Fast Lane at the Drive-In

SonicMatt Jeffreys is the pastor of Ridgeline Community Church in Temecula, California. He’s a young guy—hip, smart, and passionate about his ministry. I was having lunch with him at this meeting in Oklahoma City last week and he was telling me the story of what happened to him at the Sonic drive-in that just opened up in Temecula.

“My wife and I were kind of excited about the new Sonic,” he said, “because we used to go all the time when we lived in Texas. So, I pull up in one of the spaces, place my order, and while I’m waiting for my food to come I start tapping my foot to the music they’re playing over the speaker system. I don’t know what the song is, but I like it, and so I take out my iPhone, hit “Shazam” (an application that “listens” to music and identifies both the song and the artist), and it tells me what the song is. And then it (the iPhone) asks me if I want to download the song from iTunes (another Apple innovation that lets you buy music online for 99 cents a song). ‘Why not?’ I thought. And so I clicked ‘yes’ and the song began to download but it was taking, like, forever!”

And that’s when he noticed that the song had downloaded in less than a minute. It’s not like he was doing anything else. He was waiting for his food to come. But he had grown impatient with his technology for not being faster than it was.

Matt thinks (and I agree) that this is a symptom of the time in which we live, when anything less than instant gratification seems like too long to wait. When I asked his permission to tell this story he added these examples:

“Just this last week I found myself clicking my garage door remote over and over as I was getting closer to my actual driveway, trying to get the door to go up the very second the signal would reach. And I started pushing it well before I knew it would open. I guess I do that regularly, I’ve just never noticed until I started tracking the symptoms of ‘hurry sickness’ in my own life. It’s not enough that my garage door will open automatically, I want it to open FASTER. Pathetic.

“Also this last week, while going through the drive-through at Chick-fil-A in Temecula, I caught myself driving up to the window from the place where you order while the girl who was taking my order was still talking! She was just saying ‘have a great day & pull-up…’ but I was already on my way. I didn’t want to spend an extra 1-2 seconds while she finished talking. Again, pathetic!”

He concludes by saying:

“It’s definitely a different day in human history. Everything is so fast and easy, yet we’re more exhausted & frazzled than ever.”

Matt is being too hard on himself. He’s just part of a culture that’s been pushing us faster and faster, promising us more and more, and yet, as he says, we often end up “exhausted and frazzled.”

So what does Matt do? Every once in a while he asks his staff to turn over their iPhones and for 24 hours they all “fast” from the instant gratification of modern technology. They take things slowly, as they come, and try to rediscover the rhythms of life before the Internet, before the computer, and even before the 1950’s era Sonic Drive-In. They try to follow the stern command of Psalm 46:10:

“Be still, and know that I am God.”

I’m Not the Only One!

I’ve been talking about the mission and purpose of the local church lately and saying that at its simplest it seems to be a matter of “bringing heaven to earth.”  I get some blank looks when I say that.  People have heard other things.  So, it was reassuring to hear someone saying the same things I’ve been talking about as I read the testimony of a California pastor named Denny Bellesi in a book called “The Kingdom Assignment.” 

9“Like many of you, I was raised in the church and grew up believing the Christian faith was only about getting to heaven,” Bellesi writes.  “As an active child, I had no interest in death and dying, let alone heaven.  I pictured clouds, harps, angels, that kind of thing, and believed it held no relevance whatsover to my life.

“No surprise that church attendance was not a priority for me back then.  it was boring and irrelevant.  As a young teenager, I remember waking up early on Sunday morning and doing all I could to keep my sister quiet and the television sound turned down low.  I even tried setting all the clocks back in hope my parents would oversleep and forget about the whole thing.

“Heaven could wait, as far as I was concerned. There were many more important things to do.  It wasn’t until my high school years that Jesus Christ had any real impact on my life.  Even then, heaven wasn’t the driving motivation.  Heaven was just the frosting on the cake.

“What captivated me was the everyday practicality of trying to live like Jesus.

“I began noticing how often the Kingdom was mentioned in the Gospels.  How people related and worked and played and loved one another in the Kingdom.  And eventually I began to realize that the kingdom Jesus was referring to wasn’t some faraway heavenly place. 

“It was right here, right now.

“Suddenly, everything became clear.  Being a Christian wasn’t about getting to heaven, although that was a benefit.  It was about becoming part of the Kingdom among us, the one that is far too easy to miss unless we’re looking.  I understood for the first time that the Kingdom of God wasn’t a place in the clouds or a dot on a map, but a reality that begins deep within us as we give our lives over to Jesus” (The Kingdom Assignment, Denny and Leesa Bellesi, Zondervan, 2001).

What if heaven could be more than “pie in the sky, by and by,” as the old preachers used to say.  What if it could be “something sound, on the ground, while we’re still around”?  Wouldn’t you do anything you could to bring heaven to earth?  And what’s keeping you?