Wednesday, August 1, 2012

The Chick-fil-A War

Alright, I've been asked enough, so I guess I should speak out.  For those of you who don't know, I'm a Christian preacher who shuns the office at his church building for a spot at the local Chick-fil-A (proof).  If someone in my church wants to talk to me (or anyone, for that matter), face to face, without an appointment, they can come to Chick-fil-A from 1-6 on Tuesdays and I'll be there.  Because of that, I've gotten to know LOTS of Chick-fil-A employees and patrons alike.  With the current uprising of Chick-fil-A, and with my religious affiliation, people are eager to know what I think (because apparently sitting in a fast food restaurant for 5 hours a week makes you some sort of expert... though, I guess that's how CNN gets their experts on just about any issue).

First, I'll appeal to all the people who hate Chick-fil-A because of their "anti gay marriage" stance.  This *is not* Chick-fil-A's fault, and it's really sad for me to see Chick-fil-A embroiled in such a scandal.  Yes, I know Dan Cathy's remarks rustled your jimmies.  Yes I know that the Family Research Council isn't the friendliest organization to gays.  But I also know that Chick-fil-A is pretty much the most welcoming place to ANYONE.  Heck, I try to get my CHURCH to be as welcoming as Chick-fil-A.  Those people know how to treat people right and with respect and they *always* do.  Chick-fil-A, nationwide, has plenty of gay employees and even some gay owners.  They serve tens of thousands of gay patrons a year.  There is no discrimination within the organization of Chick-fil-A or within any of its restaurants against anyone, regardless of race, gender, religious creed, or sexual orientation (unless your religious creed is one that requires you to drink sweet tea and eat waffle fries on Sundays, then yes, I suppose Chick-fil-A involuntarily discriminates against you).

Dan Cathy's comments were unpopular, yes, but worse out of context which is what most people are reacting to.  Hey, I'm a Penn Stater, I know that's going to happen one way or another, so whatever.  It should have stopped there and eventually quelled out and died down… but it didn't.  Thomas Menino, the mayor of Boston threw the gauntlet down and wrote a letter to Chick-fil-A saying that they would not be welcome in his city.  Despite the illegality of such a claim and the surprisingly stupid fact that a mayor would discourage a business from bringing economic growth and jobs to his city, Menino also opened an enormous can of worms.  The mayors of Chicago and Washington followed suit (the latter's mayor, Vincent Gray even coined the term "hate chicken").  The "war" became political.

Now I'll begin to address the Christians reading this a little more directly.

I'm sure the Christians reading this post have felt persecuted.  It's a very tough line to walk when a strongly held religious belief is unpopular and decried as culturally insensitive or hate-filled, I get it.  The question is, how should this have been handled?  Jesus said to love our enemies and to bless those who persecute us.  That would have been a good start.  But the political bait was set, and one should know, whenever things get political, one can be sure that Fox News won't be far behind.  Enter Mike Huckabee, who has declared today to be Chick-fil-A Appreciation Day, rallying promoters of "free speech" (after all, the website for this demonstration was to stand up and, "affirm a business that operates on Christian principles and whose executives are willing to take a stand for the Godly values we espouse by simply showing up and eating at Chick Fil-A."  Um, Huckabee... I love you man, but that's not exactly supporting free speech.  That's affirming the values that Chick-fil-A holds.  Just so I'm not accused of taking Huckabee's comments out of context, here's the rest of that paragraph-- "Too often, those on the left make corporate statements to show support for same sex marriage, abortion, or profanity, but if Christians affirm traditional values, we're considered homophobic, fundamentalists, hate-mongers, and intolerant. This effort is not being launched by the Chick Fil-A company and no one from the company or family is involved in proposing or promoting it."

Clearly, we've gone beyond free speech now.  But who cares, right?  So what?  Christians *SHOULD* be supporting traditional values and standing up to those who decry Christians as "homophobic, fundamentalists, hate-mongers, and intolerant," right?  No, at least not in my opinion.  You see, I used the term "war" earlier in this piece, but until Huckabee drew his line in the sand, there was really only one side.  Chick-fil-A was never fighting.  Chick-fil-A was dutifully carrying on its task of serving the most incredible Spicy Chicken Sandwich Deluxes to anyone who wanted to come and order one.  Christians should have found a way to support Chick-fil-A AND love the people who stand against it.  But now that there is a rally to "push back," there are two sides, and whenever two sides exist, they necessarily exist against one another, at least in perception.

