how to discover the world behind or in front of a text, how to not tick off this group or that group...then I donned the cap, gown, and master's hood...walked the aisle...shook hands with the President of the seminary...received my degree...and walked out into the world. 

Then I went before the Board of Ordained Ministry so they could be sure I knew how to use the vast amounts of knowledge that had been lodged somewhere in my brain during 87 hours of graduate level work.  After a little tweaking, and a couple more years, I knelt down before the bishop as he laid his hands on my head and spoke those words I had been waiting to hear for twelve years, "Jamie, take authority as an elder in the Church, to preach the Word of God, and to administer the Holy Sacraments."  Then my friend and mentor placed that sacred red stole around my shoulders and it was done.  I was ready to go. 

In two months I will reach my 14th anniversary as a pastor.  I've had all of the education required.  I've jumped through all of the hoops.  I've kept up with my continuing education requirements...but...

...but last night I got a lesson I won't soon forget.

My girls had been watching Cake Boss while I was cooking supper.  After supper, I sat down on the couch, kicked my feet up, and watched with them.  The cake that Carlos' bakery had been commissioned to create was awesome...neon edible paint...monsters...glow in the dark goo pits...it was pretty sweet.  Then the scene changed to the front counter at Carlos' bakery, and a potential customer that had stepped up to the counter and asked Buddy if he could bake her a cake...by the next day. 

Now, if you've ever watched Cake Boss, you'll know there is a prescribed process to get Buddy to bake you a cake.  First stop is the front counter, then a consultation is set up, then a tasting, then the design process, then the actual baking and icing, and finally the delivery.  That's the way it goes.  That's the way it ALWAYS goes...except for last night. 

This woman asked Buddy to bake a cake...by the next day...Buddy explained that was not how it usually worked, and when the woman saw that Buddy was beginning to crawdad a little she asked this, "Well, if you don't think you can do it, is there another bakery in the neighborhood that could?"  All of the color left Buddy's face and he was speechless. 

Now, I am the last to support a consumer driven ministry portfolio, but what Buddy did next taught me something I don't think I got in seminary, or through continuing ed...the customer comes first.  Whether we want to admit it or not, the truth is there really isn't much difference between the way Carlos' bakery treats a potential customer, and the way the church should treat a potential member.  I say "should" because we don't always. 

A potential customer, or a potential member, wants to know that they matter.  Buddy could have stuck to his guns, following a well established protocol, and watched as she walked out the door to his competitor, but he didn't.  You could almost watch the gears turning in his head...he went to one of his staff bakers and asked if they had any sponge cake ready to go...then he told the customer that they could bake her cake, and that it wasn't going to be ready the next day because he was going to do it right now.  Then the customer and her kids, stepped over to another part of the counter and watched as Buddy made their cake to order right in front of their eyes. 

THEN...and this is what slapped me in the face...Buddy took that opportunity, one that I, or we, might have seen as inappropriate, demanding, and distractive, and used it to create what might become a completely new way of baking cakes.  He even said, "We need to start offering this more, be intentional about it."  He was able to adapt on the fly, and because of the way he treated this customer, I can almost guarantee she'll be back. 

I'm not saying the Church should bend to pressure from the world, but let's be honest, we're pretty good at sometimes making folks feel like they are an intrusion into our work instead of the reason for our work.  It's happened to me more times than I care to mention...since last week. 

So, I learned how to exegete and discover the world behind the text in seminary, but I learned how to treat a potential member from a baker in Hoboken.  Lesson learned.   

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