Sunday, January 16, 2005

To Seek And Savor The Loss

"Loss leader" is a term used in retail when a store prices certain items at below the store's actual cost to get you in the door, in hopes you will buy other things. It's worked very well for Wal-Mart for example with toys. It's cheaper to buy toys at Wal-Mart than at some of the big toy stores. Wal-Mart figures if you come in to buy toys for your kids, you'll stay to buy clothes, dog food, toiletries, groceries, etc. Wal-Mart doesn't make a profit on the toys but the other items it sells you make up for that loss.

I certainly don't mean to compare God to Wal-Mart, although now that I think about it that might be an interesting rabbit trail to go down one day, but I woke up this morning thinking about loss leaders for Christ.

We don't have a lot of organized programs in our church; heck one might argue we don't have a lot of organization period. We have youth functions and Sunday school, but we're not that big of a church and our attempts in past years to formalize ways of outreach or involvement have not been overwhelmingly successful.

I was recently asked to receive a modicum of training for a mentoring program of sorts that we're going to attempt. I'm not certain of the specifics yet and I'm sure I'll write about it as I learn more, but my understanding is it's a spiritual buddy concept. Some folks in the church will be given a small amount of training and then be made available to develop a one on one spiritual relationship with another church member in hopes that will help both individuals grow. I was admittedly hesitant to volunteer or, as things usually work in our church, "be volunteered" until I thought more about my own journey.

I wasn't led to a true relationship with Christ through a program or even a particular church. There were a number of factors and people involved, not the least of which of course was Amy.

But before I met Amy I had been listening to a minister of a church in Austin whom we featured on a radio program. He seemed to cut through some of the clutter that had heretofore provided a convenient barrier between me and God. I listened, I liked what I heard and I ended up going to a used book store and finding a dusty old book he had written many years ago. I devoured that book and to this day it sits next to my bed because it still speaks to me on a number of different levels.

That minister's church grew and grew. Amy and I took the kids there once or twice many years ago. I enjoyed the service, but the church was not really for us, if for no other reason than it was 60 miles away.

Today that church is still thriving and that minister is still preaching but he's lost respect in my eyes. I have come to know some things about the inner workings of his church and about him personally which have tainted my viewpoint. I need not go into specifics.

I mentioned that minister only because I think that God used him as something of a loss leader to reach me.

That minister is a flawed man, as are we all. His stature in my eyes has fallen in recent years and I personally believe he has done some un-Christ-like things. Yet when I needed him, God used him and that got me to open the door.

The fact that in recent years that same preacher has been diminished in my eyes does not reflect on God.

In fact I'm now thinking God also used those very faults, and my awareness of them to remind me that the instruments God uses are not what are important. Tools will rust, or break. Tools can fail us. We may discover flaws within the people who opened the doors to our spiritual journeys.

The journey is still pure.

So I am looking forward to embarking on this spiritual mentoring program knowing full well that it could become a perfect example of the blind leading the blind.

I have learned not to confuse the tools with the Toolmaker.

He is working from a Master plan.