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The Saving Gospel at “The Savings Place” – Groceries and Gospel

October 31, 2007

walmart_logo.jpgIn case you didn’t know, Wal-Mart’s theme used to be “the savings place”. Unbeknownst to them, they have often been a springboard for preaching the Gospel under that theme. My wife and I entered in to the “always low prices” atmosphere last night and battled the pre-Halloween crowd. As usual, our attitudes were not one of “thank you God for bestowing to us the wonderful gift of Wal-mart” but rather “I hate this place! Oh I really hope we don’t see anyone we know here. I don’t want to get caught up talking. Let’s just get in and get out of this wretched place.” Can you relate? Examining my attitude toward Wal-mart and shopping there may seem silly and unnecessary to some, but I can see biblical precedence here. Two verses come to mind that address our thoughts and behavior concerning the Gospel:

2 Cor 10:5 We destroy arguments and every lofty opinion raised against the knowledge of God, and take every thought captive to obey Christ,”

and…

Phil 1:27 “Only let your manner of life be worthy [1] of the gospel of Christ, so that whether I come and see you or am absent, I may hear of you that you are standing firm in one spirit, with one mind striving side by side for the faith of the gospel,”

 I don’t want to be guilty of eisegesis here, but I can see grocery shopping at Wal-Mart included in both of these verses: “every thought captive” and “manner of life”. So because of my stubborn blind heart, halfway through our grocery adventure (its always an adventure with the Chambers) I finally start to ask myself, “Jonathan, how can you administer the Gospel and truths of the Gospel while shopping at Wal-Mart?” Well, I had success and failure.

Success first began in the dairy section. That’s right, the dairy section. You know…milk, yogurt, cottage cheese, creamer, and sour cream can really be a conducive atmosphere for administering the Gospel. Right? I thought so. I mean everything is white, creamy, and beginning to become curdled, so why not? As Allie and I were leaving the yogurt section so I could stock up on Yoplait’s breast cancer awareness yogurt, I kindly approached the dairy stocker and said, “looks good man” while motioning with my hands his well-stocked and organized yogurt display. However, his reply was a rather unenthusiastic apathetic grunt. I don’t think he was speaking in tongues out of our spirits linking through the presence of the Holy Spirit. I don’t think he discerned my attempt at encouragement either. So my attempt seemingly failed. Yet I still consider this a success because I attempted to give the guy some grace and encouragement for serving us effectively. Despite his unappreciative murmur, at least he witnessed an encouraging compliment. Afterall, results don’t matter when it comes to loving others. And that’s the lesson I was reminded of through this: don’t do good for a specific reaction or to arise a certain outcome, but do good for love for God and love for others. And that is a Gospel truth.

More success came in small ways: moving out-of-commission strategically located carts from aisle traffic, making our cart a stunt buggy maneuvering carefully to ensure others had plenty of room, making eye contact with others, smiling, adjusting to others’ shelf browsing needs “like a gazelle”, etc. I am not trying to boast or make a case for “lifestyle/friendship evangelism” (which is typically presented as “don’t speak the Gospel just do nice things for people”; I’d like to rediscover or even redefine “lifestyle evangelism” to mean living the Gospel by talking the talk and walking the walk; doctrine is not enough, it must be lived out in theological and practical ways). However, too often Christians get so stuck in rigid orthodoxy they forget that its okay to be nice to people. Loving doctrine does not require meanness. Smiling and speaking to sinners doesn’t mean you endorse their lifestyle or wickedness. So I wanted to explore this some at Wal-Mart and God gave us the opportunity to do just that. In fact, my prayers were probably being answered from some other time and I just didn’t realize it while it was happening. Because I was horribly sick while shopping and remember praying and thanking God for this sickness asking Him to use it according to His will. Plus being sick is great to push dependence on God and His Spirit.

Failure came at the end of our shopping pleasure with the typical checkout lane choice strategy. You know where one of you gets in one line while the other scouts the checkout perimeter looking for the line with the least amount of items? Well this time I rejected the lesser line because the cashier seemed to have a bit of an attitude. So I chose to stay with the happier-go-lucky cashier. Failure! It appears that convenience and ease are still excuses as to why we Christians avoid challenges which may lead to administering the Gospel. Almost immediately I felt convicted about my lane choice and soon after suppressed my convictions in justification of “we’re in a hurry and I don’t feel like dealing with a disgruntled employee”. The reason this is a big deal to me is because it reveals a much deeper problem within me: I would rather be comfortable and happy then deal with a challenge which may lead to some type of suffering and persecution. That is a form of being ashamed of the Gospel. It is rooted in self-preservation. You see, typically the biggest sins in our life are manifested often in the smallest ways. I thank God that He reminded me of my problem while grocery shopping.

So my challenge to you is this:

  • Work hard to look for ways in which you can practically administer the Gospel in everyday life; grocery shopping is one of the best arenas to do that

  • When you actually do administer a truth of the Gospel (i.e.- peace, patience, forgiveness, encouragement, love, grace, etc.), don’t do it expecting/hoping for a particular reaction; and certainly don’t be offended or upset by any particular reaction; your reaction to their reaction will reveal your heart’s attitude, be it good or bad

  • Work hard to have a second nature/immediate response care to others so that it becomes natural to wanna reach out despite seeming foreboding or uncomfortable circumstances; like an initial brain pulse that says, “ooh, go and serve” rather than “oh no, where’s my exit?”; WARNING: this may include choosing the ugliest, angriest, loudest, and most discomforting cashier to check you out in Wal-Mart.

This is what I gained from a simple shopping endeavor. It taught me more about myself, my sins, how to live the Gospel more practically, and how to view all of life through a Gospel lens. Afterall, as Christians we have God’s Holy Spirit with us. We should live and breathe and move as if Christ was physically walking with us. Even at Wal-Mart.

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2 Comments
  1. Allison permalink

    Yeah, honey, it was definitely an experience and an opportunity to be stretched as a Christian! It’s good to see that we have actually been taking in what Rob’s been teaching us and applying it in practical ways! Love you and thank you for helping me to see these things!

  2. Sweetie, it was indeed an experience. But I have gleaned a lot from Rob’s teaching so far. And I hope and pray all of us will be willing & able to apply these truths to our lives. If we don’t I fear we may just be another failed church plant. Love you too honey! Thank God for revealing them to me so I can tell others.

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