I went to McDonald’s yesterday. It was a fundraiser for my son’s school. Proceeds of every purchase would be donated to his school to be used throughout the year.
As always when I go to McDonald’s or any other fast food establishment, especially when I am just going in and out to get my food, I spent more time in the parking lot than I did in the actual restaurant. I was in and out of the store in two or three minutes, even with teachers running a system they did not have complete knowledge of and a crowded restaurant.
It was a quick experience.
We all know that story, right? We go to a fast food restaurant wanting quick service and results. A quick fix, if you will, to our desire to end our hunger with a hamburger, fries, and a drink. (In my case, it was fries and a drink for my son.) We’ll grab the meal and eat it in our cars, the parking lot, or anywhere else for the convenience of having a fast meal. As a result, we are spending nearly $300 billion a year on fast food in the United States. This is up from $187 billion in 2004.
There are a lot of reasons for this. We have reduced the family meal to being unimportant to our belief that every minute of the day needs to be planned out. We look for convenience when we are tired. Sometimes, though, we just want something quick for comfort and ease.
I’ve been thinking about if any of this relates to the local church. How often do we desire a quick fix to whatever issue or struggle that we face as a community? We expect an instant turnaround and immediate results, because that is what we have grown accustomed to in society. Need a meal quick? Go to McDonald’s. Need to find out about something? Go to your phone. Need directions? There is an app for that.
Is the attitude of wanting a quick fix and instant results helpful in the church? I think it is a mixed bag.
There are places in the church where we can and should seek what I call “quick victories.” I believe quick victories enable long-term ministry growth and momentum. Without them, ministries and missions often struggle with gaining traction and consistency that is needed to grow fruit and make disciples.
What are quick victories? For one, it is being emotionally, physically, and spiritually present to your congregation. That is important. No one is going to listen to someone who is not engage or present in their congregation and within the community. Showing up is an important early victory for ministry fruitfulness. This isn’t just for the pastor. Being present is important to provide energy and support to the ministry of the church. It is difficult for a congregation to gain momentum if the people are not showing up and taking seriously the call to discipleship and relationship.
Another quick victory is having the right attitude. By right attitude what I mean is having a focus that is set on Christ and is forward thinking and not backward leading. Having this attitude can enhance optimism and hope within the leadership and church. At the same time, the people of the church are called to embrace having a right attitude. We cannot keep wishing for the good old days and expect to moving forward. We also cannot be negative all the time and expect people to be excited for worship and ministry.
These are easy and quick victories that we all need. Without them, we cannot turn our attention to the larger and, often, systematic issues that hinder a church from truly being the hands and feet of Christ. Working on issues such as low discipleship, low Scriptural understanding, and limited engagement in our community is not something that can be fixed or addressed overnight. It takes time to build towards and a willingness to admit that some things will fail before they succeed.
Recognizing that it takes time to fix the issues before us may seem like procrastination or missing the opportunity, but it is not that at all. It is about putting the right foundation in place, so that the work towards long-term vitality and fruitfulness in a congregation can have a lasting impact.
Faith in God is not about quick fixes. It is about being faithful to God in a journey that leads towards growth in our understanding of God, ourselves, and one another. We cannot expect that to happen in an instant like a meal at McDonald’s. We need the patience to persevere that is often lacking in our time today, but is desperately needed for us to be the hands and feet of Christ.