Whether or not it was Huckabee's intention (it wasn't) or the intention of Christians who are rallying today in support of Chick-fil-A (in most cases, it isn't), today's protest will be viewed as the next "battle" in this war between those who support gay rights and Christian Americans who hold on to their convictions.  Whoever said that these two sides *have* to fight one another?  They don't.  But by the actions of both sides, they are.

On Saturday, a counter-demonstration is being launched at Chick-fil-A restaurants across the country where those who self-describe themselves as "enemies" of Chick-fil-A will walk into the restaurant to ask for free water.  This will gum up the workings of Chick-fil-A establishments, forcing workers to maintain their usual jobs while running back and forth, filling up cups of water, and basically throwing money down the drain to pay for cups and water when those demonstrators walk out without paying for any food.  I'm not sure if it's company policy to give out free water without patronage, but if they do it, I'm sure Chick-fil-A employees will be doing it graciously with a smile on their face, and answering, "My pleasure," if anyone thanks them for their service.  If they don't do it, for company policy or otherwise, they will be met with criticism and the Bible verse, Proverbs 25:21, which lies at the root of the counter-demonstration-- "If your enemy is hungry, give him food to eat; if he is thirsty, give him water to drink."

I hope that's the end of it.  I urge those who are critical of Chick-fil-A to just drop it.  To the Christians who are trying to support traditional values, I make this appeal: when your actions can be so easily "countered" by a verse from the Bible, one that's not really out of context, something has gone terribly wrong.  The next verse, Proverbs 25:22, reads this, "In doing this, you will heap burning coals on his head, and the Lord will reward you."  We shouldn't need people outside of the Christian faith to remind us that we are called to love our enemies and not to look to them to validate our convictions.  For that, we should look to God.

Hold on to what you believe in, go to Chick-fil-A today, or don't, but think about what Paul writes at the end of 1 Corinthians 10 from this point forward-- "So, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do everything for the glory of God. Give no offense to Jews or to Greeks or to the church of God, just as I try to please everyone in everything I do, not seeking my own advantage, but that of many, so that they may be saved."

Wednesday, May 11, 2011


When I was a sophomore at Penn State, we got a new campus minister who was very particular about one thing: excellence in all things.  If we were going to do something, we were going to do it very well.  It's an interesting concept in theory.  In practice, it's very difficult to pull off.

In my ministry, I find I fall somewhere in the middle of two sides on the issue.  On one hand, some argue that excellence or perfection puts God in a box.  We can only plan out so much and it's a little arrogant to say to God, "Ok God, this is where we've planned for you to come in and do some amazing things."  Because God tends not to respond to such requests on demand, those who plan things out, tend not to plan on the miraculous happening.  Some churches rely on being so perfect that there is a minute by minute breakdown of the service.  Every detail is planned meticulously and critics argue that there is no room for God to influence anyone or anything... that God only does what the planners allow Him to do.  These are the churches that work for hours to perfect the look that they just threw together a worship service last minute that happens to be the peak of excellence.

On the other side of the fence (on the issue of perfection and excellence), observers can find people who say that one should not give anything less than his absolute best.  These are the churches who tend to have their members show up in suits and ties, if they're men, and dresses if they're women.  The conservative attitude makes church less scripted, but less adventurous.  It might not be uncommon to find two bulletins with the exact same order of worship, but a date 30 years apart.  These churches have found what works and stuck with it.

Now, I mentioned before that I find myself somewhere in the middle here.  I think most people would.  Obviously, the object of ministry is not to give God any less than our best, but there's no reason that we should be legalistic about that.  Even though my church tends to dress conservatively, I showed up in sandals last week and everyone survived.  Someday, I vow I WILL preach in jeans, but that day is still to come.  However, our services are fairly scripted, mainly because there is very little that can't be controlled.  Because we don't have live music, I know *exactly* what verses are coming up next in the worship songs since I've had the CDs at my disposal all week long.  In the 5 months or so that we've had an LCD projector, I've averaged less than one typo every two months.  How many churches can say that?

With the resources that I have to work with at my church, I think our services are about as excellent as anyone could expect them to be.  So there... I've given God my best... good enough right?

And that's the root of the problem.  If all we're doing is trying to give our best to God... without involving God in the process, we're going to end up climbing up an infinitely tall hill.  Jesus came because our best wasn't good enough, so why do we try to fool ourselves into thinking otherwise?  

