Within the last several weeks, a new Cracker Barrel restaurant has
opened in our area. Complete with a new interior design and exterior
appearance, this updated take on an already successful franchise has
culinary attendees lining up for the experience. Because the Kistler
family has frequented many a Cracker Barrel over the last 30 years, I
can honestly say that I am somewhat of an expert on the topic. Almost
without exception, we’ve found the Tennessee-based chain to be
incredibly consistent in all aspects of restaurant service! So, the
comments that follow are NOT meant to be critical! They just need to be
made for the purpose of making a larger point.
After enjoying a dining experience twice at our new Cracker Barrel, I’ve
noticed a distinct difference between the new location’s atmosphere and
service from those that are older. Perhaps most prominent is the
attitude of the wait staff. Though all employees are in training, the
smiles, eagerness to serve, and overall pleasantness make dining at the
new location a much preferred choice! A recent Cracker Barrel
experience, at a well-established location, underscores my point.
Rather than appearing excited to be there, the wait staff seemed tired,
overworked, and almost regretful that Betsy and I were even there. Even
the language used was tired and worn.
What makes my observations poignant is the fact that ministries can
suffer much the same unfortunate fate as a successful restaurant chain.
Rather than being thrilled to serve our Lord, and people, thru committed
adherence to God’s truth, we can become passionless and tired, even
responding in a less than excited way toward visitors. Rather than
eagerly anticipating each opportunity for collective worship and hearing
of the proclaimed word, we can (in weary, old location Cracker
Barrelesque fashion) unconsciously slip into a mundane, “I’ve done this
before” mode. The tragic result is that those to whom we minister can
pick up on our tired, passionless attitude.
Recently, I spent several days at one of our nation’s newer Christian
college ministries. Everyone with whom I interacted exuded a contagious
joy–such as was the case with Solomon’s servants–a joy that impressed
the Queen of Sheba. This ministry, especially it’s global media
operations, have a crystal clear understanding of why they exist! I
didn’t meet one individual who appeared displeased that I unexpectedly
entered their world. No, they were genuinely excited to see a visitor
to their area of ministry–so much so that it was difficult to get away
from them. When I spoke briefly at a staff chapel, they were
phenomenally and eagerly receptive of my message! Throughout the day,
as I encountered those who were in attendance at the chapel, I was
repeatedly thanked for coming and speaking! Such anticipatory
excitement hasn’t always been the case with other Christian ministries
I’ve visited. Far too often, I’ve felt somewhat like an intruder
because I interrupted their day’s work. Yet, people ARE the ministry!
They ARE the reason we enter ministry in the first place. They must
NEVER be viewed as unnecessary interruptions in our otherwise busy day!
So, to our new Cracker Barrel, as well as to my recently met new friends
in ministry, I say a giant “job well-done!” Simply keep up the great
work you are doing! Your understanding of Whose you are and why you
serve is coming through LOUD AND CLEAR! May EVERY genuine believer in
Christ exhibit the same contagious enthusiasm!
NOTE: The word “enthusiasm” comes from the compound Greek word “en”=in,
“Theos”=God–in other words, literally “God within.” When we are
possessed by Him, how can we be any way other than exuberant!
President, HOPE Ministries International
President, North Carolina Pastors Network (NCPN)