A Cracker Barrel Truth!

Within the last several weeks, a new Cracker Barrel restaurant has opened in our area.  Complete with a new interior design and exterior appearance, this updated take on an already successful franchise has culinary attendees lining up for the experience. Because the Kistler family has frequented many a Cracker Barrel over the last 30 years, I can honestly say that I am somewhat of an expert on the topic.  Almost without exception, we’ve found the Tennessee-based chain to be incredibly consistent in all aspects of restaurant service!  So, the comments that follow are NOT meant to be critical!  They just need to be made for the purpose of making a larger point.

After enjoying a dining experience twice at our new Cracker Barrel, I’ve noticed a distinct difference between the new location’s atmosphere and service from those that are older.  Perhaps most prominent is the attitude of the wait staff.  Though all employees are in training, the smiles, eagerness to serve, and overall pleasantness make dining at the new location a much preferred choice!  A recent Cracker Barrel experience, at a well-established location, underscores my point.  Rather than appearing excited to be there, the wait staff seemed tired, overworked, and almost regretful that Betsy and I were even there. Even the language used was tired and worn.

What makes my observations poignant is the fact that ministries can suffer much the same unfortunate fate as a successful restaurant chain.  Rather than being thrilled to serve our Lord, and people, thru committed adherence to God’s truth, we can become passionless and tired, even responding in a less than excited way toward visitors.  Rather than eagerly anticipating each opportunity for collective worship and hearing of the proclaimed word, we can (in weary, old location Cracker Barrelesque fashion) unconsciously slip into a mundane, “I’ve done this before” mode.  The tragic result is that those to whom we minister can pick up on our tired, passionless attitude.

Recently, I spent several days at one of our nation’s newer Christian college ministries.  Everyone with whom I interacted exuded a contagious joy–such as was the case with Solomon’s servants–a joy that impressed the Queen of Sheba.  This ministry, especially it’s global media operations, have a crystal clear understanding of why they exist!  I didn’t meet one individual who appeared displeased that I unexpectedly entered their world.  No, they were genuinely excited to see a visitor to their area of ministry–so much so that it was difficult to get away from them. When I spoke briefly at a staff chapel, they were phenomenally and eagerly receptive of my message!   Throughout the day, as I encountered those who were in attendance at the chapel, I was repeatedly thanked for coming and speaking!  Such anticipatory excitement hasn’t always been the case with other Christian ministries I’ve visited.  Far too often, I’ve felt somewhat like an intruder because I interrupted their day’s work.  Yet, people ARE the ministry!  They ARE the reason we enter ministry in the first place.  They must NEVER be viewed as unnecessary interruptions in our otherwise busy day!

So, to our new Cracker Barrel, as well as to my recently met new friends in ministry, I say a giant “job well-done!”  Simply keep up the great work you are doing!  Your understanding of Whose you are and why you serve is coming through LOUD AND CLEAR!  May EVERY genuine believer in Christ exhibit the same contagious enthusiasm!

NOTE:  The word “enthusiasm” comes from the compound Greek word “en”=in, “Theos”=God–in other words, literally “God within.”  When we are possessed by Him, how can we be any way other than exuberant!

Dave Kistler
President, HOPE Ministries International
President, North Carolina Pastors Network (NCPN)

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