It was a Thursday night during my latter college years. I went with three guys whom I had discipled earlier in my college years to restaurant called Shoneys. Three of us were committed to ministry full-time. In fact, at the time we were either currently serving or had served on a church staff.
We sat there eating our meal and our discussion centered around the church. We were complaining about church. We were frustrated by the church. We were experiencing what many who want to change their world. We had almost finished and the waitress dropped our check off beside me. Not long after she dropped it off, she returned to pick it back up and take it with her. I assumed that she had made a mistake and took the check to correct it. When she didn’t bring it back, I asked her for our check and she told me that someone had been taken care of the check. Stunned, we stood and in a louder than normal level said “Thank You!”. A voice from my right sounded: “Guys, got a minute?”. We turned to see a man sitting alone so we went over to talk with him.
He told us that he had come from Canada and owned a ski resort. He was in Huntsville, AL for a convention for a group of Christian men who worked in the marketplace. He had driven around the entire city of Huntsville and felt compelled to stop at this particular restaurant. He was seated two tables from us. And it was he who picked up our check that night.
He told us that he could hear our conversation. He noted that we talked a lot about the church. We griped and complained. We shared our frustrations. He also noted how we talked about the gospel. It was important and people were not sharing it with others. Then he noted specific people sitting around us. He told how they were listening as well. One lady, he said, was captivated by our discussion. Another was listening intently as well. Then he pointed out something that has haunted me and yet driven me ever since. He said to these four college guys, “You talked about the church and you talked about the gospel, but you never once mentioned the name of Jesus. You had the chance to point a whole section of people to the only one who could save them. The church doesn’t save people. Jesus does. So guys, let me ask you, ‘What does Jesus mean to you’?” That night we went around the table and described what Jesus meant to us. He gave us a blessing and sent us on our way.