Wednesday, June 29, 2005

To The Roof Of The Sky

I don’t know anything about construction. I love watching television shows like This Old House, but when it comes to actually doing construction work, I’m more lost than Jerry Falwell at a gay pride event.

So, I was a bit shocked to find myself two stories in the air straddling a couple of trusses in an attempt to put plywood on a new roof. Some friends from church had decided to turn their 1 story house into a 1½-story house. To save money they had decided to do the work themselves, with the help of their church friends.

From the beginning, the project seemed much larger than it had appeared on paper. Panicked, my friends pleaded for additional help. We responded in force. It was a rag tag group of volunteers to be sure. Among the many volunteers, there was a Ph.D. candidate in history, a graphic designer, and a seminary student (that would be me). If you were to look at us as physical specimens, you would not exactly imagine physical labor as something we’d excel at.

(Speaking of physical specimens, I’m still upset that I was forbidden to remove my shirt for fear that my painfully white chest would blind someone. I care about workplace safety as much as the next guy, but it was bloody hot out there.)

What we lacked in experience, we made up for in spunk. It turned into an old-fashioned barn raising (minus the square dance and flirting with your cousin). This is church at its finest – people coming together to help others out.

After one of the longer days, the academic, the designer and myself were hanging out reminiscing about the day’s events. There is a sense of pride you gain from helping to build something, especially when you know the act of building is helping someone else. Not only had we helped build the top of a house, but we had bonded with each other as well. It was empowering to do something like that.

Not only had I helped a friend out, but I had also learned that if I get too jaded by Christian ministry, I will always have a future in roofing.


Beth said...

Now the real test will be to see if the house continues to stand or not... :) hope you built it on rocks and not sand ;) Hey, Trucker Frank came in the store the other night... brought in his Relevant magazine and was very excited to learn that you were the guru... "I have to meet this guy" he said... haven't you already met?

TjL said...

There's another lesson here.

I worked as an Associate Pastor with a wonderful Senior Pastor who was close to retirement. He'd been in the ministry for 40 years (and probably will be for another 5-10 after "retirement").

His father was also a pastor... and he had a woodshop in the basement of their house.

At some point in his 40 years of ministry, my Sr. Pastor realized why his father had kept up the woodshop:

When you build something, there's a beginning, a middle, and an end. Or, more specifically, there's The Plan, The Action, and The Result.

This is something very difficult to see in the ministry, where very often those 3 steps take place in almost glacier-like time-delay action, where one pastor may start The Plan into action, another has to carry The Action, and maybe another still sees The Results.

And if there have been problems along the way, it gets even harder.

As you prepare to enter into the ministry, I'd encourage you to find ways (either in the church or outside of them) to achieve concreteness on a regular basis.

This may be why so many pastors love the summer mission trip. You go, you do something, you see what you've done.

Me? I'm not great with a hammer either, but I put together a desk for my home office last week and enjoyed using that part of my brain that I don't get to use enough.

skab said...

"Not only had I helped a friend out, but I had also learned that if I get too jaded by Christian ministry, I will always have a future in roofing."

~That was ministry! Anytime a "clergy man" seems to "get off his petistle" and help other, it's ministry. It shows that you aren't really on any petistle in the first place. Building what you can't, shows your preaching in action. I'm guessing you know all this, but I just find it funny that we see ministry so off kilter some times.

Ben said...


I have indeed met Trucker Frank. He came in and began discussing his theories of the end of the world. This was before the election, and I was especially intrigued by his theory that whoever was elected president (Bush or Kerry) would probably be the anti-Christ. He wouldn't say for sure. He was at once intriguing and frightening.

Ben said...


I totally agree with what you're saying. I hate it when pastors/christian workers take themselves and their work too seriously. Our whole lives should be ministry.

My line at the end of post was a lame attempt to end with a joke. You've got to end on a high note.

Kristofer said...

Youthblog has had a series of post about the building of a shed.

Believers' wear

The Accidental Housekeeper said...

Hello Ben,

I just found you. Please keep writing. I am a cynic myself trying to align who I am and what I know in my heart to be correct with the flavor of Christianity so popular these days. Dang it, I want my kids to learn the teachings of Jesus, without the side of hate, please.

God Bless.

jessica said...

hey-i just accidentally left a comment on your post from july 18, 2004, 'cause i typed "cynical christian" into google, and that's where it took me.
in that comment, i laughed a lot because i attended bethel college for my freshman year, 2003-2004. that was the most depressed, lonely year of my life. i wasn't sure whether or not i believed in God any more, and i felt like no one there knew where i was coming from. after 19 years of marinating in christian pop culture juices, i burned out. that was just the beginning of the cynicism that fills every day of my life with fun, disgusting sarcasm...haha.
i'm glad i found your site.

naomi said...

Okay, I'm one of the friends mentioned here who decided to do the construction on said house, or what will forever be named "The House That Church of the Cross Built"

I'm as cynical as the next guy, or girl, but when one's very stable husband is overcome with a spirit of fear and anxiety and every bone in your body is screaming spiritual warfare, you do something about it. You turn to your friends. And that is what we did. Not only with the house stand, it will stand because friends in Christ who gave of themselves with prayer, with food, with comfort and yes, with physical help. I'm so grateful for each and every one. And would in turn do the same for them in an instant.

You know, this is the first time we have been a part of a church community that was truly that - community focused. If we were still going to the mega-church that shall not be named, we could have asked for help and had an outpouring of "we'll pray for you." Thanks, I need your prayers, but I also need your help. I need to know I'm not in this alone, even though it's my house, my child, my loss of a job, my loss of a parent, my struggle with drugs, what have you. I need to know you are walking with me. And standing for me when I can't stand at all.

So, thank you for walking with us. Know that the blessing you have been to us will be returned to you. And not out of a sense of debt, but because you are a part of our community and we truly do appreciate the uniqueness of you. Sniffle.

Ben, you could have taken your shirt off. I promise, I wouldn't have mocked you too much.

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