By Scott T. Gill
Eugene was youth pastor at a nearby the local Assembly of God church. Fellow youth pastors would gather on Mondays before sunrise at Eugenes.
Eugene was jovial and welcoming and loved to talk about the Lord. When you prayed, Eugene prayed aloud as well, his voice rising in excitement like you may hear in an old black congregation. Then there was Tim. Tim was the radical in the group. A cancer survivor, Tim lived each day as if it were his last. He was not the First Baptist Church type, and you know he probably ruffled a ton of feathers, but he was loved by all the kids he worked with and respected all over town.
There was Wayne. Wayne was our senior and had worked with teens for years. He was the expert of the group and the youth pastor at the mega church in town. Wayne always laughed and you could count on him for all sorts of good ideas. Then there was me. I was in a small church on the outskirts of town. I am not sure how to characterize myself, except that I was completely committed to eating that breakfast each week. There were others here and there. The Catholics from down the street came periodically and sometimes a Presbyterian would drop by. The local guy at the Methodist church was committed for a while. No matter who came in the door, we were more than willing to share Eugenes culinary masterpieces.
The eggs were always cooked well and sometimes chorizo was mixed in. When Eugene made biscuits, he often included piping hot cream gravy to pile in top of the steaming southern treat. I cannot recall a time when the food was ever bad, even better, the company was always encouraging. It really wasnt the breakfast that attracted me though. It was something else, something that I had always longed for but never really experienced to that degree. I think we had a taste of true grace-oriented community.
Each of us had different backgrounds and differing beliefs on some issues. Tim had never attended seminary, and I was going to one of the hardest schools in the country. Eugene was a charismatic and spoke in tongues, while Wayne was in a cool seeker church that made everything user-friendly. Yet, despite our church and denominational differences, we were able to come to a common ground and enjoy those Mondays. We prayed for one another and there was always a time for a devotional. There were even instances that we discussed our different outlooks in theology, but we all knew that we must agree to disagree on minor issues and love each other as Jesus would.
But everybody did not appreciate Eugenes cooking. Well, lets just say they didnt want to try it.
After meeting for a while we had an idea. Why not pool our resources periodically and plan some events so we could all work together towards reaching the student population with the gospel? Students in our town were youth group hoppers. They bounced around to the next new thing on the block. So, doing some events together might be a remedy to such fickleness. We would make it so that the church that invited the newcomer would be the one to do further follow up. With all of our resources joined the teenagers of our town would see that the youth ministries didnt compete with one another, and we would be able to have quality events that we could all enjoy.
It seemed a meal one couldnt resist, until it was served it to some of our Senior Pastors. What if the teen starts going to First Baptist? We are not going to work with charismatics, what if they start speaking in tongues and take our kids away? I like to see all these teens here, doing an event with other churches means they will not be here. Sam simply could have said he didnt like green eggs and ham.
This took the wind out of our sails, and in time we began to skip breakfast. The best meal of the day and we were pushing the plate away. Why do we as evangelicals seem so determined on not being an answer to Jesus prayer (John 17)? Why do we shoot at our own foxholes? How Why do we insist to continue castle building when we are meant to build the Kingdom?
What our pastors needed was a little Life cereal. It seemed that, like Mikey, they hated everything. But maybe if they would just try it they would like it.
What I experienced at those breakfasts and what I desire may seem like a fleeting pipe-dream. Leaders tell me that it cannot happen without losing our doctrinal distinction. Yet, what about Jesus prayer? Was His prayer in vain? Is this the one thing the King of Kings wants that He cannot have? I am not convinced of this. In fact, if the infighting among us is the incurable disease, if it is the AIDS of the evangelical witness, then the message of Christ simply is not true. For the sake of my soul I cannot and will not believe that.
It was several years ago that I had a taste of Eugenes eggs. Now I am a Senior pastor, but I still long for that breakfast. I am still longing for the church to work together in unity to reach our city. Funny, we were forced to the table a few months ago when Katrina hit. Our town was flooded with evacuees. The city was slow in response. FEMA was completely overloaded. There were people in motels that were hungry. We were forced to come together and serve breakfast, lunch, and dinner. All sorts of churches and many church plants were forced to do what we had tried to pull off so many years ago and none of our churches suffered for it. If anything, the one resounding statement I heard was how amazing it was to see so many Christians and churches from all denominations working together in the love of Christ.
I can still taste Eugenes eggs.
This article was originally written for our friends at Matthew’s House Project.