2015-01-16 - What'll Ya Have?
Here in Georgia, we have an old fast food restaurant named “The Varsity”. At The Varsity, as you step up to the counter to order, the worker will ask, “What’ll ya have?” What he's wanting to know is why did you come here? I go for the chill cheese dogs and frosted orange drinks. Sometimes I'd like an apple pie with that. For others, they only come for frosted oranges. Some may come just for that old atmosphere; some people even just get naked dogs - I'm not sure what they’re thinking, driving there, just to order a plain hot dog. It's okay that they all come for different reasons. That's why they have a couple dozen items on the menu.
Today, I'll ask the same question, “What’ll ya have?” Why do you come to church? Think about it for a while.
As you think about it, let me share a few stories from my younger years. Through these stories, I will show several reasons we go to church. I'll call these the G's of church-going, if that's OK.
The youth group I was in as a teen had Sunday school, and a few activities, including a ski trip each Christmas break. I went twice and sprained my ankle both times, before ever getting on the bus - one time as I was getting on the bus. I was a good church kid, and had made a profession in church when I was 7 or so, but I really just went because of one reason - I had a “drug problem”.
I got drug to church. Looking back, I'm glad I did, because some of it sunk in, I guess - but I don't remember much about it. These people weren't my friends - there were no good relationships - I wasn't growing - I simply sat and did what good drug kids were supposed to do.
I graduated went to college, and as a college student, got into two different youth groups: one in Greenville, SC and one in Conyers, GA. So in college, I started attending a little church that was comfortable. I didn't rock the boat, and as a freshman, I was put into the youth group. I went there for one main reason.
I went for girls at church (Girls, it's OK to change this to guys here if you're taking notes). There was a girl named Stephanie, and she was cute. I think her parents may have even thought I'd be good boyfriend / future husband material, so they were okay with our relationship, and that kept me in church for a couple years in college. Meanwhile, back home, I went to another youth group on my visits home - not to my parents' church, but to the church some friends went to.
I went for good times at church. I simply hung out with friends still in high school. Because I was an adult, though, some church leaders thought I should be able to be a chaperone on a trip to Panama City Beach too. Yeah - let's just say being an adult doesn't make you responsible; it didn't go well.
Now, I didn't have fancy facilities, at any of the churches where I went to church as a teen. There were sanctuaries, and then there were Sunday school rooms, and of course a “fellowship hall” - which if you don't speak church, means dining room for the whole church. But nowadays, there are multi-purpose buildings, and they go by names like F.L.C. (family life center) and R.O.C. (recreational outreach center) - but back in the day, if mine had one, it would've been a simple name: G-Y-M
Some people go for the gym at church. Yes that's right; some people just come to play volleyball, basketball, or whatever.
Just to throw out a couple more reasons people may come to church: They may come for games or for goodies. Whether its prizes or food, I'm gonna be there. People go nuts for contests, snacks, and free stuff. I get that, because I like free stuff, too. If some of you heard that the church down the street was giving away an iPad, some of you might have gone there this week.
Last but not least, there's the reason many hope you show for church, and many claim to show up for church: You come for the god of church. Let's be honest now, and admit that we don't all show up for God. If my son Jordan invites a Muslim friend, Alix, it's not going to be for God - but for gym or good times. Many churches will have a concert or movie or other event - to attract people with the hope that while they may not come for God - they just might leave with God.
So those are some of the reasons why teens or people in general even show up - they're why I show up, and I get that's why many of you show up. Let me now share two stories about why youth groups and showing up to them are important to me. Both of these involve FCA, but that's just a youth group that doesn't meet in a church, but at a school. These are some stories from back in the past.
For the first, we must travel all the way back to 1987. There was a tenth grader who had just won a hard-fought battle for secretary of the computer club. He was also the fifth board on a very competitive chess team. That boy was me. I was a geek - an uber geek, really. As such, I had geek friends - but the thing about us geeks is that there's not many of us, so this particular quarter at school, I happened to eat alone. And that's when a girl came along - Lynn. She came up to me one day, and sat at my table. She was a good-looking senior girl, so naturally I figured she lost a bet and had to. I waited for her to retreat to a table and laugh, like so many others had done. But Lynn didn't. In fact, she came back the next day and the next, and invited me to sit with her friends. After a few weeks of my sitting at her table with her senior friends, one of the guys invited me to a party at his house. I was beyond excited, and after my much begging, my parents decided to let me go. That party was an FCA meeting. FCA is Fellowship of Christian Athletes. That night, I had a blast. There were games and lots of hang-out time, but also the Gospel was clearly presented. That one night left an impression on me, as it is still one of my most vivid memories of high school.
Now flash forward to the fall of 1989. I am now a freshmen in college at Furman University. James, John and another guy were the upper classmen on my freshman hall. They invited me to FCA. From high school, I knew it would be fun, and I could meet people, so I went. I knew what it was, but I went to hang with the guys. I wanted to fit in. That night, a soccer player spoke, but more importantly, God showed up. Later that night - September 21, 1989 - I got saved. Those two events influence how I see youth groups, and how I've tried to do ministry for a decade-and-a-half now, because here's the thing. I don't care why you come, so long as I know how you leave.
Let's look at the tail end of a parable in Luke 14:21-24. In this story, a great man has invited many to come to a part, and they all have excuses, so the slave is sent out to invite others.
Luke 14:21-24 (NKJV)
Compel is the key word I want to focus on. According to the Merriam Webster dictionary (m-w.com), compel means “to drive or urge forcefully or irresistibly. To cause to do or to occur.“ I want to compel you all to come in. I want you to compel your friends to come in. This Jesus thing is real, and when it gets you, it becomes the reason to show up - not just at church, but also in life. I don't know the state each of you are in, but if you honestly don't have God at the top of your list of reasons, let me talk to you for just a minute.
God is good, and he loves you. He doesn't want or need anything from you; he just wants a relationship with you. His son Jesus died for your sins, so that you could have that relationship with him. If you'll let him… I hope you will discover the real thing that satisfies more than any guy, girl, good time, gym, or anything else ever could!
All scripture references are from the KJV unless otherwise noted