But then you go to the other side of the coin... if our best is never going to be good enough, why try at all?  God can take those mountains and turn them into molehills without our help... why not just let him do everything?

It's led me to realize that I need to reorient what I think is excellent away from my own preconceptions.  I've seen some pretty excellent things turn out to be pretty sour, and some things that I thought were lost causes turn out to be great.  Ironically, the key is in preparedness, but not in dressing super-nicely or making sure that church begins at 11:00 AM and ends promptly at 11:59:50.  We need to prepare ourselves to be ready for God to use us to glorify Him at any given time, not just on Sunday mornings.

We must humble ourselves and accept the fact that our idea of excellence pales in comparison to God's.  We can come to Him and say "God, our best isn't ever going to be good enough, but we know that You have given us many gifts, talents, abilities... we realize we need to work to hone all of those things so that we can use them whenever you call us to do so.  But we also acknowledge that apart from You, our best is useless.  Empower us with Your Spirit as we learn to give You what you have called us to do, in the way that You would have it done."

Eph 2:8-10

8 God saved you by his grace when you believed. And you can’t take credit for this; it is a gift from God. 9 Salvation is not a reward for the good things we have done, so none of us can boast about it. 10 For we are God’s masterpiece. He has created us anew in Christ Jesus, so we can do the good things he planned for us long ago.

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Sacrificial Living?

With Easter being last week, I thought a lot about the sacrifice that Jesus made on the cross and I thought, "Am I content with what I'm giving to God?"  You see, as a preacher, it's easy for me to think, "Well surely I'm doing my duty as a Christian.  I preach on the weekends. I lead and participate in Bible Studies during the week.  I'm often encouraging and counseling my church members and friends.  I tithe.  I'll even go out of my way to bake cookies or do some other random acts of kindness around town.  I must be on the right track."

But then I take a step back and when I look at it... I enjoy all of those things.  I would probably be doing them whether or not it was my job, but when I look at what bigger things I could be doing... things that I'm not very good at... things that I wouldn't be able to do without the help of God, I wonder, "Am I allowing God to use me the way that He wants to use me?  or the way that I want Him to use me?"

I still haven't reached a conclusion, but I don't know that I'll necessarily like the answer when I do.

There are two major schools of thought bouncing back and forth in my brain:

1.) God has gifted me for certain things and I perform them adequately enough.  This is the option that would certainly make me feel better about what I do for God and how I'm living my life.  Clearly I enjoy talking to people, getting to know people, and meeting their needs.  God has gifted me for it, and I'm doing it.  Simple!

but then I think about...

2.) God is calling me to bigger and more difficult things, but I'm contenting and busying myself with smaller things.  What if I'm supposed to be doing more with my faith than I currently am?  I feel called to Culpeper for now, but am I supposed to focus only on my church or the people of Culpeper?  Should I be starting new ministries?  Could I hold a huge event that attracts lots of people just to begin sharing about the sacrifice that Jesus made?  Or should I just be ok with handing out cookies at Walmart every few months?

Jesus said that the road to heaven is a straight and narrow path... there are tons of options, but only one way to the Father and that's through Jesus.  I think the real heart of the issue is: Am I consistently doing things that glorify Jesus?

I'm sure it looks like different things for different people, in fact it looks like different things for just one person at different stages in life.  But the question I think we all need to be asking ourselves is, if we've been given so much, what are we doing with it?

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

What does this have to do with Easter?

Jurassic Park: The Ride (Spoiler Alert if you've never been on the ride before... it shows the whole thing).

Listen to my Easter sermon coming up this Sunday...

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Sharing the Good News

As I write this, I'm sitting in the office of one of my friends in ministry.  He's not here right now, so I figured I'd commendeer his computer and do my job (with his permission... apparently his "eye health" is more important than our friendship).

One of the things that strikes me, however, is how he and I have grown to trust each other in the eight short months that I've been here.  We share stories and victories and pains.  We're confidants and ministers and encouragers.  We're friends.  When I do good things, I expect to hear from him.  But flip it around.  When I do bad things, I expect to hear from him.  When there's an issue in my life, when I'm discouraged, when I'm angry, he's able to call me on it.  I'd do the same for him as well.

It's a very simple concept really... we put our trust in the people we know best.  We share our hearts, our dreams, our desires, our weaknesses, our struggles, our depressions with those that we know and love the most.  It's the natural human condition.

