There I sat. I was at a table on the sidewalk in front of Five Guys Burgers and Fries. The meal was really good. All the coeds walking from and to the main entrance of the University of Georgia were even better. The day wasn’t too hot. There was a breeze blowing. It was a great place to be.
Actually, I should have been somewhere else. I was in Athens for the Annual Meeting of the North Georgia Conference. You see, we United Methodist pastors are not members of any local church. The Annual Conference is where our church membership resides. And since the “our church” only meets once a year it’s expected that we be there. I was there. I took a seat in the front where the bishop could see me. I wanted him to know I was there. And then, during the reading of a financial report on some unfunded liability, I looked around and noted there was close to five thousand people in the room. I didn’t think the bishop would notice. I left and headed to Five Guys Burgers and Fries.
That’s what found me where these thoughts began, at that table on the sidewalk across from the University of Georgia, munching on the gastronomic delicacy before me. And, being the dedicated church member I am, I read through some of the reports to be considered later as I stilled the hunger pangs.
Alexander Sylvester Scoggins plopped himself down across the table from me. Alex was a pastor some thirty-five years younger than me. Alex had opinions. Alex did not hesitate to share his opinions. Today, halfway through my meal, Alex offered an opinion.
“You know,” he said, “I’m really glad I saw you sitting here. I wanted to talk to you about something.”
“Would you like to join me for lunch,” I asked. “Oh, no, thanks, but I don’t defile my body with the meat of God’s creatures.”
As I said, Alex never hesitates to give his opinion. I took a very slow bite of the burger, holding it in profile to Alex for his enjoyment.
“You know, I was passing through your town last week. I didn’t have time to stop, but I saw you cutting the grass at your church. Do you folks not have a lawn service?”
“Actually, we don’t have a lawn service,” I informed him. “One of our members usually takes care of the lawn. But he’s a bit under the weather so I was filling in.”
“Look,” Alex said, “that’s really not a good thing to do. You should empower the laity of the church to assume this duty. If you do that they will have more ownership of the church, be more invested, and will in effect become more dedicated members. When you step in a cut the grass you are depriving them of the opportunity to solve a problem. You diminish their service capacity.”
“Did you read that in a book?” I asked.
“I did,” said Alex. “I can let you borrow it if you like.”
“I don’t think that will be necessary, Alex,” I replied. “Look, I understand you’re deep into these management things. I applaud you for it. But there’s one thing you’re not factoring into your assessment of me mowing the church lawn.”
“What’s that?” asked Alex.
“What you’re not considering, Alex, is that preachers are a dime a dozen, but a good yard man is hard to find.”