I’ve come to realize over the past 13 years pastoring here that we pastors sometimes fall victim to thinking that what seems obvious to us ought to be obvious to everyone else. An example is why I basically keep my office hours downtown at the Tim Horton’s coffee shop rather than at the church. I won’t lie. It doesn’t hurt that they have really good coffee and pastries, but that isn’t the main reason. I’ve been doing this for some time now, and here is the biggest reason…because it allows me to see more people (both church folks and non-church folks) than I would just sitting in a room at the church building. To me this is a no-brainer. If I will be around and available to more people by being in a public place than at the church, then it makes perfect sense to spend most of the time in the public location.
It’s not that there aren’t other reasons for doing this, but this is by far the most important reason.Here are some of the church folks I see on a consistent basis at Tim Horton’s and am able to have conversations with because they happen to frequent it too: Don Lyle, Sue Lyle, Tom Seth, Sandy Wilks, Mike Craft, Bill Bowman. None of these people would I see if I were at the church because their normal daily activities bring them to the coffee shop, not the church.
In addition to these church folks, I’m rubbing shoulders more with some of the neighbors on my own street, like Steve Hoden and Gloria Suppa. Nor does this take into account the relationships I am forming with the staff at Tim Horton’s. A few months ago, a very rude customer caused a scene at Tim Horton’s,and did his best to belittle the baker for something that was not the baker’s fault. I saw and heard the whole thing and was able to talk with the baker a little later. A few weeks after the incident, the baker was reprimanded by corporate offices because this rude customer filed a complaint but lied in his complaint about what happened. The day that the baker found out about the reprimand, as soon as I came into the shop that day, he made a beeline for me to vent and express how hurt he was.
This baker, who doesn’t go to church anywhere, felt compelled to come talk to me, a pastor. That wouldn’t have happened if I hadn’t spent so much time there, getting to know him. I told him that since I had witnessed what actually happened, if he needed me to say anything to the owner, I would. He thanked me, and thankfully didn’t lose his job due to that customer’s lies. Not long after the incident with the baker, one of the female workers shared with me about how she and her boyfriend were having struggles. They have a 3 year-old little boy together, live together, and were high school sweethearts. She wants to commit and get married, but he doesn’t, and it’s starting to tear them apart. I was able to tell her that I’d be praying for them, and I’ve been able to check in with her since I see her regularly while at the coffee shop.
One of the other male employees was telling me about his youngest child, Ezra. I asked him where they got the name, and he said it just sounded unique to he and his girlfriend so they picked it. I told him it was a biblical name, the name of a biblical leader who helped his people rebuild their nation after calamity. I’ve also been able to ask how this employee is when I don’t see him when he is normally scheduled to work. When he’s not there, it usually means something has happened at home with their children. I wouldn’t be able to do that if I wasn’t there on a regular basis to know when he usually works.
This doesn’t take into account the Sam Elliott look-a-like who saw my Bible and other Christian books on the table one day and helped himself to a chair at my table to talk about the struggles he and his mother were having. After about a half an hour conversation, I prayed with him right there in the restaurant. Again, a conversation and prayer that wouldn’t have happened if I was at the church building. In the in-between time when conversations and prayer are not happening, I’m working on a sermon or a Bible study or a Sunday school lesson or responding to emails trying to make sure things are set for the Community Worship Service and the Joint Baptism Service and the Ecuador Mission Trip, or meeting with Pastor Aaron to discuss a book we are reading together and to plan weekly worship services.
Before I close, I’d like to say that there is a family who has been attending the church lately whose daughter used to work at the Subway restaurant downtown. I used to frequent Subway, and would take my Bible and commentaries with me to work on sermons. I stopped doing that a while ago because I got tired of smelling like Subway all day long. Anyway, this couple ask ed me when they first visited the church if I was “the pastor who took his Bible to Subway.” I told them I used to do that. They said that their daughter who worked there was so struck by that, that she’d come home and tell them about it. She couldn’t fathom someone being that public about their faith. What am I getting at with all of this? I hope to inspire you to be more public with your faith. I hope to make you a little more aware of what I do, and I hope you see the benefit and the importance of me doing ministry this way. It’s not a time to goof off, but rather just the opposite– a way to take advantage of a natural setting in order to benefit both PCC and God’s Kingdom.