"I went to Jerusalem to become acquainted (Gk. istoria) with Cephas" - Paul's words from Galatians 1:18.

Be Kind to Your Server Because You Never Know

When my wife and I choose a drive-through restaurant, it's often because we're in a rush to get to our next appointment or event.

That's the way it was for me today.

After making some hospital visits, Rachelle and I went out for a quick lunch. We were both in a rush to make our next appointments, so we chose a drive-through restaurant.

I sometimes find myself impatient with servers when I'm in a hurry like today. After all, it's called "fast" food, right?

"Let's go!" "Come on!" "Hurry up!"

Those are the hidden thoughts that often race through my head, and on some unfortunate occasions, give birth to audible words.

Today there were some issues in communicating through the speaker at the drive-through. The woman listening to me order our food couldn't hear me, and I had to repeat myself two or three times.

Cars lined up behind us.

The delay was abnormal. I remained calm. I also spoke kindly into the speaker throughout the confusion, never allowing the little negative thoughts in my head to morph into some unkind words from my mouth.

Thank God.

Because when we pulled to the window, we were greeted with a huge, beautiful smile. The woman's face was literally beaming. She greeted me by name and said she'd be right back with our food.

"Who is that?" my wife asked.

I told my wife the food server's name and her story.

Our food server worked as a prostitute on the streets of Dallas, Texas.

She was born in Oklahoma but dropped out of high school before graduation. She moved to Dallas where she got involved in the drug culture.

From 1992 to 2012 she used cocaine and heroin and solicited to pay for the drugs. She was arrested multiple times in Dallas. Her record includes three misdemeanor convictions for solicitation, three felony DUI’s, and one felony conviction for cocaine possession.

After her last conviction in 2012, the State of Texas sent her to prison.

While in prison, she discovered she was pregnant. She had no idea who the father was. She considered an abortion, but her mom and dad convinced her to give birth by promising to take care of the baby back in Oklahoma while she finished her prison sentence in Texas.

So she gave birth to her son while in prison.

Her parents drove down and picked up the newborn infant from the institution's infirmary.

In May of 2014, this woman got out of prison and came to Oklahoma to be near her baby.

"How do you know all this?" my wife asks.

I tell her the rest of the story while we wait for our food.

A few years ago the church I pastor made a conscientious decision to change the direction of our church ministries. Rather than focusing on ensuring white, upper-income, nuclear Christian families were comfortable with "the way we do church," I intentionally led our people to become missional and strategic in reaching people who would never set foot in a traditional Baptist church.

Five years ago the woman serving us our food today would never have dreamed of attending Emmanuel Baptist Church of Enid, Oklahoma. The people at Emmanuel Baptist Church were remarkable, gospel-oriented people, but we were too focused on making ourselves comfortable in the church services rather than thinking of the lost and what they need to know Christ.

So we made some changes. Too many changes to describe in this post, but each change was intentional and missional.

We focused on creating an environment where people in need of Jesus would actually be drawn to learn more about Him through our church rather than be rejected or repulsed by our church.  

As we started making changes, a few people left to find a place where they could enjoy the comforts they'd lost. We understood that this might happen. Change is never easy. It's hard. However, when a church changes because of a desire to reach people for Christ, criticism can be endured. It's never personal; it's only for a Person.

In the fall of 2015, the woman serving us our food today began attending our contemporary Refuge worship service at Emmanuel Enid. She knew she was needing a change in her life, and the first person she thought of was God.

Somebody told her she ought to try the Emmanuel Enid Refuge service.

She came the first time and hid from others on the last row of the balcony. She didn't know what to expect, and she wanted to be able to leave quickly.

But to her surprise, she loved the contemporary worship service. It didn't feel like what she thought a church would feel like.

She cried during the message.

She learned of a recovery ministry through an announcement at the end of the Refuge worship service.

She began attending Emmanuel Enid's recovery support group the next week, and she continued coming to Emmanuel Enid's Refuge worship service. One month turned into six months; six months turned into a year, and one year has now turned into two years.

Last week she came to my office to introduce herself to me. She wept as she told me her story.

Christ has saved her. She wants to be baptized and join our church. She also is beginning classes next week to become the leader of a chemical addiction recovery group at Emmanuel Enid.

She works three jobs to support her toddler son. She gets help from her retired mom and dad in watching her child so that she can work those three jobs and pay her bills. One of those jobs is at the fast food restaurant we went to today.

The one with the faulty speaker.

As she handed us our food and we drove away, my wife said, "Wow, Wade, what an incredible story."

Yes, indeed.

I'm working this afternoon on a long post that is theological in nature, one that I believe will be a comfort to many Christians.

But as I sit in my office at the church building, eating the fast food I picked up today, I felt impressed to type this post.

I write to encourage those of us who know Christ to remember that God doesn't call His people to sit in a church to be comfortable. He calls us to be a part of a church that will make us missional.

His Kingdom is about people.

