Be What You Are, Not What You’re Not [ARTICLE – Tim LaVere]

For most of my time in Heartland’s undergrad program and now in graduate school, I have been a server at Cracker Barrel. I understand that just referencing Cracker Barrel may have made you hungry, but bear with me. The following explanation of Cracker Barrel policies is headed somewhere.

As a server at Cracker Barrel, I am required to know Cracker Barrel’s “One Best Way” policies. By “One Best Way,” I mean that Cracker Barrel has a specific way its employees are required to do their jobs. Servers, in particular, have Guiding Principles and Server Absolutes.

The Guiding Principles are exactly what they sound like–principles that guide.
  1. Hospitality First. It means to be friendly with a smile, to be aware and respond to guests needs, and to have a positive and “pleasing people” attitude.
  2. Urgency with a Purpose. This consists of moving quickly at all times to serve the guest without sacrificing excellence, along with anticipating guests needs before being asked (like bringing ketchup out with your fries).
  3. Appearance. Our uniforms must be sharp and crisp, and we must have professional body language because it affects how the guests look at us and at Cracker Barrel as a company.
  4. Team Player. We are to serve the guest or support someone who is (i.e. like another server). We must have a “How can I help?” attitude, and we must be aware of potential bottlenecks while being proactive because nobody likes traffic when it’s backed up, especially when this traffic is holding your food.
The Server Absolutes are, in a stricter sense, the practical side of the server’s job.
  1. One Stop Shop. My goal is to get your beverage and food order all in one stop.
  2. Pre-Check Order Immediately. That means I must accurately enter your order into the computer immediately after I have taken it.
  3. Check Back/Check Down. I must check back with you and drop your check off one minute after you have received your food (yes…one minute).
  4. Pre-Bus Down to the Last Glass. I will be picking up your plates as you are through with them.

As servers at Cracker Barrel, we are expected to know and to do these things. It helps with our “Cycle of Service,” which ultimately leads to turning tables over faster. The goal is that the guest can get in and get out happy because of hot, delicious food and great service.

Obviously, it is not “best” when we don’t follow our own “One Best Way” policies. Whether we conduct our jobs according to our principles may affect whether a guest returns to Cracker Barrel. If we don’t, we could become just like “any other restaurant” that does not hold to high standards.

At the end of the day, though, as my manager says, “It’s just food.”

In Matthew chapter 5, we find Jesus giving us His “Guiding Principles” for life. These Beatitudes in verses 3-12 are the principles that affect the quality of one’s life as a follower of Jesus Christ. Blessed are the poor in spirit, they that mourn, the meek, they which thirst and hunger after righteousness, the merciful, the pure in heart, and so on. In verses 13-16, Jesus begins to describe a “Server Absolute” of the Christian life.

Now, it’s one thing not to perform one’s “Guiding Principles” and “Server Absolutes” as a server at Cracker Barrel, but it is a completely different thing not to live out one’s “Guiding Principles” and “Server Absolutes” as a Christian and follower of Jesus Christ. There is more than just food on the line.

Arguably, the greatest factor in our bringing others to Christ is the way in which we live our lives. At the same time, possibly the greatest hindrance to our bringing other to Christ is also the way in which we live our lives. Did you catch that? Your life and my life are either causing some to come to Christ or they are hindering others from coming to Christ.

Although we are prone to live in worldly ways that can hinder other disciples from coming to Him, Jesus still calls us to live the type of life that would bring others to Him. Consider how living “Jesus’ Way” might cause us to be different from the world. Matthew 5:13-16 could be considered the Server Absolutes of the Christian life.

You are salt. “Ye are the salt of the earth: but if the salt have lost his savour, wherewith shall it be salted? it is thenceforth good for nothing, but to be cast out, and to be trodden under foot of men.”

Jesus tells His disciples that they are salt. He does not explain to them the properties that salt has; He simply tells them what they are. He also tells them what happens to them when they cease to be what they are; they would be useless. I like what William Barclay said in reference to this verse, “Uselessness invites disaster, when a Christian is not fulfilling his purpose as a Christian, then he is on the way to disaster.” Jesus explains to them the repercussions for choosing not to be what they ought to be. He tells them that they would lose their usefulness as salt and in turn invite disaster into their lives, whatever form that may be.

