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IN THE CARPENTER’S WORKSHOP: Drive-through faith

Every Sunday there are people who drive by the church or stay at home.  I pray for them often, for they used to be in church somewhere.  Or  maybe they never have been.  Either way, driving by is a preview of things to come.

 

Drive-through windows dot the landscape of America from sea to shining sea. At fast food restaurants, banks and even funeral homes, patrons can get quick service from the person in the window.

There was a recent true story about a priest who stood on the sidewalk outside the church on Ash Wednesday.  He offered prayer and ashes to those who passed by.

And then there is the enormous Crystal Cathedral in California which began in a drive-in movie theatre.  Last reports are that it has been sold to another church.

Driving by can be a metaphor for how many people see faith in their lives.  They see it, pass by most of what they might find inside and miss out on the wonderful things God can lead them to accomplish.

We can try all sorts of things to help people find deeper faith with God’s people.  But it is ultimately up to how they respond to the living, loving, life-changing God himself.

Churches and Christians are called to try new and old ways of reaching out to people.  But sometimes we can go a bit too far.

Father Brian, an elderly priest, was speaking to Father Karl, a younger priest, saying, “You had a good idea to replace the first four pews with plush bucket theatre seats. It worked like a charm. The front of the church always fills first now.”

Father Karl nods, and the old priest continues, “And you told me adding a little more beat to the music would bring young people back to church, so I supported you when you brought in that rock ‘n’ roll gospel choir. Now our services are consistently packed to the rafters.”

“Thank you, Father Brian,” answers the young priest.  “I am pleased that you are open to the new ideas of youth.”

“All of these ideas have been well and good,” comments Father Brian wisely.  “But I’m afraid you’ve gone too far with the drive-thru confessional.”

“But, Father Brian,” protests the young Father Karl, “My confessions have nearly doubled since I began that!”

“Indeed,” replies the elderly priest, “and I appreciate that.  But the flashing neon sign, ‘Toot ‘n Tell or Go to Hell’ cannot stay on the church roof.”

Faith cannot be reduced to a drive-through dose of faith, which appeals to today’s fast food generation.  There is something much deeper to be discovered as we go in to find out what God is doing inside the walls of his holy church.

People can get just enough religion to inoculate themselves against the real thing.  They may say the right words and do the right things but not find that total commitment to Jesus to which his disciples are truly called.

Or they have driven by so many times that they have lost the desire to come in.  What a major tragedy for all those God wants to fill with joy and love!

Occasionally, we might find this drive-by demon in the church, even in the clergy.

Did you see the news story about the priest who so wanted to see the Seattle Seahawks game which was airing during worship that he had a one minute worship service?  If you want forgiveness, you have it.  If you want communion, there it is.  He opened the top of his robe to show a team T-shirt underneath and walked out, to congregational applause!  Football had just been raised above faith!

We have moved too far from traditional and life-altering faith in today’s world.  People are jumping and shouting in times of worship which sometimes has no room for God’s still small voice to come forth and transform.

But let not the traditional-minded folks get too comfortable.  We can stand so much on the promises that we don’t see them on the premises.

You see, we have the wrong idea about drive-by faith.  God was in the burning bush, and Moses was driving by in his Corvette.  Check that.  He was walking by.

God spoke to him, and he was never the same again.  Millions of lives were saved and were freed from slavery because of that conversation.

Next came the tabernacle, which God told him in detail how to build.  Later came the temple in Jerusalem.  And then came the church, which was built fairly near to where you live.

Chances are there is no drive-through window there.  But there are doors and people who seek Christ’s will for their lives.

Not all churches are open for business.  The spiritual food is the bare minimum combo which can be had during a stop at the drive-through window.  But the ones that are, you will know after an inside visit or two.

 

Drive-through faith is for the birds!