The year was 2001. Our Net Team was initially made up of three couples. The other two couples were in their thirties with small children, a different generation than us, with different perspectives on how to do things.
We are from the first year of the “baby boomers” and also have a lot of the traits of the former generation “the builders.” For me, to get things done quickly, efficiently and inexpensively was very fulfilling.
Our teammates had exactly the opposite values: doing things carefully and with excellence was very important to them. As you can imagine, a team comprised of people with opposite approaches to getting things done was a prescription for a collision.
Our differences came to a head when we decided to rent the apartment across the hall from the bookstore. This would give us a meeting room, a storage area and a second bathroom. The place had originally been wallpapered and then repainted at some time in the distant past. “Great!” I thought, “All we have to do is put a fresh coat of paint over what’s already there and we are ready to go.”
My teammates, however, wanted to have the wallpaper stripped, the walls re-plastered and then painted. This, we found, would cost about $1500.
They were also not happy with the black metal bookshelves we had inherited. They wanted white ones. And, no, painting the ones we had would not do! New white bookshelves would cost another $1500.
Not only did I consider this outrageously expensive, but the money they wanted to spend would be coming out of my own work fund!
The team meeting where we discussed this was an increasingly “hot” one. As our interaction went on, I got more and more red in the face and talked louder and faster. We ended, at least, on a civil note, agreeing to pray about these proposals, but I was not a happy camper.
And pray I did, a lot. “Lord, help them to see where they are off base, help them to see that we need to be more careful with the money you’ve entrusted to us!”
The Lord listened patiently until I wound down. Then, clear as a bell, the thought came, “Let them have their way.”
“But Lord! Their ideas aren’t right!”
“Let them have their way.”
After a long silence on my part, I finally responded, “Ok, Lord, I will follow your lead. After all, the money is yours.”
The next team meeting went much better as I agreed to all their proposals. On the way home one of our teammates rode with us.
“That was a good team meeting,” he commented, “it went really well.”
“Yes,” I agreed, “Did you notice that it went well because I changed my position on every point to support your ideas?”
“Oh….yes, yes, you did, didn’t you?”
The anguish I had experienced in going against my desires had not even registered on his radar screen! But then again, it did not matter. Doing what the Lord wants is what is important. And valuing relationships above procedures, policies or money is very important.
After that incident, it was evident that my teammates were more willing to listen to my input. By laying down my desires on certain points important to me but unimportant from an eternal perspective, the Lord magnified my influence in the lives of others. That is certainly more valuable than any thing money can buy. And for me, it was stepping out of the trap of selfishness into the freedom of servant hood.
Now we could begin to use the bookstore to hold public seminars in an attempt to find spiritually interested people. Looking for subjects that interested people in general, we had sessions on handling stress, on what it means to be wise, on women’s issues, on parenting and on the seven secrets of happiness, among others.
Since our meeting room at the bookstore was small, we held these “first level” public seminars in a nearby hotel and made the content general in nature. That way no one could accuse us of trapping them into a Christian presentation.
At the end of the seminar we would then invite those interested to attend an additional, nonpublic discussion of the same subject from a biblical perspective. This worked well to identify those with any spiritual interest.
By the time we discontinued the seminars, there had been hundreds who had attended our events. The largest one took place when the author of the book Five Languages of Love came and spoke at two large gatherings. Along with the good exposure of biblical truth and the sale of books, we were pleased to hear that a marriage was saved, although the couple did not come to Christ.
Drawing from the experience of others who were also holding Christian events in the city, we notified the “Minority Desk” at the police headquarters each time we had plans to hold a seminar. They would send plain-clothes policemen to attend each of our public events.
“For protection,” they said.
“For observation,” we thought.
We later learned that as a business we did not need to notify the police, but now that we had, we were on their radar screen. We would later reap the negative consequences of that, all of which the Lord would allow for His good reasons.
On my birthday, 2001