Dad Theology: The Church At Waffle House

This week's blog post was written by my dad, Bill Duckworth. He is an expert on all things Waffle House. He also knows a bit about churches. I hope you enjoy it as much as I did.

“I don’t want to go to church today. Let’s go to Waffle House.”

My wife, Brenda, smiled widely and replied, “Yeah!”

It was an unusual decision for us to forsake Christian fellowship on the designated day for corporate worship. After all, attending church is as routine for us as turning on our air conditioner this time of year. The concept of honoring God by consuming diner food while listening to Hank Williams belt out "I Saw the Light" via a digital jukebox just didn’t seem appropriate for Sunday morning. However, it was revealing.

The Waffle House parking lot was full. The lots of the six churches we passed driving there were not. Waffle House had a line of people waiting for seats. As for those churches, use your imagination. Waffle House was full of hungry energetic people: some drinking coffee in the waiting area, children dancing to Hank’s salvation song, and servers shouting out “Hello! Welcome to Waffle House.” As for the excitement at those six houses of worship, even my imagination can’t go there.

But the real eye openers were the servers and food. The staff transferred customer orders verbally to the master grill operator. (Yes – Waffle House has a hierarchy)

Bacon Crisp (burn it hard)
Double Cheeseburger - Hold the Garden (no lettuce or tomato)
Triple Up (egg yolks staring one in the face like a 3-eyed monster)
My personal favorite-- Hashbrowns Steamed (potatoes cooked in ice over a hot grill).

This place was all about loud music, hungry people, hot food, and anticipation over the sun rising for a new day. As for the activities going on at those six churches… Hmmmm.

I have a real concern for the local churches. As he walked the earth, I see Jesus was similar to Waffle House. He was available 24 hours a day/7 days a week. Like a magnet he attracted all kinds of unsavory characters. His food preparation caused people to hunger and follow him throughout the land. As a master grill operator of God’s Word, He provided a place where the common met the holy. Lives were served forgiveness, mercy and redemption. Tainted dishes laced with condemnation, guilt, or shame were not allowed in his house. He made it clear – “I am the Bread of Life” and our local bodies are called to bring his word of life to the hungry and broken hearted. So where do we start? Scratch that. Where do I start?

I must reexamine my place of hierarchy as a processor of God’s Word and ask, “Am I preparing the Word properly? Do I present it with beauty? Will it be an encouraging blessing or a damaging wound to the heart of a searching soul?” As a Lay Speaker in the United Methodist Church for the past 10 years, I’m sure my messages presented a mixture of it all rather than providing a filtered purity of Christianity. But thankfully on this day I skipped church and found Jesus working outside its walls without my help.

As I finished my meal, full of cholesterol and saturated fat, I felt good reflecting upon Brother Hank’s third verse:

I was a fool to wander and a-stray
Straight is the gate and narrow the way
Now I have traded the wrong for the right
Praise the lord I saw the light.

All of a sudden, a server shouted out, “Recall!”

In Waffle House language, which I speak fluently, that means, “I misspoke the customer’s request. let’s start over.”

She then said calmly, “Porterhouse, Well Done.”

May we all be willing to recognize the wrong orders of our lives, shout our recall to God, and do it righteously the next time. Then we will hear our master grill operator’s response, “Well Done my child, Well Done.”

An Apprentice at God’s House,

Bill Duckworth