Monday, March 06, 2006

The Barber Shop Church

Saturday I went to the barber shop for my monthly trim…since my hair is so short, it doesn’t take long for me to start looking a little shaggy…my wife is always quick to point out my need to visit the barber.

I have found a little treasure here in Sugar Land/Richmond…Oscar’s Barber Shop. If you’re a man, you may be able to relate to me here. If you’re a man that is “folically challenged” or one that shaves your head not just because it’s in style…I hope you hear me when I say...I’m glad I still get to go to the barber. Now, back to my point…the disappearance of real barber shops is becoming quite alarming. No longer can a man just drop a $10 bill and walk out with a positive haircut experience. Instead, we’re flooded with all the mainstream wannabe barber shops like TGF and Sports Clips. If we don’t choose these…we’re left with the not so masculine privately owned “salons.” This is very disheartening for a guy who grew up going to the classic barber shop on a regular basis. After years of searching…I have found Oscar’s on Hwy 90 at 99. Incredible…you walk in and there’s lots of wood…already feeling very masculine. Wooden frame mirrors…big oak counters like you would see at a Bass Pro Shop or something like that. And Nolan Ryan memorabilia everywhere....what guy doesn’t like Nolan Ryan? Remember that time he got in a fight when Robin Ventura charged the mound. Nolan landed six “seasoned” punches on that poser. What a beautiful day in baseball history!

Anyway, there’s lots of dudes here too…not dudes that make you feel uncomfortable when they run their hands through your hair…but dudes that might kick your butt if you looked at them wrong. Then there’s Oscar…sort of the Granddad of all barbers. He’s not in the first chair when you walk in…but instead the very last one. The first one would insinuate that easy access to him is permissible. Oh no…if you want your hair cut by Oscar, you either make an appointment, wait until Oscar is ready, or get the luck of the draw while waiting in line. Now let me tell you…a haircut by any of these guys is a quality experience in grooming…they go the distance. You can guarantee that they’ll bust out the warm shaving cream and straight razor at the end to really give that clean cut. Then out comes the chrome plated hand massager, cheap aftershave, and good ole’ white barber shop powder…don’t even know what that stuff is, but it has a smell all its own. This whole experience usually takes about 45 minutes…

A haircut with Oscar on the other hand…well, let’s just say on Saturday, some guy was getting his hair cut with Oscar…two men got their haircut before Oscar was ever finished with this guy. So I watched the master at work…he was definitely not in a hurry. And the client had plenty of hair to cut…he had a full head of hair and a big audacious gotee. So I look over and there’s Oscar trimming up his gotee with great precision. I’m thinking, well this is almost over…then I look and the guy is fully reclined in his chair and Oscar is giving him a full shave with a straight razor and warm shaving cream. After that, a hot towel over his face for 5 minutes…45 minutest later the guy is still there…this time Oscar looks down and notices chest hair coming out the collar of his shirt. “Would you like that trimmed?” he asked… “Of course” …the guy doesn’t want to look like a wolf…needless to say; I think Oscar got a pretty huge tip after this haircut.

How does this all parallel with the church…God set up an order for the church to operate under, much like the barber shop. If the church was a one man show…the lead pastor would be tending to every person that walks through the door. There’s no possible way he could do that…so he hires a couple guys to help out...they end up tending to as many as they can…but there’s no way they could handle every person in the church. So they begin to raise up other leaders as well…and this process continues to replicate.

When it comes to the Pastoral Care of the church…there are certain people that require the attention of the lead pastor…much like the very hairy guy at the barber shop required the craft of a skilled barber. But obviously, everyone can’t meet, have lunch with, or counsel with the lead pastor. If he were to meet with everyone…he couldn’t possibly lead the church effectively. Likewise, this trickles down to his other staff members…they too can only handle so many personal appointments. Eventually we have to be raising up other leaders to care for the body. Thus, we have the priesthood of the believer. Pastoral care of the church is put in the hands of many lay people that the church leadership has empowered. This frees the pastors/elders to operate in their biblical capacities while the body operates as it is supposed to. Are the lay people as equipped to handle major pastoral issues…sometimes…but at other times it does need to be referred to leadership. It’s so common in the local church for us to think that the lead pastors need to be our best friend and always there when we need to talk. The reality is that that is impossible. Just like I can’t walk into Oscar’s and demand that I be next in line for a hair cut with the head hair cutter.

