One of our favorite things to do on Saturday’s in Tennessee was to get up and head to the Waffle House for a big breakfast. It was great because there were a few things you could count on every time you went there. You could always count on eating enough food to cover breakfast and lunch for that day, you could count on eating food that may slam your left ventricle shut, but you’d have a smile on your face, and you could count on getting exactly what you wanted and how you wanted it. Moving to Missouri, it didn’t take us long to find a substitute for Waffle House in our quaint little town. In fact, every week on my day off, I walk through the door of JJ’s Cafe, sit at the same table (the one next to the outlet for my computer), order my favorite breakfast, and I write the article for the week. When I order my breakfast I get exactly what I want- a sausage, egg, and cheese sandwich on wheat with a slice of raw onion and a side of limp bacon with a Diet Dr. Pepper (no ice of course). The experience is exactly what I want as well. The waitresses have gotten to know us- in fact I walked in this morning and she already knew what I wanted to drink. They are friendly and we have a good time picking at each other. This is exactly what I want in a diner experience. I love it.
When you are talking about an experience like a really good place to eat, you should expect to have an experience that is tailored to you (within reason of course). That’s the essence of the customer service industry. I remember walking into a store and there was a sign hanging that said, “Rule #1- the Customer is always right. Rule #2- when the customer is wrong, refer to rule #1.” It’s the reason so many of us are willing to sit in the drive thru and pay more for our food at Chick-fil-a. The experience is tailored to the customer and the service is excellent. Let’s face it, we live in a consumer driven world and we have become accustomed to expecting great customer service; and when we don’t get it, we are often very upset and frustrated sometimes to the point where we decide not to go to that establishment again.
The downside to this consumer culture mentality of customer service and expectation is that it has started bleeding over to our churches. We have become a culture of church goers that expect entertainment and a personal tailored experience. We come in wanting to see the menu and order up exactly what we want to experience instead of seeking to experience our almighty creator and His infinite love, mercy, and grace. We come in, ask for the menu, and begin ordering up the service we want in our heads. We skip the appetizer because Sunday School is just too early to be up. We order the selected fellowship because we want to talk to and engage with those we are comfortable with- I don’t want to talk to the new family that just came in. Then the ordering gets even trickier…the worship music. Dad wants the traditional hymns like it’s always been. Mom wants something she can worship to that has deep personal meaning- perhaps Chris Tomlin. The kids want nothing less than the Christian concert experience with the leader in a leather jacket, skinny jeans and a fog machine. Then we get to the sermon. We order up a main course of “make me feel good” with a side of scripture and truth, but hold any conviction and guilt that may come with it. Then for dessert, a personal greeting by the Senior Pastor, definitely not the Associate Pastor- we want the good stuff.
Is this an over the top depiction? I don’t know, is it? While writing this, I have absolutely no one in mind- not one person, not one specific church, yet this will likely make someone mad at me for saying it. That’s kind of the point I am making here. We don’t want the responsibility that comes with the life change Christ expects of us. Yes, the message of the gospel is a simple one- you need only to accept the free gift of salvation because Christ has already done the work on the cross. We DO NOT achieve salvation by doing good things. However, when you give your life to Christ, we are transformed by Holy Spirit and we begin to pursue holiness to the best of our ability and that is not an easy task because we are sinful and flawed. In short- we don’t do good things TO BE saved, we do good things BECAUSE we are saved. That means having to look in the mirror and get better. That means having to work at, fail, and then get up and become better than we were yesterday. However, when the Pastor preaches something that may happen to hit on something we are struggling with, we see it as poor customer service and leave dissatisfied with the service; or, when we sing a song that we don’t know, is too old, or too modern, we leave dissatisfied with the service. It has become about experiencing ourselves instead of Christ.
The heart of the matter here is this- where is your heart in worship? We believe the Bible to be the infallible Word of God. It is full of nothing but truth. It’s a book of hope, encouragement, instruction, and whether we like it or not, a book of correction. The pursuit of holiness is a lifelong journey that we will not complete this side of eternity. We expect a place of business to have good customer service because the experience is supposed to be about us. Church, however, is not about us. It is about a God who loved us so much He sacrificed His only Son to die for our sins. Worship is about Him. Let me encourage you, as you enter your church this week- throw away the menu, stop seeking customer service, and start seeking God in all of His love, all of His glory, and let’s experience the one true King and grow closer in our pursuit of His holiness; because what God has to offer all of us is not on the menu and we will all be better for it.
In Christ Alone,
Rev. Bro. Coach