In the summer of 2006, I took a dozen students to help Pastor Frank spread the love of God to people in Philadelphia’s inner city. At the time, the N. Kennsington neighborhood was considered one of the top three most dangerous in the country. In fact, the night we landed in the Philadelphia, a young man was killed on the very streets we’d be working on. He was killed during an argument that broke out over the ownership of bike.
Welcome to the City of Brotherly Love, right?
On our second day in the city, we encountered 96 degree heat with 709% humidity. It was unreal. For us Northwesterns who only know humidity when it falls in form of rain (a humidity with which we are WELL acquainted!) this liquid heat was a sensation that seemed to suck the life-giving oxygen right out of our system. I made sure our kids drank lots of water while we walked the streets talking to street kids and inviting them to our day-camp.
When we finished up one block of Kennsington, we headed a little north and were in serious need of hydration. It was Sunday afternoon and our real work would begin on Monday — I didn’t want any of my students missing the action because of heat sickness. We walked past a Chic-Fil-A and I told them I’d buy some refreshing drinks. With a little spring in our steps we walked up to the restaurant doors, pulled them to walk in, and found the doors were stuck. We moved to another entrance and found the same dilemma. We physically could not get in to this restaurant!
After a few moments of careful investigation (meaning I read the sign on the door) I realized the restaurant was closed for the day. In fact, it had been closed all day. Chic-fil-A isn’t open on Sundays.
Who closes a restaurant on Sunday, one of the busiest days of the week for people eating out?
S. Truett Cathy, that’s who.
The story of Chic-fil-A is an interesting one. The restaurant started as the Dwarf Grill, named because it began with such a small footprint — just 10 barstools for patrons. The food was a hit however, and soon a couple other restaurants were born and Truett’s innovation started to take shape. Later changed to Chick-fil-A, the restaurant chain exploded in growth in the southern U.S. and a franchise was born.
2011 marks the 43 third year of Chick-fil-A restaurants, and now those three Dwarf Grills exist in almost 1,500 locations in 38 states. In an unprecedented mark of growth and success, Chick-fil-A restaurants have surpassed each years income for the past 42 years and this year looks to be no different! In an industry that measures dollars by square feet, Chick-fil-A makes more per square foot than the Big Boys of fast food, including McDonalds!
And this did all this while remaining closed on Sundays.
S. Truett Cathy started his company with the belief that the Bible was the best source for living. If that’s true, he conjectured that business was a part of his life and therefore, the Bible should govern how he does business. So it has. His employee manuals are heavily influenced by biblical principles of conduct and his store hours reflect a commitment to being in church Sunday and taking a day off to enjoy God, rest in His provisions, and prepare for the week ahead. Over the years many people, competitors and co-workers alike, have challenged Truett to change his thinking but he has held strong. The conviction in his heart to keep Sundays free as a day of rest and worship surpassed his desire to grow a business or make money.
Some of you just rolled your eyes. You’re thinking I’m about to tell you that if you shut your business down on Sunday and write an employee manual that reflects the 10 Commandments — and at least seven one-another statements from the New Testaments and three really powerful Proverbs — that God will help your business grow larger in each of the next 43 consecutive years. I’m not and I don’t think Truett would tell you that’s the case with him, either.
The point of his story is that God has given us the tools we need for life and godliness, and those tools are to govern every facet of our lives, not just the ‘spiritual’. The Overboard life is lived in the tensions that exists when we try to live out God’s principles at work, and in our homes, and within our marriages and along side our neighbors in our quiet little cul-de-sac. It’s all-too-easy to make Christianity a Sunday-only thing, neglecting the clear teaching of God’s Word to incorporate all of God’s truth into every component of our living.
And it’s not that we do this because God will bless our business for the next 43 years, but we do it because it’s the very thing God asks us to do after He gave up His Son to redeem us. Paul said in 2 Corinthians 5:15, “And He died for all, that those who live should no longer live for themselves but for Him who died for them and was raised again.” If you have a relationship with God, living for Him on the water where His Son is doing Kingdom work is exactly where you are supposed to be. Far too many believers try to stay comfortable living in a boat that God never intended for them to live.
I thank God for men like S. Truett Cathy who have chosen to live out their God-designed life out of the comfort of the boat and out on the water where God is doing His Kingdom work. I’m thankful that the principles that govern his business are the same ones that can govern mine or yours — whether or not we choose to keep the doors closed on Sunday.
The Overboard life is one that is lived when we allow God’s Word to influence every part of our lives. He must reign supreme so that our churches, our businesses, our missions endeavors, our families, our marriages and our very outlooks on life are subject to His leading. I hope the 85 year-old Truett expeiences another 43 years of unprecedented growth, as long as he keeps living God’s principles on the water where Jesus is doing Kingdom Work! May you and I join him there in our own walks.
Go ahead and take the plunge — life is better on the water!