This by all means is not an exhaustive commentary on the matter above, but just a quick glimpse…we could definitely go down some major trails of discussion here.

Have I ever had my haircut by Oscar…yes, I got lucky my second time to visit his shop. He was the only one working. We had a good talk about 25 years of haircutting, the Astros and lawn cutting. What a great way to spend an hour of my life!

Stepping back to 1720

Today I am sitting in the chapel of Mission San Jose in San Antonio Tx. A quiet little chapel in a mission that was built in 1720. I've sung in this particular chapel twice when I was in high school…brings back some memories. Everything in this building except the pew I’m sitting on is made of rock, slate, or some other petrified element. As old as everything in here looks…like the rusty chandelier that is above my head, I am confident that God is here with me now. Why am I reminded that He’s here now? There are pieces of antiquity all around, representing the faith of those who have come before me…then I look up at the “stage” area of this chapel, and there, bolted to the wall, is a column of Bose speakers! (as if they’re needed here, I cleared my throat and the sound went on for about 15 seconds) Slightly out of place these speakers…but just a reminder that God shows himself to every generation…He awaits our response to His revealed glory. People are filing past me as I type…some with zero reverence for such a cool place…and others you would think were waiting for the pope himself. Regardless, it serves as a great place for me to meet with God.

I just finished a long lunch with a friend and fellow worship pastor here in San Antonio. I like spending time with him because he has walked this road of being a worship pastor for much longer than I have. He’s one of those guys you’d like to have around at any given leadership crisis, put a quarter in the slot and wait for his answer. At the same time, doing something like that would totally repulse him, so he probably wouldn’t let that relationship exist. Regardless…I find that our occasional meetings are incredibly insightful and fruitful for me.

Today we talked about some of the ins and outs of worship ministry. Seems like he brings Zeph. 3 up quite a bit…probably be a good passage for me to become familiar with. As I look at it…heck if you look at the whole book…God is up to something. He’s putting to ruin those who despise him and leaving behind a remnant of faithful servants. Towards the end of Ch. 3 in the Message, he says this…

“In the end, I’ll turn things around for the people. I’ll give them a language undistorted, unpolluted, words to address God in worship and, united, to serve me “shoulder to shoulder” (NIV substitution). They’ll come from beyond the Ethiopian rivers, they’ll come praying – all my scattered, exiled people will come home with offerings for worship. You’ll no longer have to be ashamed of all those acts of rebellion. I’ll have gotten rid of your arrogant leaders. No more pious strutting on my holy hill! I’ll leave a core of people among you who are poor in spirit – what’s left of Israel that’s really Israel. They’ll make their home in God. This core holy people will not do wrong. They won’t lie, won’t use words to flatter or seduce. Content with who they are and where they are, unanxious, they’ll live at peace.”

Sometimes I think we get caught up thinking God doesn’t work this way anymore…but why wouldn’t He. He still cares about His fame and His renown. As ministries grow and His kingdom goes forward, He will continue to rid those who are going to distract from His vision. What’s left will be a core of people that are unswervingly devoted to the call of God, people who will lay their lives on the line for the gospel of Christ. Going to a worship team level…these are people who don’t get upset because you ask them to change the way they do/play/sing something. They don’t glare because you don’t put them up in the mix every week. They aren’t the ones that try to sing or play every time we stop rehearsing so you can “overhear” how good they sound and want to use them for a specific part. They aren’t the ones that come to rehearsal unprepared and looking for ways to hide the fact that they haven’t even listened to the music. Instead, what will be left are those who could care less about their own name or their own agenda, but rather, take on the “Kingdom” agenda. When we look at ministry with a Kingdom perspective; our personal preferences, perceptions, and expectations all fall to the ground. We take up the mighty vision of the Lion of Judah! He is incredibly strong and has utmost vigor for His own fame…ours is sure to take a back seat!