RITE OF PASSAGE: Want Fries with that Oil Change?
Today’s high gas prices are finally causing us to rethink some of our driving habits. We are combining trips and doing whatever we can to cut back on unnecessary travel. A pastor friend of mine tells me the costs have risen so much that he doubles the value of his car every time he fills up.
I have to tell you, though. Another new trend bothers me even more than the high prices. I’m sure you’ve noticed it. Companies have started combining gas stations with fast food restaurants. You probably have seen these new hybrid stores; they are sprouting up all over the country. I admit it: I feel funny pulling into a place that sells oil and gasoline to order a combo meal. How do I know that they haven’t confused the oil for my tune-up with the oil used to fry my French fries? That kind of thing is bound to happen sooner or later. Come to think of it, the food might taste better if . . . it did.
In the old days (the older I get, the more I catch myself sounding like my grandpa), when you pulled into a filling station, the attendant ran to your car, washed your windows, checked your oil, kicked the tires and checked the fluid in your battery-not to mention filling up your car, all for less than the cost of a gallon of gas today. After that, you drove over to A&W Root Beer, where a girl roller-skated out to take your order.
Today, we have become much more modern. It seems we can never learn to leave well enough alone. These days, you have to pump your own gas while trying to figure out how in the world to open your hood. On top of that, you pay 50 cents or more for three minutes’ worth of air to fill up your tires. If you call this progress, you are at least a French fry or two short of a Happy Meal.
Speaking of Happy Meals, it also bothers me that my hands smell like gasoline every time I order a hamburger these days. All this makes me wonder what kind of combination the marketing wizards are plotting next. A Wal-Mart/funeral home? Maybe that’s not such a bad idea. I told my wife the other day that I want to be buried at Wal-Mart. That way, I can be sure she will come to visit me.
It seems to me that some of our churches are following this trend of unusual or even unnecessary combinations. You used to go to gas stations because you could count on finding somebody there who knew about cars. You went to a restaurant because the people who ran the place were experts in preparing food. You went to church because you knew you would receive solid biblical guidance as you stepped inside.
I am afraid that some of our churches have taken on the trends of the world. At today’s churches, you can lose weight, roller skate or even play a video game. Every once in a while, you might even find a Bible study. Now, I understand that churches do all sorts of things as they attempt to reach out to all kinds of people. But I also know that, just like the combination gas station and fast food restaurant, it can be easy to lose the central purpose amidst all the . . . supersizing.
Something else has changed in today’s world. Just as we often outsource the job of feeding our family to the fast food chains, many of us outsource the job of teaching our kids the Word of God to the church. We expect the pastor, the youth minister, or the Sunday School teacher to do it all. What’s wrong with this picture? God never assigned to the church the primary responsibility for our kids’ spiritual development. Instead, He has given that task to . . . mom and dad. We are the ones God has chosen to provide our children with food, shelter and to bring them up in the nurture and admonition of . . . Him.
The church should be a place that reinforces-not replaces-the spiritual teachings of the home. Otherwise, we become like the world, asking, “Want fries with that oil change?”
Dear Father, just as my child is a part of our family, may our family also be a part of the family of God. Help us get involved with a church whose focus is equipping families to live according to the Word of God, not . . . the extras. May those who teach our children each Sunday teach from the overflow of a living and loving relationship with You. Amen.