Chasing Fried Chicken
I didn’t quite understand what Herbie was saying. What I thought I heard him say was, “Do ya chase fried chicken?”
With a befuddled look I responded, “No…”
His pause and stern gaze made me feel uneasy. Obviously my answer was not what he was anticipating. It seemed as if he wanted me to say something else. I was becoming more nervous because I was standing in front of the entire congregation of the church. I had been preaching in the rural Nelson County, KY church for a few weeks, and now was the time for them to call me as pastor. Herbie had asked that I stand in front of the congregation and answer a few questions before they announced me as the pastor. It certainly was not the typical way of doing things, but I didn’t know any better. I was only beginning as a pastor.
Herbie is a grizzly man in his early seventies. The skull and cross bones tattoo between his index finger and thumb hints at a much darker past. But Herbie gave his heart to the Lord several years ago. His life is now full of light. And his entire life focus makes a beeline straight to the cross. His one desire is to do everything he can to facilitate people coming to Christ.
“I’m a follower of Christ, pastor, so I now work hard for the Lord,” he would always tell me.
He was a bricklayer by trade, but now he is retired. He is a hard-working man who still dabbles in farming. One of his first projects for his church was to build a fellowship hall. He was in his sixties when he built the entire thing with his own hands and almost no help. He paid for the building materials with his own money. To this day he is still bush-hogging around the church, painting ceilings, installing a bathroom, and laying tile.
Pareto’s Principle states that 80% of consequences stem from 20% of causes; it is also known as the 80/20 rule. In the church’s case, many times we see 20% of the people doing 80% of the work. Or as many church leaders may tell you, it is more like 90/10 or worse.
Standing before the congregation that day, I didn’t realize yet that Herbie alone was doing about 90% of the work for the church. I was merely trying to decipher what he was asking me.
I began to feel terribly nervous; his gaze had turned into a cold stare.
He mumbled again (with what seemed a few less marbles in his mouth), “Do you eat fried chicken?”
“Oh! Yes, I do,” I said quickly.
There was more – and now I knew why he wanted more of an answer the first time he asked. He had asked two questions, not one.
“Do ya chase women, Brother Rainer?” was the second question.
My face turned tomato. I looked at my girlfriend (now my wife). I thought, “Did he really just ask me that in front of the church?”
Then I realized that I looked like I was actually thinking about the question while gazing at her.
“NO! Absolutely not,” I spurted confidently.
Herbie smiled. He had obviously played this joke on a few fresh, young pastors prior to me.
Herbie and I would get along just fine from there on out. He had his own way of communicating, but his actions were what rang so true for me. He simply did what needed to be done around the church. No one asked him; he just assumed responsibility. There are a myriad of churches out there with their own ‘Herbies’ quietly assuming responsibility. These folks are not looking to grow their own kingdom; they are just following Christ’s lead for their life. They want no recognition, just a healthy church. I know that many churches would be closing their doors if it were not for these faithful servants. My first church is one of them.
I will never forget the lessons learned from that church. Herbie taught me how to be an ant. Proverbs 6:6 reveals that we are to be wise and diligent workers like the ant. God has granted Christians spiritual gifts. We are to use these gifts for his glory.
The day I told the church that I felt God was calling me to serve elsewhere, Herbie looked at me, smiled, shook my hand firmly and said, “It’s been good working with you, brother.”
As a bi-vocational minister at the time, I wish I could have done more. I wish that I could have been more efficient with my time. I wish that I could have worked a little harder, like the ant. And clearly, there will always be more to do in the church. But Herbie’s parting words still bring me joy. I will hang on to the meaning behind those words for eternity.