Drive-Thru Christianity

By September 1, 2014My Thoughts

Does it ever seem to you like churches in North America are similar to the drive-thru at a fast food place? Or is it just me?

Now, I confess that I do not know the history of drive-thru windows, but I do know the reason I use them. I suspect it is the reason many people use them. I use them because it is quick. It’s convenient. I don’t even have to get out of my car. Sometimes I’m in a hurry, and I just want someone to serve me because it’s so much faster than meal planning, cooking, and cleaning up after all of it.

And sometimes it’s nearly a necessity. Sometimes there’s so much going on in my day, or in my life, that there is hardly time to eat, let alone buy and make the food. Other times, I’m on the road and it isn’t possible to eat at home. So, I sit in my car, pull up to the window, and let someone serve me.

And that’s not completely wrong.

What troubles me about it is the way I’ve noticed this convenience mentality trickle over into other areas of life.

When I was in high school, I was a barista at a local coffee shop. I came into work at 5:00 AM and started the coffee. I made specialty drinks for the people who came in as part of their morning routine. I looked forward to being the first smiling face the customers saw that day. I made relationships with people who came in at the same time every day. I got to know people’s names, their usual orders, and learned about their families and what was happening in their lives.

But now, when I want a specialty coffee, I go through the drive-thru. I’m in a hurry. I don’t feel like talking to anyone. I just want my coffee. I want someone to serve me. I don’t want to sit, talk, reflect, build friendships.

Well…I do want those things, I just don’t always realize that my choices and lifestyle habits prevent those things from happening.

Too often my life looks more like a trip through the drive-thru than I want to admit.

And sometimes I think churches in North America have become far more like a drive-thru than they were ever intended to be.

Before Jesus ascended into heaven, he told his disciples to “Go, therefore, and make disciples.” Make disciples by giving, loving, and serving. But, the North American church model seems to be arranged around some kind of commission that sounds more like, “Therefore, come, sit, and receive.” We come to be served rather than to serve.

Which seems rather opposite of how it is supposed to be, right?

Our lives seem so frenzied, so hectic, so busy that we don’t think we have time to serve. It’s a miracle we have time to be served at all. We feel drained and empty, and we wanted to be ministered to. And sometimes we need that. Sometimes we really are so empty that we need to be filled.

Sometimes we need to be served because we have nothing left to give.

Other times we feel empty because we aren’t serving.

We feel empty because our lifestyle habits don’t allow us to be filled. In fact, sometimes our habits work against our being filled. We crave relationships, love, meaning, and purpose, and then live lives that deprive us of the things we need the most.

We go through the drive-thru when what we really need is to get out, go in, and experience something real.

When we begin to see church as a trip through the drive-thru – the place where we go to get our needs met in 60 minutes or less – is it any wonder that we’re left unsatisfied? When our worship – something that should be central to who we are – is all about meeting our own wants and desires as quickly as possible, is it any wonder that the smaller moments of our weeks are lived out the same way?

What if we decided to make a change? What if we decided to savor the Word, and love our neighbors? What if efficiency and perfection and feel good messages faded away to make room for authentic relationships, confession, honesty, and love?

What if instead of hurrying along to the pace of our over-filled calendars, we moved in step with the life of Jesus?

What if our mindless eating was replaced with savoring the meal of love instituted by our Lord?

What if we got out of our frantic rhythms and routines and allowed ourselves to look around, to see others, to live?

About April Fiet

April is a pastor, wife, mom, and lover of words. She finds inspiration under the big Nebraska skies, in the garden, in the yarn aisle, and in the kitchen. Learn more about April here, and join the conversation on Facebook and Twitter.

  • Stephen Shaffer

    Thanks for this post, April. Something we need to hear. Have you heard of the new book, Slow Church? From the reviews I’ve read, it connects some of the impulses behind the slow food movement with the ways that Jesus practiced discipleship. Your comments about fast food brought it to mind and I thought you might want to check it out.

    • Thank you, Stephen! I haven’t looked much into the slow food movement, but I am familiar with it. I love the idea! I’ll have to do more digging 🙂

  • Joe Fox

    “Too often my life looks more like a trip through the drive-thru than I want to admit.”

    Agreed – this is something I’ve been thinking about for a while April. I wonder if our conversation with others gives the impression that we don’t have time to cultivate the types of authentic relationships you describe. When we constantly explain to others how busy we are, are we unintentionally letting them know that we can’t find the time for them? From my own perspective, I’m hesitant to ask others to get together or meet for lunch, etc. because I’m aware of how busy their lives are. I don’t want them to feel guilty about having to turn down an invite, so I often don’t even ask. So the drive-thrus continue, and another week, month, or more goes by, and the feeling of detachment continues.

    I hope I’m not overdramating this, but I don’t know how to break this cycle. What would you suggest as potential answers to some of the questions you asked at the end of this post?

    • Joe – thank you so much for reading and for helping me think through this! I so understand how you feel. I want out of the cycle, but it’s so culturally ingrained in me that I struggle to break free from it.

      So far I’m trying little things – like going outside in the evenings. Lo and behold, I have a lot in common with my neighbors. I have another friend who is SO good at asking for help and at planning fun get togethers. When someone asks, “Hey, do you need help with something?” she is ready to say, “Yes! Here’s what would really help!” I really admire that about her, and I’m trying to be better about it too.