In my 21 years of medical practice and 40 years of church attendance I have seen a lot of unexpected behavior from men in ministry. From adultery and arrests to dishonesty and gossip, I have seen almost all there is to see, or so I thought. In the last week I encountered a pastor who treated me in a way that caught me totally off guard.
Two weeks ago I visited a local church for the very first time. The people seemed friendly and the sermon was excellent so I thought I might return for a prayer service later in the week. The next day I discovered that the prayer meeting conflicted with a medical staff meeting I was required to attend. I sent the pastor an email asking how long the prayer meeting would last as I was wondering if I would be able to make it for the latter half. Although we had never met he answered me within a few hours, saying he hoped I could make it to the meeting and that he would love to meet me, perhaps over lunch.
I was impressed by his timely and courteous response. Two days later my medical meeting was cancelled so I was able to make it to the prayer meeting on time. That is when things took an unexpected turn. Before the meeting of about 80 people began he walked up to me and shook my hand saying, “So glad you could make it!” My email to him had included my website in my signature line. I realized he had taken the time to look at the site and thus recognized me from my photo. He had gone out of his way to identify me and make me feel welcome!
Things got weirder after the meeting concluded. I went up to him and thanked him for replying to my message and he repeated his lunch invitation! His initial invite was not the shallow and empty courtesy invite that so many others make in our society. He actually meant it! He even suggested a day to meet. We exchanged emails again the next day and agreed to meet this last Tuesday.
He surprised me again the morning of the meeting with an email confirmation, then continued his ridiculous behavior by showing up on time for lunch. His unanticipated niceness continued for the next 75 minutes as he openly and graciously shared about the church and his heart for the community. I asked direct questions about doctrine, church government and his philosophy for ministry and he answered all of them without a trace of defensiveness. I am a man who is hard to impress but I walked away truly impressed with his kindness and professionalism.
As I reflect back on our interactions and conversations I am reminded how important simple things can be. Kindness, promptness, courtesy and respect are all too often lacking in our culture. These attributes are seemingly small and insignificant but their presence or absence reveal much about a person’s heart and character. When we are kind, prompt, courteous and respectful, we tell others that we value them in a powerful way, a way that may be shocking!
When I consider the manner in which Jesus dealt with others I am reminded that He was the perfect role model for interpersonal interaction. The gospel writers describe His encounters with shamed prostitutes, tax collectors, social outcasts, soldiers, religious zealots, rich nobles, blind beggars, grieving mourners, adulterous women and little children. In every circumstance He loved and served. If we are to truly bear His name we can do no less.
I purposely did not name the church or the pastor. Based on our brief interaction I do not believe he would want to be identified or praised. If you live in the Huntington Beach area and are looking for a church, send me a private message through the site and I will tell you more about the church he pastors. Remember I can be followed on twitter @bartbarrettmd and that you can subscribe to the blog to have posts delivered directly to your inbox.