The other night, my wife and I watched “The Founder”, a biopic about Ray Kroc, the ‘founder’ of McDonald’s. As someone largely unfamiliar with the history of the ‘Golden Arches’, through the film I was introduced to culinary geniuses Maurice and Richard McDonald and the ‘speedee system’ they developed (the source of the great success the restaurants that bore their name enjoyed). They designed a kitchen and business model that provided good food with no plates, no carhops and (most importantly) no waiting – it was revolutionary. Kroc, who sold milkshake blenders at the time, made a sales call at the walk-up ‘diner’ and was immediately smitten.
The McDonald brothers had a great product and a great process, and they wanted to share them with people beyond those living in San Bernadino, California. That was where the genius of Ray Kroc came in, as a franchise specialist. In the span of six years, Kroc expertly established franchises in dozens of locations across America and grew tired of the need to gain the McDonald brothers’ approval for every franchise and any systemic changes. Kroc broke his contract with the brothers and forced them to consider the expense of a lawsuit. They eventually settled on a price ($1 million to each brother, after taxes) and Kroc moved on with everything – the product, the process and the name “MacDonald’s”. It is a cautionary tale of what can happen when a wolf gets into the henhouse.
You adulterous people, don’t you know that friendship with the world means enmity against God? Therefore, anyone who chooses to be a friend of the world becomes an enemy of God. James 4:4
As I watched the movie, I thought of the connections that this account of the rise of McDonald’s had with the church (i.e. the people of God, not the buildings).
First, there is an emphasis on the part of the brothers to focus on what is important. Part of their success was offering what people wanted and eliminating everything that was not needed. Early in the film, Dick McDonald tells Ray Kroc that they offered all sorts of items on the menu and were struggling, causing them to reevaluate. They discovered that 87% of their sales were three items – burgers, fries and soft drinks. They decided that this (and milkshakes) was all that would be on the menu. As the church, we would do well to remember what we are here to offer – the gospel of Jesus Christ.
Then, there was an emphasis on the part of the brothers with putting people first. Much of the disagreements between the McDonalds and Kroc was the purpose of the restaurants – was it to be a commercial enterprise intent of making money or a service intent on enabling families a night out at a reasonable price? I think we all know how that turned out. The church is likewise tempted to choose prosperity over people.
Finally, there is an emphasis on the part of the brothers to refuse any form of compromise. Toward the end of their contractual relationship, Kroc wanted to save costs with a new product, powdered milkshakes that needed no refrigeration. The brothers refused the idea because milkshakes are made with, like, milk. Likewise, the church must steer clear of compromise if we seek to make a difference for Christ.
The church – the people of God co-laboring in Christ – has something wonderful to offer the world. Let us pray that no one robs us of our joy in serving Him.
There are plenty of things I love about serving in ministry in a small church: despite my introverted nature I love preaching and teaching people from various walks of life; even though only a handful of people read these posts I love relating the truths of God to everyday realities; and, maybe above all, although it will only reach a couple dozen kids during one week in July I love directing Vacation Bible School. Vacation Bible School is both exhilarating and exhausting. While it brings out the best (it gives an outlet for my creative silliness) and worst (I am woefully inadequate in encouraging our volunteers), I am blessed every year by God’s presence, experienced by and through all those who participate.
My first experience with VBS was at First Church of the Nazarene in Brockton when I was invited to participate by Patty Stanley, a third grade classmate. While I don’t remember much more than going, the experience planted deep seeds within my soul. These seeds would take about a dozen years to bear fruit, and now, after 25 summers of leading children through VBS, I am beginning to realize why I love this week so much. VBS reminds me that:
- Church should be fun: Sometimes I feel that a typical Sunday morning is not what most participants would categorize as fun – majestic, illuminating, encouraging and equipping, yes, but ‘a blast”, sadly not. VBS is lively music, energetic games, sweet food, sometimes messy crafts and silly surprises. It is fifteen hours of exuberance and laughter. That is what I picture heaven to be like and those lucky enough to participate get a little glimpse of it in church basements across the country every summer;
- Church should involve everyone: I wish every program in the church involved as diverse a collection of people as VBS. Not only can kids from every aspect of our society participate (regardless of age, education, religion, race, ethnicity or economic status), VBS also attracts volunteers that reflect the same diversity. It is not uncommon for a 70 year-old to interact with a 7 year-old or a teen to laugh alongside a toddler. Again, this is what I picture heaven to be like, and those who participate in VBS get to experience that joy here and now;
- Church should share the love of Jesus: VBS does this in word and in deed. Certainly, the Bible lessons are intended to share the great truth that God loves us so much that He sent His son to pay the penalty for our sin on the cross and restore our relationship with Him. But the willingness of volunteers to give of their time, talents and resources, sacrificially spending hours of retirement or vacation time simply to share the Savior with our smallest family members expresses the great love of God. Perhaps VBS is the best example of evangelism most churches portray.
That is why I love VBS. I have fun, interact with others and share God’s love. This year, as in years past, I was blessed by all that occurred in a little church in the big city as we went on a “Deep Sea Discovery”. It has been a good reminder that God is with me wherever I go!
“I am with you and will watch over you wherever you go….” Genesis 28:15 (NIV)