I suppose that's why pictures like this confuse me so much:

Ok, perfect picture for my purposes.  First off, don't you really want to meet the ONE drunkard and the ONE general heathen from that sign?  There are potentially millions of of the other categories, but only one of those two.  Poor two people on the face of the planet who struggle alone with drunkeness and... general heatheness?  Huh, that didn't come up on spell check, guess it is a word.

Now, let me ask you, if you were one who actually would identify as a drunkard, fornicator, masturbator, atheist, abortionist, adutlerer, witch, reveler, sodomite, hypocrite, blashphemer, liar, or general heathen, would you be inclined to talk to this man?  To listen to anything he had to say?  I'm a Christian and I don't think I'd really have anything kind to say to him.  There's no relationship there... no trust... nothing but judgement and damnation.

Now look at his sleeve.  The mega-irony would be if that last word was "LOVE" but I think it's "LORD" which would make a lot of sense since a message of love and peace doesn't seem to be portrayed.  Now, it should be noted that Christianity is NOT simply a religion about love and peace, and he's right in that there WILL be judgement, but that judgement is God's, not ours.  The reason that God gets to make those calls is because He *IS* Lord and we are not.  As Lord He called us to live lives holy and pleasing to him and to make disciples for Him.

But He did not call us to hold signs scolding people, unless discipleship looks entirely different than I imagine it to be.  Ok, time to look at that Bible verse.  Hebrews 9:27--

Just as people are destined to die once, and after that to face judgment,

Ah!  There we go all questions answered!  People are destined to die and then to face judgement.  Period.

What?  There was no period?  It was a comma?  Well I guess it would be pretty important to read the whole sentence, but surely it's just going to talk about how judgement is the only option awaiting sinners.  Let's see:

27 Just as people are destined to die once, and after that to face judgment, 28so Christ was sacrificed once to take away the sins of many; and he will appear a second time, not to bear sin, but to bring salvation to those who are waiting for him.
Oh.  So wait... there's hope?  That seems rather important.  Maybe someone should share that with people instead of just telling them that only Hell awaits them.  Form a relationship... share in life... teach the Good News.

Maybe someone should.  Maybe you should.

Wednesday, April 6, 2011


I'm sorry if I've been letting anyone down in the last few weeks... I think God is doing some amazing things in Culpeper and I'm looking forward to those, but it's been requiring a lot of time reflecting and praying on my part.  Add that to the fact that my computer's power connection is very finicky now (update: dead) so I haven't really been able to spend much time on my computer to write a blog.  The church has purchased a new one however, so things should be able to move forward as usual.  The last two weeks of sermons have been uploaded to as well.

You see, until it gets fixed, the power cord for my computer has to be tilted in a very specific way just so it can make an electric connection and charge the battery.  If it moves at all, I have to spend about 5 minutes getting it back into the proper place... it's annoying to say the least.  There should be a solid connection from the electricity flowing from the cord to the power adapter inside the computer which leads to my battery and allows it to charge.  When any of that is out of sync or alignment, the whole machine loses power until finally, it won't turn on anymore.

It's amazing to me how vastly important connections are in my every day life.  If I have a bad phone, TV, or internet connection, I become very disgruntled and want it fixed immediately.  When I have friends and we just aren't on the same page, it's very frustrating.  When God and I aren't sharing a solid connection, all of those feelings come rise again.  In each one of those instances, I blame something else... Comcast or Verizon or AT&T, my friends.  And yes, even God.

Hebrews 11:6
And without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who earnestly seek him.

The writer of Hebrews knew that it was important for man to maintain a connection with God.  Even though the Bible is filled with numerous instances where God seeks after man, it's clear that God wants the connection to be a voluntary one.  We must do our part to seek after him and maintain the connection.

To often, we neglect the connection with God as one that is important to our lives, yet when we experience the negative feelings that go along with the bad connection, we're so quick to blame God for our troubles.  "God's not listening, God's not answering my prayers." Not nearly often enough do I turn the tables and say "I need to do a better job of maintaining this connection."  But that's what we need to do.  The best part is, God's always waiting for us to turn back to Him, offering that strong connection through his Son Jesus Christ.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Delayed blog post

Hey all,

I'm going to try to get a blog post up this week, but God has been laying some things on my heart and I have a friend in town this week too.  Nothing's wrong, I just don't really feel like composing anything at the moment.  I want to sit on this and allow for some time of reflection before I blurt out my thoughts.  Pray for me during this time!

Adam... P.S. Maybe look for a blog post around Friday... probably?