Flaming BBQ Grill close-up. Background  with space for text or image.

As a wedding gift, my in-laws bought my wife and me a propane gas grill. I had heard of charcoal, but because I now owned a propane grill and a marriage license, I assumed the two vessels of outdoor cooking were basically the same.

What a sad and naive little man I was.

A couple years later, at a good friend’s house, I watched (for the first time) the process of charcoal cooking. Then I tasted the burgers. And then I saw God.

Okay, maybe the experience was not quite that intense.

But I did convert.  

The next Father’s Day I had the blessing of buying my first charcoal grill, the one I still have, and I have never looked back. So, as a kickoff post for the Grace Table family, here are three reasons why charcoal rocks (cue the rimshot).

1. Charcoal takes time.
In our fast-paced culture where most foods are micro-nuked out of a plastic box, charcoal demands not only that true cooking take place, but that the chef also be truly present.

My favorite meal on the charcoal grill is slow-roasted pork BBQ. It marinades over night in a dry rub, only to await the heat of a wood-chip soaked and glowing charcoal heated grill cooking it for six to eight hours. There is nothing like it when the meat tenderly falls off the bone, and it is worth every hour I’ve put into it.

2. Charcoal means deep flavor.
The idea of taking time is intentional. When something slows down, the flavor goes deeper. Slow cooking (and I’m not talking crock pot here) means that the seasonings, sauces, and combinations have the longevity of the cook to work their way deep into the dish.

You take your propane burger, I’ll wait for the charcoal one.

3. Charcoal means commitment.
This is probably elitist nonsense, but I think of myself as more committed to cooking because I’m a charcoal guy. I told you earlier, I’m snobby about it like I’m snobby about my Apple laptop and iPhone. You’re welcome to have your opinions, but of course you’re wrong. Snobby, I said.

When you ditch propane you commit.  
You commit to time and effort and patience in your meals.
You reschedule evenings because it will demand that you have more freedom and space in your day to day.

Maybe more than anything else, my charcoal grill has been the metaphor for my pastoral ministry. I have the privilege of leading a young church plant in a forgotten region of rural West Virginia. We are not a sexy, trendy, progressive community full of artists and entrepreneurs looking for a modern style of church.  

But we’re here. And God is growing us in the tedious work of transformation.

Ministry–what I define as life shared with others for the sake of Kingdom transformation–demands the same time, flavor, and commitment of that charcoal grill.  

I am learning, over and over again, that shepherding others (which is what the word pastor literally means) cannot be microwaved. It is slow and painful and asks me to reorient my own life. It is about hospitality; sharing life with those around us in candid ways. It is about prayer and reflection and more than anything waiting…

Waiting for the evidence of God’s sovereign hand.
Waiting to see that marriage healed.
Waiting for the prodigal child to return to faith.
Waiting for the addict to take the right step.
Waiting for the flavor of relationships, the time of development, and the commitment of community to work its way deep into the life of others walking through this transformation.

So go ahead and tap your metal tank to see if there’s any gas left in it. And forgive me if I’ve offended your culinary prowess. But the next time you smell that summer charred smoke rising from someone’s back porch, may you slow down enough to simmer in the work of God’s transformative process in your life and the community around you.

Justin Bowers / Posts / Blog
Justin serves as the Lead Pastor of New Community Church in Buckhannon, WV. He and his wife Carrie--an avid photographer and Kindergarten teacher--moved back to their hometown in 2012 to plant the church. With their three daughters, they spend a great deal of time living life in the mountains, playing Barbies, and dreaming big dreams. Justin is currently a PhD student studying Organizational Leadership at Regent University. He seeks to reveal the favor and delight of God the Father to all those with whom he has the opportunity to interact.
  • Mary Bonner
    Mary Bonner

    I get this and feel the same way about charcoal vs. gas. My husband is the grill cooker and a great one at that! I love the analogy of shepherding, caring for God’s people and the waiting. Yes, the waiting can be the hardest part, but so worth it!

    November 19th, 2014 12:52
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    Christie Purifoy

    Oh, Justin, this is fabulous. Thank you so much. I’m a fan of slow – in the kitchen and elsewhere – but I’ve been struggling this month with a very SLOW recovery from what would seem to be an ordinary virus. Only reading your words did I realize how much might change if I were to surrender to the many slow transformations in my life and community.

    November 19th, 2014 13:03
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    Leah Adams

    What a marvelous post!! Now that you have converted to a charcoal grill, your next step is a charcoal smoker, i.e. Big Green Egg. The food that emerges from beneath that heavy porcelain cover is manna in its smokiest sense. I love how you used the charcoal analogy to ministry. Totally enjoyed this post.

    November 19th, 2014 20:35
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    Kris Camealy

    I really love this post, Justin. The slow work of transformation can be difficult to maneuver, when we are hungry for the fruit of it, but it IS worth the wait. God is always faithful. So glad you’re here at the table. 😉

    November 20th, 2014 1:39
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    Justin Bowers

    Thank you all. This community of GraceTable is pushing me to slow down, reflect, and think about the way of life that is hospitality. thank you for the thoughts!

    November 20th, 2014 19:17

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