Hamburgers, Pizza and Churches
By: Tom Norvell

Vol. 17 No. 09 | March 2, 2015

I can remember the first “store bought” hamburger I ever ate. It was from Dad’s in Hope, Arkansas. I think we could get 5 for $1. The burger consisted of a bun, a thin hamburger patty, onions (lots of onions), and mustard. You could eat in (if you were a white person) by going to the window ordering your burger and sitting at a picnic table on a sawdust floor under the tin roof attached to the main building. If your skin was black you had to order from a window in the back of the building. I do not know if there was a picnic table. As I recall the menu consisted of these items: Hamburgers. If they had other items, I never knew it. The burgers were thin, greasy and covered with chopped onions. You usually smelled like onions after eating a burger. If you went to Dad’s you knew what you were getting: a hamburger. They did hamburgers well. (At least I thought they did.) It was a big deal for my family to “eat out” at Dad’s.

Things have changed. There are not many Dad’s around.

Restaurants that once specialized in certain items have changed. One burger place advertises more about gourmet coffee than burgers. It seems that a number of burger places are more interested in promoting their fish sandwiches, or their chicken sandwiches. One very popular pizza place highlights their brownies, not their pizza. When watching some perfume or cologne commercials you must watch very closely to understand what is being advertised. With some, even if you watch closely, you may still not understand. The same is true for some automobile commercials. I often find myself after some of these ads saying, “Whaaaaat?”

Things have changed. Is it too much to ask for hamburger businesses to sell hamburgers? Before I get too carried away with my nostalgic lament, let me admit that folks in my profession may be equally guilty. I wonder if people looking for a church might ask the same question, “Whaaaaat?”

Type “churches in my area” in your web browser and see what you get. Most likely you will have numerous options for additional searches. Churches of all names and sizes and brands. If you investigate further you are likely to find even more puzzling information. This church focuses on this. This church focuses on that. This church has this kind of worship. That church has that kind of worship. This group emphasizes these things. That church emphasizes those things. This church boosts of being enough for everyone to find a place. That church boosts of being small enough for everyone to feel at home. This church has this kind of preacher. That church has another kind of preacher. “Whaaaaat?”

Don’t misunderstand. As much as I would enjoy a good old Dad’s hamburger (or 5 for $1), I am glad we have other choices. My tastes for burgers have changed. The same is true for spiritual needs. Churches that met my needs as a teenager or young adult would not have the same appeal today. Churches that offer me spiritual nourishment might not offer anything worthwhile to someone decades younger than me.

The diversity is good. We like options. We value choices. We are all different. We have different needs and tastes and preferences.

There is one thing, however, that I believe is constant and necessary as we scan the globe for a spiritual community. What is it? Christ.

Paul said it as he explained his situation in prison as he talked of different motives and different preaching that was going on. “But what does it matter? The important thing is that in every way, whether from false motives or true, Christ is preached. And because of this I rejoice.” (Philippians 1:18, NIV)

That is what I look for in a church. Christ is preached. That is one thing I will not compromise. Christ is preached. That is one of my goals for where I preach and teach. Christ is preached.

Styles change. Preferences differ. Opinions are cheap. The emphasis we place on different methods and approaches to sharing the message are going to vary according to the context of the community and the make-up of the church. But please, I beg you, let Christ be preached.

This week I hope you find a good burger, a nice slice of pizza, and especially a church where Christ is preached.


© Copyright 2015 Tom Norvell. All rights reserved.