by Dale Reeves
Not too long ago I drove through Chick-fil-A for breakfast and saw an interesting phrase on the cardboard box that contains the hash browns fried in canola oil. It read:
“Just here for the sauce.”
Have you ever tasted the sauce that Chick-fil-A offers you for dipping that amazing chicken sandwich, your Chick-n-Minis, your hash browns, or your waffle fries? It’s delicious! They not only provide it in their restaurants, you can also find their special sauce in grocery stores across America and of course, on Amazon. People line up in Chick-fil-A drive-thrus for a number of reasons . . . for the chicken, the incredibly well-run and efficient lines, the value, the sweet tea, to support a very pro-Christian establishment that has been extremely successful while choosing to stay closed on the Lord’s Day . . . or for the sauce.
Similarly, people attend church for a variety of reasons. And they stop attending church for a variety of reasons. According to gravityleadership.com, some of these reasons include: spiritual abuse or trauma; failure to do justice; dismissal of their questions and doubts; theological contradictions and lack of integrity; shame and judgment. To dig deeper, you can check out this link.
Just Driving Thru?
What about you? Why do you attend (or choose not to attend in person) a particular fellowship of believers? This past Sunday our senior minister, Brad Wilson, posed an interesting question in our recent “Gone Fishing” series. He talked about the various classes and programs that people engage with in our church—and those things are all good. But then he asked this penetrating question:
“Are you here for the program or are you here for Jesus?”
In my experience from over forty years in the located church ministry, I have seen many stories play out in which a person or a family decided to leave a particular church because their favorite activity or program was no longer being offered at that church. Upward basketball, a children’s choir, a silk flower arrangement class, a change in student ministry programming, a “traditional” worship service, and the list goes on. Church leaders understand that people cast their vote through two things: their feet, and their checkbook. When a program or class they enjoyed was discontinued at their church, they may not have said a word about it to anyone, they simply walked away and stopped giving.
It is possible to just do church like a Chick-fil-A drive-thru. Get in your car (or sit in your easy chair at home), and do a quick drive-by . . . getting your spiritual feeding for the week. You’re a consumer, but just popping in and out very quickly with very little interaction with others or engagement in ministry, and it might alleviate a little guilt or make you feel as though you’ve done your God thing for the week. But the meal doesn’t satisfy long-term without the community piece that God designed us for. And, those in church leadership who are serving at the drive-thru window feel an emptiness after you’ve gotten your food and driven off. Sure, they say all day, “My pleasure,” but they long for people in the church to get engaged in ministry, be a part of a significant discipleship process, and help lead others to the redemption that Jesus offers.
There has been much written about why many pastors and church leaders have left their churches (and sometimes pastoral ministry all together). In addition to some of the reasons cited from gravityleadership.com above, burnout is a major factor why pastors are leaving their jobs and sometimes the capital C Church. The combination of compassion fatigue, a lack of consistent commitment to self-care, and high emotional and relational demands of being a shepherd to others has made burnout a far too frequent cause for pastors leaving the church.
Jesus Invites You to a Meal
We all have a free will and have the ability to choose where we’d like to fellowship and attend a worship experience with others. No one is being held at a particular church under coercion. But so many church leaders I know struggle with this reality—in our day, duty and loyalty are traits that have gone by the wayside for too many folks. Many in our culture abide by the attitude, “What have you done for me lately?”
All too often we’re so used to the benefits Christ brings into our lives that we don’t consider the mess we would be in without him. What would your life be like without Jesus? What has Jesus done for you lately? Hmmm, let’s see.
Jesus experienced death and resurrection so that sin’s power could be defeated in your life.
“Christ suffered for our sins once for all time. He never sinned, but he died for sinners to bring you safely home to God. He suffered physical death, but he was raised to life in the Spirit” (1 Peter 3:18, NLT).
“We know that our old sinful selves were crucified with Christ so that sin might lose its power in our lives. We are no longer slaves to sin. For when we died with Christ we were set free from the power of sin” (Romans 6:6, 7, NLT).
Jesus invites you to a family meal.
“Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and eat with him, and he with me. The one who conquers, I will grant him to sit with me on my throne, as I also conquered and sat down with my Father on his throne” (Revelation 3:20, 21, ESV).
“But to all who believed him and accepted him, he gave the right to become children of God. They are reborn—not with a physical birth resulting from human passion or plan, but a birth that comes from God” (John 1:12, 13, NLT).
Jesus intercedes for you before the Father.
“Who then is the one who condemns? No one. Christ Jesus who died—more than that, who was raised to life—is at the right hand of God and is also interceding for us” (Romans 8:34, NIV).
“Therefore he is able, once and forever, to save those who come to God through him. He lives forever to intercede with God on their behalf” (Hebrews 7:25, NLT).
Jesus is with you through the mountaintops and valleys of life.
“So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand” (Isaiah 41:10, NIV).
“For God has said, ‘I will never fail you. I will never abandon you.’ So we can say with confidence, ‘The Lord is my helper, so I will have no fear. What can mere people do to me?’” (Hebrews 13:5, 6, NLT).
And that’s just the tip of the iceberg of what Jesus has done for you. Chick-fil-A sauce is good, but if I’m given the opportunity to sit down to a feast with Jesus, there’s simply no contest.
I can’t wait to join with the family of God at Christ’s Church Mason this coming Sunday for a special one-worship-service day at 10:30 am, followed by lots of food, fun, and fellowship. Check out this invite.
I’ll be looking for those who come not for the sauce, but for Jesus!