Prostitutes. Drug addicts. Prisoners. He turns His people into the kind of beautiful woman who waited on us today. That's grace. That's amazing grace.

Jesus came to set the captives free.

So be kind to your server because you never know.

You never know what Jesus is up to in their lives.

20 comments:

RRR said...

"I'm working this afternoon on a long post that is theological in nature, one that I believe will be a comfort to many Christians."

Are you serious, Wade? You will find it a challenge to give us a post more "theological in nature" than this one!

Praise God, for His amazing, active, powerful grace at work to save "us", the wretched sinners that we are! Fantastic story.

On another side note, personally, I believe the lady entered into a true, safe, "sanctuary"
created by the receptive, Spirit-filled people of Emmanuel more than the contemporary music venue, although that no doubt played a role too. Thank God for the focused ministry of Emmanuel.

Okay to pass this story along?

Aussie John said...

Now that is what I call a congregation of followers of Christ. Saved to serve rather than be served!

".... remember that God doesn't call His people to sit in a church to be comfortable. He calls us to be a part of a church that will make us missional".

A long time ago I was called to lead a congregation who had an opposite philosophy. My wife and I were criticized because we helped a prostitute by giving her a bed for the night and clothing, for helping a new believer and his blind wife with a small amount of finance to repair their car to enable them to travel for doctors appointments. I could go on, and on.

By the way. They boasted of their missionary giving (none locally), when they lived in a small country town literally full of drug, and prostitution problems.

We resigned. Two more years and the group, which had struggled to survive for thirty years, ceased to exist.

Wade Burleson said...

RRR,

Thanks for your kind words - feel free to share.

Aussie John,

Unfortunately, the story you share could be repeated throughout the religious realm. I appreciate your heart for the Good News and the way you live it!

Christiane said...

"A few years ago the church I pastor made a conscientious decision to change the direction of our church ministries. Rather than focusing on ensuring white, upper-income, nuclear Christian families were comfortable with "the way we do church," I intentionally led our people to become missional and strategic in reaching people who would never set foot in a traditional Baptist church."

for this, God Bless you forever and ever

Alan Baker said...

Touching the lost where they are. As did our Lord Jesus. Amen.

Pege' said...

Wade, here is another reason to be kind to servers. My oldest sister was a waitress for 20 years. She has very little to say about Christians and how they treated her and the tips they did not give on Sundays.Many coming in right after church services. I must tell you that the often curt and demanding attitudes they not only showed to her and the other staff did not endear anyone to Jesus. Matter of fact, Sundays were days no one wanted to work because of the church crowds. We are not only "the church" in church but where ever we go. It is a tell-tale sign of how you treat people who serve you behind speakers, at tables or in stores of what kind of character you have. The CEO of Charles Scwaab when he interviews people for a job, he takes them to breakfast. The CEO goes to the restaurant BEFORE they meet and tells the server to make a mistake. He wants to see how the interviewee treats people who serve him before he is considered for a position and how he handles the mistake with someone who he does not know. It tells him a lot about the person's character. Great insights.

Wade Burleson said...

Amen, Alan, and Amen and Amen, Pege.

ch said...

The Jesus I know is kind to prostitutes, thieves, corrupt public officials, rebels and everyone else except the consciously self-righteous. As a fellow okie, a (semi)retired defense lawyer and a latecomer to the Kingdom, my life is greatly enriched by your post. It is not the healthy who need a physician.

Rex Ray said...

Wade,

I’m taking you answer to RRR and giving your great post to our SS classes.

Anonymous said...

Excellent post! Close to the decisions our church made a few years back. We did make the decision that to be missional we had to get rid of the contemporary music and service style. We found many millennials find it, in their words, "inauthentic and manipulative." They find the emotions manufactured and pre programmed. We lost some aging baby boomers when they lost their rock concert service but we've gained folks looking for church to be different from the world they occupy the rest of the week.

But then we are a holiness church and a changed lifestyle is part of the package:)

Linda

Wade Burleson said...

Linda,

You give a good example of how culture changes and cultural preferences change with culture.

Our methodologies should be fluid to reach people, but our theology should be crystallized.

Unfortunately, too often, churches find their theology fluid over time and their methodology crystallized over time.

It should be the reverse.

I tell our staff if culture moves to chanting and candles, we'll be the first to do worship with chants and candles - but the Christ of whom we speak will be the same message yesterday, today and forever.

:)

Pege' said...

