A Tale of Tables and Leaders

Written by Carl Greene

February 10, 2021

Furniture making is like leadership development. Based on a quick Google search, this claim is fairly unique—yet also autobiographical. This tale is of a novice woodworker who completed a wooden breakfast table with some scratched hands and a unique (slightly imperfect) end result. I invested nearly two years in this table—though in fact, the table has been in the making since well before my birthyear of 1974.

Example. The idea of this table started simply enough—I noticed a rough-cut slab tastefully converted into a beautiful countertop at the home of my friends Lyle and Betty Sutton. It turns out that Lyle had come across a magnificent Cherry Tree that had blown down in his farm woodlot. Not one to let anything go to waste, he put a plan into motion. Lyle proceeded to have the log sawn into rough cut lumber, and then created a beautiful kitchen counter.

Gift. The story gets better (for me anyway). Recognizing how taken I was by this woodworking, Lyle took me to his barn and showed me a piece of lumber that could be mine. It was dusty and rough, but full of potential. It still had the bark on it to use as a live edge for the table I envisioned. There was a problem—the nearly 700 miles between Lyle’s house and mine.

Movement. Fortunately, I was traveling with my friend and mentor, Rob Appel. Rob was more than willing to work out the logistics to fit this wooden plank in our vehicle, and haul it back to Wisconsin. Rob’s assurance that this gift was worth the move was the tipping point for me—I was ready to go into table making, even though my highest woodworking accomplishment was a fish clock made in 7th grade shop class.

Refining. Back in Wisconsin, the plank needed a lot of sanding. First by hand. Then I used a palm sander my mother had given me. Then I bought a belt sander. Then I sanded some more. I think you get the picture. I kept watching YouTube videos to learn how to shape the table into its final form. Actually, the table will continue to need some more refining—I think it will always be a work in progress as I learn more about woodworking. And sanding.

Leadership Development. I think that you can see the long arc of this story with leadership development in churches. We are hungry for emerging leaders to surface in our churches—but it is not an instantaneous light switch situation. Leadership is a process. It is critical that there is an example(s) to emulate, that we are celebrating Spirit-filled leaders of our churches to provide a picture of healthy leadership.

We need to recognize the gifts, skills, and talents of the people in our churches. When we encourage the people around us, they are all the more likely to recognize how they have been blessed to be a blessing.

This takes us to movement—our encouragement goes beyond recognizing the gift to providing the person with an opportunity to exercise that gift. Through mentoring relationships and empowerment to try out roles, we open the door to leadership growth.

Which lands us with refining. There needs to be intentional refinement of the skills and talents. Encouragement to participate in training within our church or training through a network of churches opens the door for growth.

Question. Are you actively making furniture in your church? Are you living as an example, encouraging the gifts of others, mentoring movement, or providing the tools needed for refining? This is a process that we can all engage in if we are intentional. I am thankful that Rob, Lyle, and Betty have done just that in my life.

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