Last week my family and I partook in the annual tradition that is Chick-fil-A’s Cow Appreciation Day.
If you’re not familiar with this event designed to build brand loyalty, allow me to sum it up in two sentences:
Dress like a cow.
Get free chicken.
We love Chick-fil-A’s menu, all the more so when it’s free. So on this particularly hot July afternoon, the Wilson clan donned our bovine apparel and headed to our local headquarters for the original chicken sandwich.
Since it was my day off, we decided to make the most of it by hitting two restaurants – one for lunch and the other for dinner. The first Chick-fil-A we visited was clean and inviting. We approached the counter and inquired about what we could get in exchange for our willingness to dress like their mascot.
The young woman at the counter informed us we could only receive a free entree because we weren’t dressed head-to-toe. She consulted with another worker to make sure she had told us correctly, but received the answer, “I don’t know. It wasn’t really explained to me either.”
The two girls then asked the manager-on-duty to make sure they had the “cow policy” right. Stoically, he concurred that, yes, we only could receive an entree. No problem; we were grateful for the food and so quietly ate our meal and left.
Later that day, we visited our second Chick-fil-A. Wow, what a different environment! Immediately upon entering, my three-year-old daughter ran to embrace the giant cow giving high-fives to the crowd.
Standing next to him was a cheerful employee who said enthusiastically, “Welcome to Cow Appreciate Day!” He motioned to the paper cow spots and tails he had lined up on a table to his right and told us, “To get a full meal, I’ll have to ‘tail or spot you.’” We opted for paper tails and taped them on as we watched this employee joyfully outfit the next semi-clad cow who had just walked in.
As we ordered our food, the cashier gave a warm smile and said, “Thank you so much for coming out and supporting us today by dressing up like cows!” (This was the first time I’d ever been thanked for eating free food.) We enjoyed our second meal of the day and drove back home, reminded again of why Chick-fil-A is our favorite restaurant. Along the way, we had time to reflect on the different styles of the two eateries. Both were offering the same promotion, but their different approach revealed much about the management of each location.
At the first restaurant, we had the impression Cow Appreciation Day was imposed on the owner by the corporate office. He went along with it of course, but only with the mildest of enthusiasm. The staff followed his lead with their own lack of zeal.
On the other hand, the management of the second Chick-fil-A seemed to be genuinely excited about the day’s event. Not only were they enjoying the promotion, their contagious energy transferred to each guest who walked through the door.
Getting to the Gospel
As I considered the two restaurants, I remembered a scripture Chick-fil-A had just made very tangible to my family: Isaiah 55:1. Here, God extends the most generous offer in the Bible, an early proclamation of the gospel. He says:
“Come, everyone who thirsts, come to the waters;
and he who has no money, come, buy and eat!
Come, buy wine and milk without money and without price.”
This is the offer of salvation, the gift of eternal life in Jesus. It’s presented “on the house” so to speak and is what we celebrate at communion when we remember this complimentary gift purchased by the substitutionary death of Jesus.
Telling others about God’s free offer is one of the first commands we are to obey as converted followers. However, I sometimes act more like the first Chick-fil-A staff when it comes to being on-board with my Father’s openhandedness. And so, here are three tests I propose to myself to determine what kind of evangelist I’m being when it comes to telling others about God’s generous gospel:
Test #1: Am I eager to point out deficiencies in spiritual clothing or am I more concerned with directing people to Heavenly-supplied garments?
At the first Chick-fil-A, my family was scrutinized for our attempted bovine resemblance. However, at the second restaurant, we were not only welcomed, but were equipped for the offer. The associates were waiting on us, had anticipated our need for dress, and presented proper clothing made available by the owner. All we had to do was say, “Yes, I’ll take it.”
Am I ready to point hungry souls to free food or am I more concerned about the holes and patches on their clothing? Do I expect people to go home and change before they can eat with me, or am I ready to welcome people as they are and show them what the King can do for them?*
If I’m going to be pointing fingers, may it always be first towards the gospel, as in, “Hey, look what I found!”
Test #2: Am I thankful for an audience to share the gospel with or do I wish they had stayed at home until the offer was over?
I’ll be honest. Too often I don’t want to share the gospel due to fear of man. Or, maybe it’s because I just have more “important things” going on. This is why I’m tempted to pretend I’m not home when the Mormons come by and why I close my garage door before even getting out of my car after the evening commute.
Instead, I need to embrace being able to share the gift of salvation while it’s offered. I’m not in a “wait-out-the-clock” strategy when it comes to Jesus’ return. I must take full advantage of every opportunity to share Jesus, knowing salvation is available only as a limited time offer.
Test #3: Do I have fun with the good news, or is it a burden to tell others about free food?
Perhaps the most revealing characteristic of the two restaurants was the employees’ demeanor. The first Chick-fil-A staff seemed only to be going along with the promotion because their corporate office said they had to. I wonder, is this me? Has evangelism been reduced to a chore my God told me to complete before He comes back?
If it has, I want to adopt the mindset of my three-year-old son. He sees me outside mowing the lawn and longs to do the same. To him, joining in with his father’s work isn’t a burden, it’s a privilege. I need to joyfully embrace the call to be with my Father, doing what’s He’s doing, by sharing the gospel with everyone He’s placed in my life.
And so I leave Cow Appreciation Day with a new kind of appreciation. Not for chicken mind you, but for an invigorated passion to tell others about the free offer Christ gave me. You can bet our family will be donning the cow suits next year. However for the next 365 days, my goal is to “put on the new self,” that others might hear the gospel and see it lived out.
Truett Cathy adorns his restaurants with a challenge that begins, “Food is essential to life…” If the Living Bread is essential to eternal life, may I dedicate my life to telling others how good it really is! Only then will my heart respond to God’s glory with the signature call of every Chick-fil-a employee:
“It’s My Pleasure!”
* This is not to diminish the need for followers to count the cost of discipleship. Instead, it actually encourages and properly frames Christian commitment as it is anchored to an appreciation for what is supplied by Jesus: a salvation free to us, but purchased at great cost to Himself.