My family and I just returned from our yearly trip to the Southern Baptist Convention. We've gone since 2016, after also going in 2009 and 2010. (I expect we'll miss Anaheim, at 1695 road miles, next year, but who knows?) I'm not necessarily going to reflect on the whole convention, but I want to highlight something that happened on the trip up.
Now that we live in Crossett, Arkansas, and Chick-fil-A is somewhat inconveniently located for lunch trips, we thought we would run through a CFA on the trip up to Nashville. So, as I'm used to doing, I punched the order into the CFA Mobile App (Angela was driving, I was in the backseat) and we rolled up to the Tupelo, Mississippi, Chick-fil-A. They brought us our order, and away we went...back on the road.
As Ann was distributing food around the car (I'm back to driving, I trust my eat/drive combo), we noticed something. Something very, very unusual: Chick-fil-A got our order wrong. They shorted us a sandwich. Now, since it was Steven's sandwich, that could have been a disaster, but we had ordered too many nuggets (with plans for the leftovers) so he just ate nuggets and was fine. We had gone too far to turn back, and it was just easier for us to let it go.
Now, how long do you think will be before we eat at CFA again? I can give you a hint: it was on the trip home, because there wasn’t an accessible Chick-fil-A where we were in Nashville. And that without CFA “making it right” or giving me a free sandwich or anything.
Contrast that with the word that Burger King has a new chicken sandwich which, according to some, is fantastic! Now, with all due respect to Burger King, the various local franchises of BK we have tried over the years were sub-par. Orders were consistently wrong, service was slow, food quality was weak, customer experience was just pitiful. So we’ve given up on Burger King and probably will never darken the door of another one.
There is essentially nothing I can picture BK doing that would convince us to try again. Too many wrongs, too many times consistently being bad at what they were supposed to be focused on: delivering reasonable food at a reasonable price, letting us have it our way.
Chick-fil-A, meanwhile, has made mistakes on our orders in the past (probably 2 years ago was the one before this one), but our experience, overall, has been great.
CFA gets a do-over because they have demonstrated a commitment to get it right, and so one honest mistake indicates humanity, not something to be overly angry about.
BK used up all their do-overs and it would take a mountain of testimony from others that they had reformed their low standards and were getting it right to even get a thought from us. It would probably take being in a place with a high quality Burger King, where we knew employees, managers, local owners, and could see that they were all bought-in to doing what the place is supposed to do: reasonable food, right, quality (recognizing fast food, ok?), and at a decent speed.
Without that connection, the whole chain is on our “never again” list.
Now, the preacher part of me wants to turn this into an illustration, but instead there’s a situation for you to ponder:
Do you think you are Chick-fil-A when you are really Burger King? (Fill in different restaurants if necessary from your experience.)
I think we in churches assume we’re CFA: moral stance that fits our views, off on Sundays, lots of right things said about us…
But in truth, we’re more BK than we admit. Over the years, people have, in our name, been rude, mean, grouchy—and that’s just within the church to each other! (I’ve been a Baptist for a while now and been in lots of business meetings.)
And they’re done. Not with God. Not with spirituality or even religion, but with us. Done with churches that are primarily marketers of a specific system. Done with pastors who are sales representatives with all the fake smiles and outward shininess that involves.
Done with churches that cannot do the one thing they claim to do: be a community of people that helps one another walk with Jesus. Which is what we are supposed to be: people, broken, failed, faltering, forgiven, growing, loving, caring, people; community, group, diverse body, gathering; walk with Jesus and do the things He does and did and commands and loves those He loves and serves those He died to redeem.
So, now, what are you going to do about it? You can’t just rebrand it. You can’t just put up a new sign or add a few new items to your menu.
You have to find the problems; fix the problems; then demonstrate your trustworthiness to the people around you. Realize it will take years: you cannot escape in a month a problem you’ve spent a decade building.
The first step is the biggest: realizing where you really stand.