How Can I Help?

I have to confess that every time I pass a Chick-fil-A I have this urge to pull into what is usually a crowded parking lot or backed up drive through. Oddly, the lemonade is my favorite staple there, closely followed by the breakfast burrito. I used to crave the sandwiches and waffle fries, but as John Denver sang, “The Lord and wife wouldn’t think it’s very good.” Neither do my doctors … So what draws me in? It’s the unfailing personal experience that emerges from a culture which assumes personal responsibility for the experience of another over and above their own.

We all know the CFA standard reply to a thank you – “It’s my pleasure.” But did you know the six words that at least one of which should make its way into each encounter? Try delighted, appreciate, pleasure, happy, sorry, and yes. Go place an order and see how long it takes to hear one of those positive, actionable words. And what’s their most important question of all? It’s a simple, heartfelt “How can I help?”

In an age where churches seem to struggle for relevance, loyalty, newly minted congregants, and genuine joy, I wonder if putting these words into practice might make a difference? What if every guest felt their mere presence truly delighted the folks around them? What if every encounter was a positive one that sets the stage for even more? And what if the default mode of every person in church was “How can I help?”

It’s a game changer when you say it’s not about me, nor what I want and get. What we can give matters more. Simply thinking, let alone asking the “How can I?” question might change a lot of things around us, beginning with our own personal satisfaction.

Where to start? Well first, let’s just don’t do the things that we know don’t help. You are certainly smart and self-aware enough to know what the makes that list. And look for the obviously helpful things you can do. Find new folks and introduce yourself to them. Offer to serve one shift every few weeks in our perpetually pregnant preschool. Find pleasure in making gifts that reflect your faithfulness and awareness of our church’s needs in carrying out the ministry. If it’s your gift, offer to teach, and if it’s not, be happy to help someone whose it is. Look for six things you are happy about before commenting on the one thing you are not. Refuse to do anything that will damage the fellowship and say I’m sorry when you do. Make it a point to do the many things that you know will build it up. You get the idea.

Churches that appreciate this kind of thought and practice should be as attractive and crowded as the local Chick-fil-A. That’s not surprising, given the Eat More Chicken model is predicated on the Christian value of selflessly serving people whose worth you recognize and reflect. Sadly, many of Christ’s most longstanding establishments are not. Today, I’m delighted to pastor a people who are increasingly defined and driven by a desire to say yes to God and the needs of others.

So this week, I’m going to listen to see how often those six words get uttered around here. I will make it a point to say them more myself. And I promise to ask aloud the question I hope to hear naturally arise from us all. “How can I help?” I really mean it. How can I help?