The Whole World In His Hands
I look for the truth of God wherever I can find it, and sometimes I find it in the most unexpected places.
Like Taco Bell.
Let me explain.
A handful of years ago, the executives of Taco Bell noticed something that concerned them greatly. Over a period of years, their chain of restaurants had shown steady growth, but then suddenly, out of the blue, they came to a point where their sales “plateaued”, leveled off, flattened out. Alarmed, they called together their brightest minds to address the problem. These top executives concluded that they needed to get back to the basics by asking the single question: “Who are our customers? Who are we trying to serve? Who are we trying to reach with our product?” The answer was: “Whoever comes to our restaurants.” With that answer in hand, they developed a survey to gain insight from the people who came to Taco Bell to eat. They asked questions like: “Do you want your taco or your burrito like this or like that?” They gathered the information gleaned from the survey and went to work making the changes the customers called for. They expected to see an upward trend in sales. But no! It didn’t happen. Sales stayed flat.
The company then gathered their brain-trust again to take a second look at the problem. They decided that they had asked the right question “who are our customers?” but they had given the wrong answer. They had answered: “Anybody who comes to our restaurants.” The second time around, their answer to the question “who are our customers?” was “anybody who eats!” They came to the conclusion that they weren’t just trying to reach those who came to their restaurants, but rather, they were trying to reach anybody who gets hungry! So they asked a second question: “Where do people get hungry?” Answer: “At shopping malls, at sporting events, at travel centers.”
You see what happened. With that answer they broke out of the box that was paralyzing them, and now, it seems that everywhere you look, you see Taco Bells. Now they are taking their product out to where people get hungry—airports, shopping malls, Wal-Marts, 7-11’s, college campuses, even ball parks. As a result, their sales are rising again.
My guess is that by this time you are wondering what in the world this, has to do with the truth of the Lord and the Lord’s church. I’ll tell you. The question those executives at Taco Bell asked is a question we ought to be asking in the church. Who are we trying to reach? Who are we trying to feed? Who are we trying to serve? The answer? Not just those who come within our walls, but anybody who gets hungry for the Gospel—and that “anybody” is everybody! That’s why we do outreach events and mission trips and television programs and newspaper ads and recreational activities and books and tapes. That’s why we do weddings and funerals and day care for people who aren’t our members. That’s why we provide schooling and clothing and medicine and counseling and housing for people whose names aren’t on our church rolls. We are trying to take the saving, healing, transforming name of Jesus Christ and the gracious, loving, caring ministry of Jesus Christ out beyond this physical place. And let me assure you that as long as God gives me the grace to stand in this pulpit, I’m going to keep calling us all, me included to dig deep into our wallets and bank accounts, into our time and the hours of our days, into our personal reserves of energy and enthusiasm and to invest these things in taking the Gospel of Jesus Christ out to the world around us, inviting those people to become a part of the family of the Lord.
I remember much earlier in my pastorate here, I received a call for help one morning. A man had been killed in a tragic accident, leaving a wife and a 15-year-old daughter. Needless to say, mother and daughter were devastated. As I started out to try to help that family in a horrible moment of tragedy, I ran up to the office of one of our youth staff at that time. I said: “There’s been a tragedy. One of our young people has lost her father to death.” I then gave the name and I said: “I’d like for you to go with me and let’s try to help.” The answer came: “Well, they’re not actually members here and she doesn’t come to our youth groups; I don’t know her really; so I don’t think I need to go.” Well, let me state what happened next like this: I helped him to see the wisdom of changing his mind! He did, and once we got there, he did well. But you see, he was trapped in a box like those people at Taco Bell. He thought he was just supposed to take care of the people who came to his restaurant.
That’s always the temptation of the church, isn’t it? To get trapped into thinking that we serve only those who come within our walls.
That’s why I especially love this particular Sunday. We call it World Communion Sunday. It reminds us boldly and dramatically that God has the whole world in his hands; that God’s table stretches all the way around the globe; that God wants to feed everybody; and that all of the people in the world, whether they realize it or not, are hungry for Him and they are starving to death for the Gospel of Jesus Christ. So we come to the Lord’s table today, remembering that because God has the world in His hands and in His heart, so shall we.
I suppose no one ever said it more plainly than John Wesley. He said:
“The world is our parish!”