I love Chick-Fil-A! (And I love the Tim Hawkins song about it.) We eat there whenever we are in a town that has one. The food is always good, they get the order right nearly every time and their customer service is second to none. It is always clean, and no matter how long the line seems to be people are always served as quickly and efficiently as possible.
So, imagine my surprise when my wife came home from a conference, and as we were catching each other up on the things that had taken place while we had been apart, she told me about a bad experience she had at Chick-Fil-A. I was immediately frustrated (any husband would be)! And before I knew it, I had told myself, “Well, if that’s the way things are going to be then I guess we just won’t be going to Chick-Fil-A anymore. They’ve lost my business.” Time out! How stupid was that thought? Seriously, let’s review ...
• They always deliver great food.
• They always have friendly people.
• They always have a clean environment.
• What my wife had experienced was not in line with what normally happens.
I lost my mind! I was going to allow one bad experience with one employee ruin a reputation of excellence that had been consistent for years. And no one knows what was going on in that employee’s life ... she could have had one of the worst days of her life and was trying her best to just hold it together until she could clock out. Before you agree with me too quickly, I think there are people who have done the same thing to the church.
I have met people since being in ministry for over 15 years who have the same attitude with the church that I almost had with Chick-Fil-A. They will attend, serve, be devoted to a local church for months or even years, and then, all of a sudden ...
• Someone didn’t call them when they were out for two weeks.
• Someone said something hurtful to or about them.
• They didn’t like what the preacher said.
• They didn’t like what the youth group was doing.
There are times when people will allow one thing in the church to trump the decades of ministry and impact that have taken place through that body of believers, and that’s a bit insane. Yes, if you stay in a church long enough I promise you that you will see hypocrisy. Someone will say something to you or about you that will hurt you. Decisions will be made that you do not like. There are going to be sermons that make you mad. When that happens, the enemy is going to try his best to persuade you to just walk away because he knows that the first step away from God is usually getting people to step away from the people of God.
Yes, the church, every church, has made some unwise decisions and in the process has hurt or disappointed people along the way, but let’s not throw the baby out with the bath water. She’s still God’s plan for reaching the world. She’s still necessary for believers. If church is not necessary, then why did Jesus say He would build it, died for it, will one day redeem it and spends so much time in the New Testament talking to it and about it? No, the church is not perfect, but neither are you (or me).
So, when we’re tempted to walk away because of the one thing that seems to hurt us or trip us up, we should simply ask, “Is this consistent with this church’s character?” Stay in a church long enough and you will have a bad experience, but let that push you closer to Jesus as you recognize that He uses imperfect people in His plan, which means sometimes they get it wrong. Then beg the Lord to teach both them and yourself how to best deal with the situation because, she’s still the church and still His bride.
Now, anyone want to drive to Chick-Fil-A with me?
J.J. Tuttle is the pastor of Connected Church of the Nazarene in Carson City.