Where the Christians Are.

It has been an exhausting week. Nagging back pain has persisted, & a powerful cold has rendered me useless. It has taken everything I have to simply go to work & get it done. And each day has been followed by tired communication at home & sleepless, congested nights. So any highlights have bordered on inspirational. If you have come by work to offer encouragement, simply say hello, call, text, or send a note across the worldwide web, you have encouraged me. It’s just been that kind of a week.

But the winner, going away, for maximized encouragement goes to a complete stranger that came into Chick-Fil-A on Tuesday night. It was my first night shift, I was feeling horrible, & really struggling to stay focused. And through some act of providence, I was asked to walk the dining room to check on our terrific customers. So off I went, table by table, offering to get refills, to take trash away, or trying to open up brief little conversations with the people that have chosen to spend their evening with us at CFA.

One table, 3 young adults, was particularly talkative. They asked about my job, the company in general, & our particular store. And one of the two ladies at the table said that she, ‘loves this place. The food is great, but I love being around Christians’. And this isn’t new. I hear a lot about the stances that CFA takes that allow an environment of faith & devotion to it [off on Sundays, Christian music playing throughout the dining room, etc.]. So I thanked her, & simply asked her where she worshiped.

‘Oh, I’m not a Christian. I guess I’m agnostic, but I don’t really care for organized religion.’

…. but she comes to CFA because she loves ‘being around Christians’. And she went on the explain that at CFA we ‘care about individuals’, ‘seem focused on serving people for no benefit to ourselves’, & we can ‘share what we believe by how we treat people’. And she’s comfortable there.  She mentioned comfort last. Chicken was an added bonus. But the character & intentionality of our business & employees is what compels her to pay to spend time with us.

And I was stricken by the harsh reality there. She pays money to be around Christians. Her comfort, on a Kid’s Night no less [she had no kids with her], with total strangers who seem to value her on a basic level was reason enough to bring friends to fellowship at a business. And she doesn’t like church… she doesn’t believe in God.

‘Every life has a story’ – That’s what you’re taught at CFA. Everyone… absolutely every individual, is a unique person with a life story that is important & impacts their choices. So value each person as the individual that they are.

‘Second Mile Service’ – Any restaurant in America can serve customers. But at CFA, we strive to go that extra mile to maintain higher standards, practices, & customer expectations. From taking your food to your table, to responding  to your gratitude with ‘my pleasure’, going beyond the norm is what makes CFA excellent.

I could go on with the policies & high standards at CFA, but these two strike me most immediately, because I learned them early in life.

Imago Dei – We learn in Genesis that every person is a unique creation, made by God, in the image of God. Matthew 25:40 makes it clear that God is certainly concerned with how we treat ‘the least of these [within all mankind]’. And the Great Commission of Matthew 28:19 challenges Christians to pursue discipleship relationships with the new converts. And true discipleship requires engagement in life-on-life relationships.

Outdo one another – ‘Love one another with brotherly affection. Outdo one another in showing honor… Contribute to the needs of the saints & seek to show hospitality.’ That a small sampling of Romans 12:9-21. And it is an amazing passage to read through. Encouraging yet demanding.

So, here’s what breaks my heart… CFA is not blazing a new trail in how to treat humanity. It may be unparalleled in the quick-service food industry, but loving people has been the letter of God’s Law for more than 2 millenia. And He did not exclusively contract the right to love to Truett Cathy. He gave the mission of love to all believers, & He called them the Church. So why in the world would someone prefer to pay to be around faithful worshipers, instead of freely attending a church service anywhere in town?

I love that I work at a place that cultivates an atmosphere that God requires of the Church. I am crushed that many churches are clearly failing to cultivate that same atmosphere. How are you showing love? What does your life reflect about your faith? And do you join other believers in worship at a place that seeks out the unbelieving? By no means should churches water down their adherence to God’s Word & the fundamental disciplines of the faith, but if I’m reading God’s Word correctly, the world is supposed to be drawn to God, through his agents of Truth & love… & that’s me & you.

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2 Comments

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2 responses to “Where the Christians Are.

  1. John

    I have a few thoughts in reference to your most recent experience there brother. First off, I’m sure you never expected these types of encounters at a “quick-service” restaurant…or maybe not so early in your employment at CFA.

    This person, in my own ministry+life experience, is now no longer the exception–but rather the rule. Which is unfortunate. What you heard was that this woman has no problem with the idea of Christ (and what he offers), but she has a big problem with the organizations that have been built around him. It may be sad for us as church members to think about this…but it makes sense with what I’ve read about Jesus in scripture. Jesus had MUCH to say about religion, and none of it was pleasant. So I think Christ himself feels the same way about organized religion.

    Now bear with me for a second, it has been since February that I last got to preach…so I might have to get on it for a bit here (my apologies). The Gospel, which is realized in Christ and Him alone is what we as the church are supposed to live out. Not just in sharing that Gospel with others who have not heard about Christ, but in the way we live and breath on a day to day basis. The Gospel is to be a regular experience for us, it has the power to transform NOW…not just what happens after we die. And it appears to me that this woman would have no opposition to hearing the freedom and grace that comes from (and only from) the Gospel of Christ.

    But just like Jesus pointed out when he walked our world prior, give man enough time and we can ruin things. Even though it never starts out this way, religion takes the purity of God’s Gospel and adds to it. So when God’s Word tells us that Jesus is enough (we will call that G= C, where G means God and C means Christ), religion eventually ends up adding “x” and “y” to the equation. Religion, starts out with the best of intentions…but always results with adding things (sometimes good things) to Jesus. And where this woman could sit in a pew or in a chair on a Sunday morning and hear the congregation shout in worshipful praise, singing “Your grace is enough,” or “Jesus, you’re all I need”…what she would experience later is those same folks live differently. Sure Jesus is all I need, but I need to do this and that too. Sure God’s grace is sufficient…but we also have to make sure that we never do this and always do that. I guess this response has a message about integrity also, not to develop any recurring themes–but here it is again.

    Now as I thought more about this, and how you were puzzled and saddened by the thought that this lady would pay to be at CFA and delight in the freedom to experience Jesus from those around her, yet she would choose to avoid the free admittance to a church building–I would say that maybe in her mind neither place has free admittance. And maybe the cost of a chicken sandwich and waffle fries is far less in her mind/experiences than what it costs her to enter a church building. And I’m not referring to the offering or baskets/plates that are passed around each Sunday. Perhaps what the religion that has been built around God’s Gospel of Christ is selling her, she doesn’t want to buy. Perhaps she sees an institution (when at it’s worst) that is more concerned with how they look, than who they are there to worship? Perhaps she is frustrated by the over indulgence in the “x’s and y’s” that have been added to the Gospel?

    Perhaps she just wants to have some chicken with Jesus? And from what I have learned in my experiences with Christ, I think he just might rather have chicken with this woman than worship with some of us on Sundays.

    So your question, why would this woman be drawn to Jesus at a CFA (or any other place) and not at a church building. That question almost answers itself. Maybe I’m not the right person to answer these types of questions. Because honestly, I’d rather be at a CFA than most church buildings too.

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  2. Roma

    I feel this is a eye opening message to all of us who say we are Christians.
    Do we practice and act it in our eveyday living?
    Are we bold enoght to talk about Jesus, our Lord and Savior with our frineds, in groups of prople, etc?
    Do people know we love the Lord after they have left our presence even if we attend church regularly?
    It is very sad that most of us would have to say no to all of these.
    My paryer is that people will earnestly desire to meet in God’s house to praise and worship HIS HOLY NAME.

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