Distracted By Condiments

Recently a friend of mine told me of an evening she spent at an upscale restaurant as a guest of the manager who trains the servers there. It seems this manager wanted to show her some interesting comparisons she’d noted between how restaurant servers do their jobs and what God has called the church to do. As they dined, the manager asked my friend to look closely at the details of this busy restaurant and observe what others might not notice. “See that little sugar packet holder on the corner of the table?” she asked. “It has been filled exactly as we require: ten white sugar packets facing this way, ten pink sweetener packets facing that way, and five blue packets standing sideways. The ketchup and steak sauce bottles are filled exactly to the label on the neck of the bottles, and even the inside rim of the bottle is wiped clean. And did you notice that your soft drink glass was refilled not when it was empty, but rather, when it was half full?”

My friend admitted not really having noticed much about these details but yes, now that it was brought to her attention, she could see that the servers here were doing a pretty amazing job of managing a variety of tasks that probably wouldn’t really be noticed by the guests.

The manager went on to explain: “Our goal is that all of our guests have a phenomenal dining experience here, and the last thing we want is for them to be distracted from their meal by the condiments! We sure can’t control what kind of experience our guests have with each other, but we can design the environment so that there are no distractions; everything we can control is designed to help them have a phenomenal dining experience.”

Then she asked my friend this question: “How do you think that compares to what God wants of the church?”

That’s a powerful question. I’ve been thinking pretty hard on it myself.

Some people would say that it’s really not necessary to plan the details of Sunday worship before it arrives: just wait till the time comes and see how the Holy Spirit leads. Sure, that’s one way to do it — and I would be the first to agree that we want the Spirit to lead in all of our times together. But should that preclude careful planning on our part? If the Spirit can lead us on Sunday morning, then can’t He also lead us on Tuesday morning in our service planning meeting?

Think of all the preparation the staff of a classy restaurant does to prepare for you: the whole place is clean, your table is set and waiting, fresh meats and vegetables were purchased in advance so as to be ready for whatever you might request, and several people stand ready to pour your beverage, cook your food, and serve your dinner as you ordered it. All of that for the sake of fine dining.

At Access Church, we’re inviting guests to a different kind of experience, but I see some similarities, too. We’re inviting them to come for the nourishment of their souls and to have some pretty important conversation. Doesn’t it just make sense that part of what we should do — must do — is to prepare the environment as carefully as we can in preparation for these guests? Because just when they get to the part of the “meal” that matters most, the last thing we want is for them to be distracted by our lack of preparation or service.

I often get asked what my job is at Access. What am I going to do all day or all week? Well, my main responsibility is to create unforgettable worship experiences. That‘s a challenge that both energizes and humbles me. I don’t know exactly what each day will look like but I do know this: I want to work really hard with many of you in setting a table that will invite guests to enjoy a different kind of meal. Let’s make sure the condiments don’t get in the way..