Wade, I was thinking about this for a while. I want to add, Although I can not say, I have been a prostitute, criminal or thief in my life journey, like these folk,s I can add my sin and the need for a savior. I have been a server most of my life. I would say, be KIND because it is the fruit of the spirit of God within you. It is Christ-like. There is such a loss of kindness in today's society. " Rather than focusing on ensuring white, upper-income, nuclear Christian families were comfortable with "the way we do church," I intentionally led our people to become missional and strategic in reaching people who would never set foot in a traditional Baptist church." Even the upper-class need kindness, maybe some loving admonishment too. When we are irritable, curt, demanding, it is all flesh driven. I had an act of kindness shown to me on Friday, it really touched me. I have cast on my left foot. I have to use a knee scooter because I cannot use crutches. I am making my way into a store. There are double doors to enter. Thankfully I pushed the handicapped door button, and the outer door was slowly opening. A young man was exiting the opposite side and almost through the outside door and he stopped. Turned around and came to the side I was on and held the inner door open for me. He went out of his way to help me. I was so humbled. I will mention that he was a handsome African American man, well dressed with a beautiful smile I stopped to shake his hand and tell him that I appreciated his act of kindness. With all the news of "race tensions and hatred, I wanted to share how there are love and kindness everywhere and the news does not report it. It was a small moment, but it really made me feel so cared for by a stranger. That's why we show kindness and concern. Manners are for others benefit not just to make us look socially acceptable. I would like to call everyone to BE the polite one ( walk in the spirit of the Lord) and let's turn society where we live around!!! Let's SHOW Jesus to others.

Rex Ray said...

Wade,

The song words are shown on a large screen for everyone to see.

We’ve all heard the eyes are the window of the soul. Today we heard a couple of new songs as usual, probably written by our song leader. One song had several courses of “open my eyes Lord; open my eyes”.

I thought it was amusing because our song leader always has his shut.

I know he loves the Lord with all his heart. He was raised in Romania where Christians were looked down on. He has been our song leader for about 7 years. Our Sanctuary will hold 300 but attendance is under 90. The ones joining are less than the ones leaving.

Once, the electricity went off. The loud music amplifiers stopped. The only sound was the song leader singing; people could hear him because no one was singing.

Except for the hurting everyone stands. We have song books that are never used.

Maybe I'm just getting old.

Rex Ray said...

Wade,

Many years ago the youth director asked if he could have his youth meeting during the week in our upstairs room. It had ping-pong, pool table, and a foosball table.

At that time we didn’t have a slide, merry-go-round, twist up swing, or a 30 foot seesaw. There was only a 50 foot tower that had an 8 foot diameter circle with seats.

Kids started inviting kids that would never come to church about the meeting. The first part was playing games or climbing the tower and then the meeting.

Several were saved.

The meeting stopped after our big church was made and the youth director became a pastor at another church.

Anonymous said...

Smells and bells would be a big draw here where many are fallen away Catholics or what we term "semi Catholic." Mom raised Catholic, she did a bootleg baptism over dad's objections, kid was never in a Catholic church, but do want ritual and liturgy.

We are finding many millennials wanting "churchy" church. And surprisingly, many of all ages are just...so....done....with CCM. It happens. Fads come and go.

But we don't want hymns to be just another fad. If we were just looking to draw people who don't come to church inside the building I suspect a pot bar (legal here) and a pole dancer would pack out the building.

No, we are going back and evaluating why we do each thing we do. Hymns were chosen for the theological content and timeless music. That it proved a hit is a bonus.

We also want to reach the white middle class, not just the down and outers. We want to reach every group, so the entire town is our target demographic. And we have been known to be honest: if someone is invited to church and replies they don't think they would be welcome due to lifestyle choice, we ask nicely if maybe that lifestyle choice is holding them back from a good life or from the Lord.

We try to do church what we think is how the Lord wants it done, knowing we could be wrong, and don't worry about the popularity quotient.

Linda

Rex Ray said...

Wade,

OFF TOPIC

Our church will attend the next SBC with the intention of making a motion to correct the SBC of Virginia on their orders to missionaries to STOP evangelizing and plant churches. If they won’t change they should not get money from the Cooperative Program.

Their thinking is recorded in this link:
http://www.sbcv.org/
“The SBC of Virginia is a fellowship of more than 700 churches dedicated to the fulfillment of the Great Commission. The convention began in 1996 based on a belief in the INERRANCY of Scriptures and COMMITTED TO CHURCH PLANTING AS A MEANS TO REACH THE WORLD FOR CHRIST. We're supported by your church's contributions through the Cooperative Program and the Vision Virginia State Missions Offering.”

I understand motions to the SBC are to be sent within a certain time period before the Convention meets.

Could you advise us how to write such a motion since we’ve never written one before?

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Rex Ray said...

Anonymous,

Why is your link in Spanish? What's the point? Are you helping America to commit suicide by our Nation speeking more than one language as fomer Governor Richard Lamm proved?

If you like Spanish so much why not go where it is the Nation's language?

Wade Burleson said...

Rex,

The best advice I could give is to go to Baylor University's digital collection of Southern Baptist Annuals and look at ACTUAL motions presented to the Southern Baptist Convention. The language and wording in the introduction and transitions "Whereas...I move..." etc.. with you changing the content of the motion to articulate what you desire to happen.

You can find the archive here:

http://digitalcollections.baylor.edu/cdm/landingpage/collection/ml-sbcann

Julie Chase said...

I didn't like the changes at first even stopping the padgent. But as long as those who need Christ find him I am delighted with the changes of the sanctuary. Julie Chase