A funeral home in Compton has a drive-thru viewing room for people who don’t have time to go to funerals or get out of cars to view caskets. Speaking of drive-thrus, believe it or not, there is a drive-thru liquor store in North Idaho. The same town that features a Subway with a drive-thru also has a take-n-bake pizza place with a drive-thru window which I know very well and found especially helpful when it was snowing. In Illinois, there is a giant drive-thru for a large retail company that allows customers to pre-order items and then drive through to pick them up. I have heard that our very own Ikea was working on creating a drive-thru system for their store in Mission Valley. My favorite place to watch a movie is the drive-in theater in Imperial Beach. Wedding ceremonies are being held in drive-thrus in Las Vegas, and, as many of you know, there is a drive-thru Starbucks on H Street. I wonder if our court system someday will feature a drive-thru for jury selection.
What does this drive-thru culture say to the Church?
ABC News reported a United Methodist Church in South Florida offers drive-thru prayers and The Christian Century Magazine recently reported that in Voorhees, Pennsylvania, Hope UMC offers drive-thru prayer once a week with a twist. Using the drive-thru lane in a former bank building, pray-ers can drive up for a prayer, walk in for a chat, or drop off a prayer request in one of the deposit tubes. Now that is efficiency!
My initial reaction was that it cheapens the experience and perhaps even the rite. But, as I was praying the other day behind the wheel, I realized what a hypocritical thought that was of mine. I pray all the time in the car; and not about traffic, but about you. I’ve even prayed with some of you in your cars and I’ve blessed many cars in our parking lot. I am reminded of the story of the apostle Phillip and the conversion of the Ethiopian eunuch (Acts 8). The eunuch was reading out loud from the book of Isaiah while he was riding home in his chariot. Philip was invited into the moving chariot where he turned the official’s heart to Jesus. Later, the chariot stopped, Philip and the eunuch got out, he baptized him, and then the official got back into his chariot and continued home. Was that the first drive-thru conversion?
If companies, from pizza, to coffee, liquor, retail, theaters, and funeral homes have taken an interest in drive-thrus, and, since at least two churches have entered into this interesting area, I’m wondering if it’s time for Saint John’s. What if we had a tent on the church side of our traffic circle and had signs inviting neighbors to drive-thru for prayer. What would happen if we held a drive-thru prayer opportunity during the days before Christmas when hundreds of Chula Vista residents drive by our church on their way to see the homes on Christmas Tree Lane. Perhaps prayers would get said that would otherwise go unvoiced. Maybe some would come to see the church not as a place with walls, but as a group of people willing to listen and pray for anyone – even in their cars.
I wonder: would St. Philip say, “Right on. Now you’re a driving pray-er.”