Under New Management

This past week I visited a well known restaurant that bragged that it was under new management. I suppose that very announcement should have made me wary to enter in the first place. What was wrong with the old management? How severe were the problems and should I really trust things were different? Maybe the last management team was fantastic and now it’s worse. Why would that entice me at all?

Well it was a fine experience, I guess. I didn’t see any soap stains on my silverware. The waitress smiled and kept my water full (my dad’s seemingly singular test). Perhaps the new management ran things a lot better than the last. I left a 22% tip and was full. Sure, I was secretly hoping for a crown to wear and a free cup of orange sorbet, but I dream.

It was a restaurant, still. I paid money. Received food. Enjoyed good conversation.  

I got a friend in Fremont

He sells used cars, ya know

Well, he calls me up twice a year

Just to ask me how’d it go

“Pretty good, not bad, I can’t complain

But actually everything is just about the same”

– Pretty Good by John Prine

Across the street was a church. It had a new electronic sign outside with bright colors. “Come on in!” the sign declared. It bragged about the fun things that would be going on this summer. 

I wondered if that church was trying to demonstrate it, too, was under new management. If I attended that Sunday, would I notice things were nicer, cleaner, smoother, but actually everything was just about the same.

Of course, if it preached Christ and Him crucified for sinners, great! I wouldn’t mind also having a nice cup of ground roast in the little cafe before the show. But if it was just a nicer, cleaner version of seven things to make you a better… well, I’ll get better and quicker at the little dive bar parked next to it. It’s been under the same management since 1953, and they live in the apartment upstairs.

Unfortunately, evangelism sounds like this in some quarters. Under new management. And it’s Jesus. He’s better at making you better than your current religion of school, career, exercise… or even Islam, buddhism, etc.

Churches can sound like they just want people to replace their gods in name only. Oh, it’s a better name. He’s really God versus your… Let Him be Lord of your life instead of… He’s a better manager. 

But you walk in, and really nothing is different but the name. As Roger Daltry sarcastly sings, “Meet the new boss, same as the old boss” in “Won’t Get Fooled Again.”

No wonder an increasing amount of people reject Christianity. That’s what they think it is. Same religion, just a different god.

Jesus tells those who have gone from religion to religion, from new management to new management, “Come to me all you who labor and I will give you rest!” 

He tells His church to go to where people are at and give them free food! Evangelism means to announce Good News like the announcement that the war is over, climate change has been reversed, cancer is not the end, your name has been cleared, and it’s going to be ok. 

God is your manager, whether you like it or not. But unlike all the other bosses, He does your work for you. He gives free food. There is no transaction. In fact, the less you have, the worse off you are, and the more unable to be religious you have proven, Jesus is for you. 

Christians aren’t called to get people to switch allegiances to another, better, improved religion. Christians are called to go and give starving people free food, free hope, free peace, free life in Christ. 

If that’s not going on at your church, if that message isn’t being proclaimed at your altar, I don’t care how clean and classy the place is. You might as well be eating at Applebee’s under the same old management.