My sons Jacob and Zachary have baseball cards. Hundreds of them. They like to spend time with them, because the cards feed two of their passions: baseball and numbers. They organize and re-organize the cards. They play fictional baseball games, complete with playoffs, with them. Most important, they show the cards off to their friends. Even adults who come over to the house are likely to be introduced to the baseball cards collection by my sons.
I have a friend named Frank. He's retired, and is an expert woodworker. Visitors to his house will be treated to the tour: he loves to show you the gorgeous cherrywood rocking horse, the grandfather clock, and countless other items he has made out of wood. They're all quite beautiful; very impressive. It's Frank's passion, and he loves to share what he has done with others.
For the last 15 years, I have had a friend named Tim Wright. His title was Pastor of Small Groups and Assimilation. We all know what a small group is, but "assimilation" means that Tim did much more than meet you when you first visited Grace Community Church. He got to know you, figure out your experiences, your gifts and talents, and what is most important to you; what really gets you going. Armed with that information, Tim had a knack of finding a place for you to serve. Typically, but not necessarily, within the church, he'd find a ministry that needed someone just like you. If there wasn't one, he'd create it. He was a master at helping you find your place in advancing the Kingdom of God.
Now, here's where it gets most interesting: once he helped you find your place, he liked to brag about you to others. I cannot count the times I'd be sitting in a small group setting, and Tim would ask everyone to go around the room and introduce themselves. You might say your name and your spouse's name, maybe one tidbit of information, but Tim would always interject some ministry you were involved in.
It would go like this:
"Hi, I'm Bob, and this is my wife Kathy, and we've been at grace for 8 years". And Tim would interrupt and say: "You know, folks, Bob and Kathy have been leading a home group for 7 years. It's been really life-giving, and we've seen some great new leaders come out of that group."
A few years ago, Tim got to hire an assistant, Carol. He never introduced her as Carol, though. It was always "This is my awesome assistant, Carol Weideman." Tim introduced people that way because that's how he thought of people.
At the beginning of 2010, when Tim was undergoing treatment for his brain tumor, I read Don Miller's heartfelt tribute to his friend and mentor David Gentiles, who had just died suddenly. In it, he said that the people in Gentiles' life were like his baseball card collection. I knew instantly that God was speaking to me that this was true about Tim Wright. He not only loved to help people excel, to be all that they were made for, but he loved to brag about it. Not to brag in a sinful prideful way, but to rejoice, to enjoy that his life's work was making a difference through so many people. Thankfully, I got a chance in January to share this insight with Tim personally.
By himself, Tim could only impact a few dozen people, but through others, he could impact thousands. And when he saw that people were finding a way to make an impact, he loved to tell others about it. Like Jacob and Zachary and the baseball cards, he showed you and me off to others. Like Frank and the things made of wood, he wanted to display you to the world. Tim took a special kind of satisfaction in watching his friends find their place.
Since Tim passed away, many people have joked that Tim has replaced St Peter as heaven's door greeter. On earth, Tim was great at that initial meeting, but he didn't stop there. He got to know people long after that first day. So my vision of what Tim is doing now is a little different from the door greeter scenario envisioned by others, and it's probably just as biblically sound ;) In the picture in my mind, he is hanging with his new friends, saints from years past. he has special-ordered some laminated cards, the size of baseball cards, and he has a stack of them. And each card has a person, a friend who Tim helped find and fulfill their purpose in this life. And Tim's pulling out a card, telling his new friends about this person on this card. "Here's my friend James. Let me tell you about him..."
"For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand so that we would walk in them." Ephesians 2:10