For the past thirteen years I have been a pastor in New England. At the end of last year, I left my last church to focus on finishing a PhD I have been working on. Just when I thought it was done, I was given an opportunity to expand on it through transferring to the University of Amsterdam. I decided to take that opportunity. I did however, at that point need to go back to work. I assumed it would again be in a church as a pastor. That’s my calling right? But God had other plans. After months of interviews and opportunities, the one door that ended up opening was working at my local cigar shop.
It is no secret that I enjoy cigars. In fact, I worked at a cigar shop when I was a student in seminary. The people I worked with back then nicknamed me “Pastor Padrón,” because they knew I was in seminary and my favorite brand of cigars was Padrón. Padrón still is my favorite brand, and I am still called “Pastor Padrón” all these years later.
It is my contention that God knows no distinction between the sacred and the secular. All of life is sacred. Christianity is not a role we play at certain times or only with certain people. It encompasses all of life. Jesus is always with us, always speaking to us, always teaching us…even those of us who are working at cigar shops.
This is the inaugural post in a new series specifically highlighting things God is teaching me during this season in which He has me placed at Two Guys Smoke Shop. These posts will all be searchable in the “Pastor Padrón” category.
Ready then? Here we go…
When someone comes into the shop where I work, in order to help them find what they are looking for, I need to ask what they want. Sometimes the customer knows exactly what they want and I can take them right to what they are looking for.
Other times we may not have exactly what they or they may not exactly know or they may want to try something new. If that is the case, I need to talk with the customer and ask questions so that I can get an idea about what they like and why they are looking. Are they looking to get something for themselves or for someone else? Is it for a special occasion? Something light or something more full bodied? Do they want something mild and creamy or more spicy or peppery? What size do they want? Do they like Dominican, Honduran, or Nicaraguan? How many do they want? What are they looking to spend?
In order for me to help them I need to be listening and making suggestions based on what they want, not on what I like or what I would do. Of course, it is always a happy thing when their tastes line up with mine, but that is not always the case.
In order for me to help them well, I not only have to listen well, I need to know what we have in the store, and I need to be familiar enough with what we have that I know what is what. Cigars can look an awful lot alike one to another. You don’t want to give a strong peppery cigar to someone who was looking for a mild and light tasting one.
If I have done a good job listening and they end up being pleased with what they leave with and they had a good experience, they will likely come back when they want another cigar.
I am sure you are wondering where this is all going. What I have been learning is that discipling someone in their Christian walk is very similar. Of course, there is no selling involved. Christians are not salespeople. God has never had nor needed any salespeople because He has got nothing to sell. God’s grace is free for anyone who wants to take it.
But to really be effective in helping someone in their walk with Jesus, we need to know who that person is in Christ, what Christ is doing in them and how we can partner with them, and what does God want to do through them. The way we find that out is by getting to know them and asking questions.
To find out who they are in Christ, we need to ask questions like: Are they a Christian or are they not? If so, are they a new believer or have they been a believer for some time. Do they attend church? How well do they know their Bible? Do they even have one?
To find out what Christ is doing in them and how we can partner with we need to ask questions like: Where do you see God working in your life? How is Jesus challenging you, changing you, convicting you? How are you doing spiritually? What questions, doubts, or struggles do you have in your faith? What are you going through right now at home, at work, in your relationships?
To find out what God wants to do through them we can ask questions like: Do you know what your spiritual gifts are? How are you active in your church? What do you like to do? What brings you joy? What has God been teaching you in your pain and suffering?
And like needing to know what is in the store so I can help a customer, you need to know what’s in Jesus’ heart and mind; and that means knowing the Scriptures. It means we need to be doing our best at learning to love God and love others. The better our relationship with Jesus is, the better we will hear Him when we ask these questions and the better we will be able to discern how and where God is working in them and what He wants to do through them. That is important, because we need to be partnering with God in what He is doing. What God is doing and where He is working in them, and what He wants to do through them may not be what we want God doing, or where we want to work on them most, or what we would like them doing.
If we humbly and lovingly listen to the people Jesus wants us helping, and prayerfully discern and faithfully follow the Spirit’s leading for them, we will be very effective in helping understand who they are in Christ, in helping them grow and mature in their faith and love so that they can be equipped to work with the Spirit to work out the grace that Jesus is working into them (Philippians 2:12-13).