Do You Want Your French Fries — Small, Medium, or Large?

The elders of a well-known church wanted to talk with me about working with them. I was in their town on a program when they asked to meet. They introduced the subject. I was confused. They were talking to me about working with them as their preacher. They had a preacher.

I asked if their present preacher had resigned, was going to retire, or they were going to release him. They said they would keep him on. I would be the preacher. He would serve in other ways.

I inquired how he felt about that. They said they hadn’t told him yet.

That ended our conversation. I declined to proceed until they worked that out.

A year later, I was with the church in a similar program. Their preacher approached me. He told me the elders had discussed the arrangement. He said he’d be glad to work with me in that capacity and encouraged me to consider it further with the elders.

We agreed to meet in a few weeks in a town half-way between them and where I lived. We met for lunch and talked later in a local church building.

Two things ended my consideration:

  1. When we were ordering lunch, more than one of the elders struggled with ordering their meals: whether to have french fries and if they were going to have fries, did they want small, medium, or large? My anxiety was raised. If they have this much trouble ordering fries, how would they make more important decisions?
  2. As we talked about my responsibilities should I work with them, they were describing in detail how a former preacher did his work: in tasks and methods of carrying out the duties. I replied I’d do a radio program, but not exactly the way the former preacher did. I would write, but not exactly as the previous preacher did his writing. But they reaffirmed: task for task and method by method it was to be the same.

This former preacher had worked with them for decades. He was outstanding. He was a legend. When I was talking with them, at least two preachers had followed the long-tenured preacher. From my information, they were expected to perform as the famous preacher.

At the end of our meeting, I gave them my evaluation:

I appreciate the good meal and the opportunity to discuss this work with you. You have honored me by considering me. From what I’ve heard, you still want ___ _______ to be your preacher. He’s been dead several years. If I came to be your preacher, you’d be disappointed and I’d be frustrated because I’m not him and cannot be him.

They assured me that wasn’t the case. I suggested ways to accomplish some of the same goals using different methods. None of those were negotiable.

Observations

  • Be aware of what’s going on in any situation. We communicate about ourselves by words, actions, inflections, eye contact or lack thereof, body language, how we tip or neglect to tip, how we order french fries, and other ways. Those things mean something. If I don’t know and it concerns me, I need to do more research.
  • Many churches haven’t grieved the loss of a great preacher or adjusted to the ministry of a less than a good preacher. They’re still trying to compensate. Until that’s settled, it’ll be difficult to have a good relationship.
  • Many preachers haven’t grieved the loss of a great work, being fired, or being in an abusive relationship either in home or church. Until that’s worked through, it’ll be difficult to have a close, trusting elder-preacher relationship.
  • Words and promises mean little when words are contradicted by actions.

What’s influenced your choice to work or not work with a church or a preacher?

[reminder]

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Jerrie Barber
Disciple of Jesus, husband, grandfather, preacher, barefoot runner, ventriloquist

One Response to “Do You Want Your French Fries — Small, Medium, or Large?

  • Great article! What influenced me wasn’t the church or the preacher, but I’ll share my experience.

    I was introduced by a mutual pastor friend to a church that was looking for a Youth Pastor.

    The pastor took me out for lunch and we talked about ideas, plans and how God was moving in our lives. At the end of lunch, he wanted me to be the Youth pastor and I wanted it as well. We both agreed to continue to pray about it. We stayed in contact the next few days and I was invited to visit the church which I did. They also got my background check and written soteriological beliefs to give to the search committee.

    To make a long story short, I felt the Holy Spirit leading me to not accept the position. I thought that I was going crazy because I wanted this really badly but was receiving a firm, “No” from God. I was heartbroken and actually worried about saying no and was double thinking everything.

    Later that week, I told the pastor that I did not feel that I was called to that church. He was super cool and said that if that was what God revealed to me, that he wanted me to be obedient to Him. He said that if I needed anything to let him know and that was the end of my experience.

    I guess that I say all that to say, “Trust what the Lord reveals to you.” Man does not always get it correctly, but if the Lord wants you there, you will be there.

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