10696217_775026555884481_6654606037303221373_nThis week, Dorothy and I experienced our first FIRST IMPRESSIONS DINNER.  This is a very nice dinner for new members and people who would like to know more about Level Grove.  Many churches have this sort of gathering and it was wonderful.  Each staff member “hosted” a table of guests.  We got to know them and they know us.  Deacons served the meal and the atmosphere was great.

About half way through the evening, each staff member spoke to the group explaining their respective ministries and Pastor Brian wound things up by sharing the Gospel what it means to be a Christian and church member.  Now, I have been on staff as interim music man for nearly six months and I was blown away with all of the amazing ministries this church has.

Recently I heard, “Bill, you need to understand, we are a little country church.”  I certainly  understand and respect what was being said, but the fact is, Level Grove was, but is now  far from a “Little Country Church.” It certainly still has the warmth and spirit of a small church, however, each week around 700 worship at LG.  In addition there is a fully graded Sunday School and almost countless local and foreign mission ventures.  There are Bible Studies almost every night of the week.  The youth pastor and facilities manager feed several ball teams each week as well as any number of other groups.  The pastor and  youth pastor personally teach Bible Studies virtually everyday, the children’s minister is consumed with individual and group events each week.   Literally hundreds of children and students are involved in summer camps and Vacation Bible School.

Of course, there is a very strong vocal and instrumental music ministry involving children through senior adults.  Very soon, a new youth music ministry will be launched as well as new senior adult ensemble.

All this to say, that Level Grove has a rich heritage, but is not living in the past.  There is a deliberate effort to touch as many lives for the Gospel as possible in the 21st century.   The ministerial staff is totally engaged in serving and many of the members are equally so.  Anyone attending the First Impressions Dinner were….impressed.  Of course, all of this is simply to exalt the name of Christ Jesus and I pray that impressions will translate to knowing Christ and  engagement in ministry.

Level Grove presents CHRISTMAS CELEBRATION “To North Georgia, with Love”  DECEMBER 5 AND 7, 7:00 pm  



Waffle House/Church

Most everyone, at least those who would bother to read my blog, have eaten sometime in their life at Waffle House.  My children often remind me that when on trips, I would say, “There’s a Waffle House,” they have great hamburgers.”

In January of 1991,  my ministry at the Atlanta Baptist Tabernacle was in jeopardy as the church “fathers” were considering closing the nearly 100 year old ministry Atlanta Baptist Tabernacleon Lucky Street, downtown.  I personally was not under attack, but the new approach, “new wine,” wasn’t fitting into the old wine skins of this great old House of God where thousands once attended and countless souls  came to know Christ.    Right or wrong, my good friend and pastor was being blocked at so many levels of this very unique ministry.  (The Tabernacle story might consume another blog down the road.)

Anyway, in addition to the stress at the TAB,  we had worked  hard preparing and promoting Baily Smith as our special guest for a major evangelist thrust. Then, just a day or so before the big event, Bailey became very ill and had to cancel. That knocked me a little lower.  Add to this it appeared that Bill Jr. was on his way to Dessert Storm as a journalist.  Yes, I was a bit “down.”     My heart ached for the church and my family.  We had left Florida to work specifically in this inner city work and now things looked bleak.  For about the first time in my ministry I was beginning to wonder if it was worth it.  Churches aren’t supposed to close. I know, I know, I am to trust the Lord in all things, but sometimes my flesh takes my eyes off of Him.  I admit it.  Yet, the Lord has ways of gently getting my attention and floods me with his grace and assurance.

Enter WAFFLE HOUSE…  Sunday worship at the Tabernacle was at 1:00 PM and I stopped at a Waffle House near home mid morning.  It was odd to be eating breakfast when i was traditionally at church Sunday mornings.    I walked in ready for breakfast, but feeling pretty low.  I walked in and heard, “Welcome to Waffle House,”  “Hello” “Sit anywhere you can find a seat.”  The fact is, there were only a few seats available.  The place was almost packed and there was great energy and “fun” in the room. (I would wager there was more joy in that restaurant than in most churches in Atlanta that morning.)   I sat down at the counter and immediately was served coffee and asked what I would like to eat.  The waitress was very busy, but took time to greet me and make certain I had what I needed.  As I waited for my order I looked around. There were a few people like me, dressed in coat and tie, there were folks in jeans and sweatshirts, there were old people, there were young people, there were children, and even a few teenagers. There were Asian, Blacks, Latino, “red and yellow, black and white….”   There was even a Sikh.    It was cold outside, but warm in every respect.  (I was reminded of the Cheer’s theme, “Sometimes you want to go where everybody knows your name…” )

Waffle HouseI watched and listened to the staff scurrying around laughing, connecting with customers and each other calling out orders, “Plate with browns,”  “Waffle,”  “Smothered and covered,”  “Plate with raisin”  etc.  (I am always amazed the the cook can hear fifteen orders at the same time and get them right.)  Customers were joking with the staff.  Some were very quiet, but seemingly satisfied.   As people would leave, I heard, “Thank you, come back.”  See you next week,”  “See you tomorrow…”

As I sat there it hit me, A CHURCH SHOULD BE LIKE A WAFFLE HOUSE.  It was clear they were glad I came.  The staff was eager to meet  and serve me.  Every “kind” of person is welcome.  There was happy  music playing.  Staff and customers spoke and smiled.  I was fed and was satisfied.  When I left they seemed almost sad that I was leaving and I was eagerly invited back.

I left with a lift in my step and in my spirit. God used a bunch of total strangers to renew my strength and faith.  The following weeks, I became acquainted with the entire staff at that WF and was even able to help some of these amazingly hard working single moms, students, and a couple of senior adult women who had discovered that their Social Security was not quite enough to pay their bills and had gone back to work.

Now that was over twenty years ago, but I remember that day vividly.  (I actually wrote Waffle House and shared what I had experienced; they published a my letter in their company newsletter.

FAST FORWARD TO THIS MORNING:  I slipped into a local Waffle House on my way to Lowes to pick up materials for Christmas Celebration props.  I experience virtually the same thing. As I thought about it, I pulled out my phone and made some notes:

. Looks like Keystone Cops

.The cook made me think of a pastor.  He welcomed me and seemed happy with each order.  He was glad to be of service.

.The assistant cook/pastor, was busy working along side, but obviously eager for the main man to step aside so he could preach, I mean cook.

.The waitresses were upbeat and happy, though one began to stand at the sink whispering about another waitress, The church gossip

.The gossip was “nice,” but did try to tell most of others what they should be doing.

.Customers were visiting with each other.

.Then, believe it or not, while I’m sitting there writing my observations, a lady actually called out, “Did someone turn on the air conditioner, I’m freezing in here.”  Talk about it being like a church,  I literally laughed out-loud and everyone looked at me like I was some sort of dork.

Though some of the new “hip” churches are doing so, I’m not suggesting the church should serve waffles;  however, the “come one, come all, welcome to a happy place where you can find friends and be fed,” attitude  of the Waffle House should prevail in the local church.

What it really sad is that my article is that the church should be like a Waffle House.

The mantra should be “Waffle House strives to be like The CHURCH!”