From time to time I think about writing a book about my ministry experience. I often joke that chapter one will be entitled something like, “There is a boiler in the basement.” Now, I have served more than one church with a boiler, it is a pretty easy process to understand. Water, add some type of fire and move the steam or hot water through the pipes and you have heat. Pretty simple. Yet, there is one boiler room that become a crucial development place for a young minister fresh out of seminary.
Enter Mr. Bender, now by way of introduction you should understand that I have a tremendous respect for my friend Charlie. One of my regrets of ministry is I never followed through with Mr. Bender request to go downtown and take my stationary engineers exam for low pressure steam. Everyone one has degrees from institutions that qualify them for some level of professional vocational ministry, but to be a licensed operating engineer now that is something.
Mr. Bender taught me the finer points of low pressure steam, value packing, return pumps and I even still think I could get the two 25 ton chillers in the basement hooked in parallel to “perk and hit” so there would be steam driven A/C in the education building. But, there is something about working in a room with a blast door that lends itself to serious conversation between friends.
In our trips to the boiler room in part for my education, in part to keep it cool or hot, or to protect some element of the system from the bitter cold winter in St. Louis, Mr. Bender always had a question of two for me. Though retired from working at the State Hospital, Mr. Bender had already taught Sunday School longer than I had been alive. I was seminary trained and he always had a question from his studies for me. Mr Bender would also tell me of the people that he was taking care of, the people he had shared Christ with and who he thought would benefit from the coming Sunday School lesson.
On the steps on the other side of the blast door, I learned that a life time of time in God’s Word, would always eclipse my seminary training. A heart for your “flock” or “class” was key to effective, life changing Bible Study. While, I don’t know that Charlie would ever admit to being an evangelist, I do know that Charlie took the role of being a witness serious. Finally, that a concern and care for people makes a difference.
I am just back from a great conference put on by the BGCT Educators on growing small groups. For me the conference takes me back to some early lesson on the other side of the boiler room door that three principles are key to growing a small group. Time in God’s Word. A heart for the “flock” or your Biblical Community, with a desire for your flock to daily go into God’s Word so they are transformed in their relationship to Christ. Finally, a steady and faith compassion for people coupled to a desire to be a witness to the change God has brought in your life.
Me, I am looking forward to sitting down with Mr. Bender in heaven. Just looking forward to it. Maybe the final advice I would pass along from Mr. Bender about the process of discipleship would be this, “bring the temperature up slow on the gauges. Give it time, look for the steady rise in temp. Check your glass. When you hit 185, open her up.” Remember disciplining someone is a process.
Oh, and if you need an explanation on the final example. Just ask.