A Tale of Two Cities

One of the things I enjoyed as DOM was visiting with preachers and the coffee shop was a great place to do it and to find out a lot of helpful things about the community, the preacher and the church.
One day I went by to see a certain preacher. After we talked a little I said, “Let’s go get a cup of coffee.” He had coffee in the kitchen, but I discovered he was no stranger at the local restaurant where the “good ol’ boys” drank coffee. As we drove the six blocks or so, we would pass some one walking or working in a yard and the preacher would wave. I asked who that was and he would tell me along with where they went to church. We got to the restaurant and found there were several other people there. They greeted the preacher and all had a few words with him. The server came up, called him by name, and he asked about her kids. While we drank our coffee he told me the name of everyone in the place and where they went to church. It seemed that everyone knew him and even though they did not all go to his church, or even any church. You got the idea that he was a friend that they respected and trusted and would feel comfortable talking with. He was someone they would certainly call if they had trouble or a need and that would give him an opening to witness to them about the love and saving power of Jesus.
A few days later I visited another preacher in another town. When I said, “Let’s go get a cup of coffee.” He said he had coffee he could fix, but I told him that I would like to go to the local restaurant. As we drove the six or eight blocks to the restaurant we passed people and I would ask, “Who is that?” He didn’t know and it was the same with the people in the restaurant. As we went in, of course, everybody looked at us. I spoke, they nodded back. The preacher acted like he didn’t want anyone to know he was there. When the server came I asked if he knew her, he didn’t. As we visited I found out that he was afraid his church people would think he was goofing off and wasting time if he went for coffee or a coke at the restaurant. I knew his people well enough to know that this was not the case. They would be pleased he was getting out in the community. We didn’t stay very long at the coffee place. He was uncomfortable being there and he told me he had to get back to the church and study. I discovered that this well educated preacher much preferred being at church “studying” than being out in the community meeting people.
Now there is nothing wrong with a preacher studying, in fact they all should at least a little, and the coffee shop is not the only place to meet people. But let me ask you, of the two, who do think had a church that was reaching people and ministering in their community and which do you think had a church that was struggling to keep the doors open?

Bill Kneisly

3 thoughts on “A Tale of Two Cities

  1. Richard Taylor Reply

    I was thinking that maybe this is a trick question at first, Bill. You paint a picture of two extremes. We should find a healthy balance between the “preacher” role and the “pastor” role. I would agree with you though that the time taken in building relationships is of utmost value in ministry. You feel like you have accomplished something after preaching a Sunday sermon. Building strong healthy friendships in a community takes a long time – and harder to measure those kind of achievements.

  2. Lee Martin Reply

    Obviously the pastor who visited the local coffee shop. This is not a new problem, I had a similar conversation nearly 30 years ago in Oklahoma. The pastor who followed me at a church in a small town wanted to know how to break into this clanish town. But he refused to “chat” at the local coffee shot, saying it was a waste of time. The reality was simple, “we as clergy need to work at rubbing shoulders with folks outside the walls of our church buildings if we want folks to come insid

  3. Bill Kneisly Reply

    RT, I didn’t know when I went to the coffee shop that I was building relationships. I thought I was just being friendly and letting people know that I was interested in them and they could look at me as one of them and not some holier than thou preacher who was too good to lower himself to visit with them.

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