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Noisy Gong Family Dentistry

By Steve Cartin, MDiv | February 21, 2017

by Steve Cartin, MDiv

Go several blocks down Craven Road from Paddington Station on a weekday morning. Young professionals appear from nowhere by the droves. The sign says, “Fine Foods.” It’s an exaggeration. The sidewalk tables and chairs are silver metal, not fancy. But get to the Chelsea Deli early to watch London wake up.

It was a September morning several years back that a dentist joined me half a world away for breakfast. The training topic for the weekend was leadership. By his own admission, he was a Christ admirer, not a Christ follower. I ventured into a discussion of how he might engage his practice in serving the community. That didn’t go anywhere. I mentioned helping his team develop for more responsibility and roles with him or elsewhere. Roadblock.

He did pay for them to attend continuing education courses in his own city and even abroad. He provided a lavish deli for them every day in the breakroom so no one had to go out for lunch unless they just wanted to do so. He contributed to charitable causes. Toward the end of breakfast he offered this, “I think I know what I’m supposed to be doing—dentistry. The charitable dentistry I provide here and in Africa fits me nicely.” About then is when he thought I had lost my mind.

“But you’re not a business owner, Glenn,” I said. (Name has been changed for privacy.)

“Why yes, I am … what do you mean?”

“What I mean is that your practice on the High Street isn’t yours. It belongs to God. He gave it to you for a little while. You are a steward. As a steward, you are responsible to tend and nurture every aspect of it and to use the reputation you’ve gained to serve other dentists as well. After all, leadership is influence.”

As I thought about that conversation on the train to Liverpool Sunday evening, I knew Glenn’s perspective was unaided by the Holy Spirit. I couldn’t be too tough on him. And so I translated the previous day’s discussion into the context of Christian-owned dental practices in the U.S. where some of the finest women and men I know serve their patients, their team and others by recognizing it is the Lord Christ they serve (Colossians 3:23).
It’s easy for me—and for all of us—to mistake our skills, our talents or our gifts as the “be all and end all of life”—the singular reason God put us here. Crowds pat us on the back. After all, why would someone fly 5,000 miles to pull 200 teeth? All our skills and gifts aside, it’s easy to forget that as “business owners” we are stewards entrusted with developing our team members and responding to the need of neighbors who don’t have toothaches. Sometimes that means helping others learn to serve in their areas of giftedness, calling them forward into the life Christ has for them. We have the same responsibility for a business owner across town we see regularly at the gym, the one who knows the Lord but hasn’t begun to think of herself as a steward.
The Corinthian church bulged at the seams with people who were enamored with their own gifts. They appreciated and utilized their gifts but couldn’t see themselves dependent upon and accountable for those whom God had gifted differently. They had love—love for their calling in life and for the place it put them in the eyes of others.

“If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love (agape, unconditional) love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging symbol” (1 Corinthians 13:1, ESV).

They had wealth to give…and gave it. They were talented beyond compare…and people knew it. They belonged to Noisy Gong Community Church and some of them were regular patients at Noisy Gong Family Dentistry. They were in desperate need for someone somewhere to step up and lead like Jesus.

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