Monday, November 15, 2004

A Dog Named Spot

My Dad and I were watching TV sometime back and during a commercial break there was a rather obnoxious character selling furniture. After the commercial Dad commented that there must be good money in selling furniture, as they sure run a lot of TV ads. We then talked about what goofy things people do to sell products…especially cars. Seems like every local car dealer on TV is yelling, running around the parking lot, waving their arms just to get you to see their ad, and “come on down” and take a look at those fabulous deals!

When I was a kid growing up in Los Angeles I remember the Cal Worthington commercials --“HERE’S CAL WORTHINGTON, AND HIS DOG SPOT.” “Spot” was a camel, monkey or elephant that cowboy Cal would ride . All that to sell a Ford! (go to to enjoy his commericals)


Last week a friend of mine came through the country and I called him at the airport hotel where he was staying. He was telling me about the conference he and two members of his church had attended. He was excited to tell me there were over 9,000 adults in attendance and that those national pastors were planting churches all over the nation. He was excited. I was excited for my friend.

When he asked me how I was doing I felt embarrassed. “I’m doing good, “ I replied, hesitantly. “I just finished teaching 23 M.A. students at a leading seminary in cross-cultural studies; I’m writing more material and getting ready to go to Cambodia to teach.”

“Sounds interesting,” he said in a tone that sounded less than interested. I hung up the phone and thought, “I need a dog named Spot.”

Okay, I admit, my work is not as glamorous as others. And yes, I do wish people would understand and even appreciate what I do. Those 23 students I teach will one day be the leaders that will put on the events that my friends will pay $10,000 to be a part of for four days. The nationals who attend those conferences are the ones I have had a part in shaping and forming to take the Gospel across cultural barriers. Important and vital work? Yes, but no balloons.

There are all types of analogies I could give, but it would sound self-serving, or perhaps more accurately, self-protective. Deep down inside most people recognize that “big” is not synonymous with “anointed,” in spite of how they interpret the “Prayer of Jabez.” Jesus' ministry didn't have the look of a clearance-sale, though the crowds were forever asking Him to show them another miracle. The reality is, in God’s sovereignty He uses the big talkers, like Peter, and those people like Thaddeus, who no one knows anything about. Saying, “It isn’t fair,” is a waste of energy and a bit whinny. The world is thus and nothing is going to change it.

My friend really does get it, for which I am grateful. He’s been in the “business” long enough to know the difference between hype and reality; between those who faithfully serve Christ with little fanfare versus those who can’t say much about their ministry because they really aren’t doing anything. I do wish there were more discerning Christians like him, and, I must admit, there are moments when I really do wish I had a dog named Spot.

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