I admit that when I first saw the headline about the Prayer Drive-Thru at the Fort Lauderdale church, I was prepared to heap scorn, judgement and cynicism on the concept. But after I got some details and after I thought about it some more, I started to kind of like the idea.
According the an article in the South Florida Sun-Sentinel, the Christian Life Center has been waving cars into its drive-thru on Friday afternoons. The response has grown to about 25 cars during the 2 hours it’s open.
There are certainly worse places to stop for “refreshment” on the way home at the end of the workweek.
The prayer volunteers greet those who pull in, then just listen to their concerns. Even without the prayer, the church is providing an awesome service. How many of us really get listened to these days? Sure, we post all about ourselves on Facebook and Twitter (and in Blogs), but what’s missing is the person-to-person investment of presence, time, and attention. That’s true even in the church, as more and more ministry is done electronically.
That’s true for me. As a pastor, I visit folks in the congregation as much as I can. But often there’s only time for a phone call, or an e-mail, or, if I want to reach lots of people, a post on the congregation’s Facebook page. Opportunities for face-to-face ministry with folks outside the congregation are even more limited.
Despite my initial skepticism, I believe what the members of the Christian Life Center down in Florida are doing is a valiant attempt to take the Gospel to the people. There’s a lot to be said for listening to folks and praying with them about their problems – whether small or supersized (sorry).
I agree with prayer drive-thru patron Montreuil, quoted in the Sun Sentinel article saying, “To a casual observer, it may seem like it’s cheapening faith. But it’s truly an additional opportunity to connect with people at the time of their need.”
BUT . . . there’s also this quote from Fred Greenspahn, a religion professor at Florida Atlantic University: “People don’t like institutional structures, especially those connected with religion. They want spirituality, but they don’t want to pay for the lights and water.”
Greenspahn is speaking positively about the prayer drive-thru, but there is a real wake-up call to the church (not that particular church, the Christian church in general) in what he says. In a post-modern, Gen-X/Gen-Y/Millennial culture where folks are looking for “Spirituality without religion,” the church has to do a better job of getting the message out that it’s not spirituality OR religion that people need. It’s Jesus.
And what the church can offer within an imperfect institution is something beyond the ephemeral experience of a drive-thru ministry. What the church has to offer is relationship. We were made for relationship – for relationship with Jesus certainly, but also for relationship with brothers and sisters in Christ.
So the question I’m pondering is this – How can the church offer the outreach and accessibility of drive-thru prayer while at the same time fulfilling the Great Commission command to “make disciples” and ultimately integrating folks into relationship with Jesus Christ and with each other?