You are light. “Ye are the light of the world. A city that is set on an hill cannot be hid. Neither do men light a candle, and put it under a bushel, but on a candlestick; and it giveth light unto all that are in the house.”

Jesus tells His disciples that they are light. He doesn’t explain to them what light intrinsically is or what properties it has; He simply tells them what they are. Jesus tells them that when a light is on, it can be seen. A city on a hill can be seen from all around; it is visible. Light is not to be hidden but rather used for its intended purpose: To bring light to a place. Light is to bring light to a place not to be hidden or to leave the surroundings in darkness.

Jesus is essentially telling His disciples to be what you are (salt and light), not what you’re not (useless darkness). Why?

You should bring glory to God. “Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven.”

Be what you are, not what you’re not because it will lead others to Christ and ultimately to the glorification of our Father in heaven. Again, it is one thing to not perform your Guiding Principles and Server Absolutes as a server at Cracker Barrel because–at the end of the day–it’s just food. But it is a completely different thing to not live out your “Guiding Principles” and “Server Absolutes” as a Christian and follower of Jesus Christ. There are more than just food and bad attitudes on the line here. There is the eternal destiny of souls and the glory due our Father at stake when we cease to be what we are: salt and light.

In World Magazine there was an article entitled “NextGen Worship.” It highlighted specific ways in which churches and pastors are trying to reach contemporary people by “fitting in.” In response to this article, Julie R. Neiglinger, who is single, thirty-four (at the time), and a writer/artist wrote a response entitled “Why I Walked Out of Church.” Some of what she wrote was this:

I can’t stand the phoniness, or trendiness, or sameness that the church seems to catch onto at the tail end, not even aware of how lame it is. The fact that this is not only actually successful in appealing to people, but attracts them, also disgusts me…

It’s buying into some kind of lie or substitution of cool culture as being relevant when it isn’t.

If I see another cool Bible college or pastoral studies major wearing a hemp choker necklace, flip-flops, open-at-the-collar shirt that’s untucked, and baggy jeans, saying words like “dude” and “sweet,” I will kick them. It’s like the Christian version of annoying hipsters, an overly studied and homogenized “with-it” faux or fake coolness.

Very sobering words from someone observing the modern day churches. I pray and hope that Independent Baptist Churches would be a contrast to that type of living. With that said, I do know that we, as follower of Jesus Christ, are prone to lives that hinders others from knowing Christ rather than pointing people to Him.

In his book Authentic Faith, Gary Thomas gave this story:

I once spoke at a married couple’s retreat in southwestern Washington. To get there, I had to travel through “tree country,” miles and miles of tree farms planted by Weyerhaeuser, one of North America’s largest producers of timber. Each farm had a sign announcing, “These trees were planted in 1988.” “These trees were planted in 1992.” “These trees were planted in 1996.”
Interspersed among the tree farms were occasional stretches of clear-cut logging projects. I love trees, and perhaps because of that, I find few things more ugly than a clear-cut stretch of land. It looks devastated, broken, and abused. I know that, after planting, the land will come back, but it’s still sad to see such brutal scarring of a forest.
As I drove up the highway, I passed yet another clear-cut stretch when my eye suddenly caught something that almost made me pull off the road. There, in a devastated patch of land, stood a startlingly beautiful maple tree in full autumn colors. Somehow, the loggers had missed it.
The contrast could not have been more stark and, for that reason, more beautiful. Beauty surrounded by beauty begins, after a time, to seem mediocre. Beauty in the midst of chaos or ugliness is stunning. It’s on stage, and it seizes your attention. In a barren, broken stretch of land, this tree captured my imagination and told another story. Had it been in the midst of New Hampshire’s White Mountains during autumn, it likely would have been missed—one stunning tree in a forest of stunning trees blends right in. Here, in a broken, hurting land, this glorious tree proclaimed a transcendent truth.
In a world where people live self-centered lives, where ugly things happen, where sin seems to spread unchecked, where daily assaults take their toll, we can point to the defiant beauty of a selfless life, seeking first the kingdom of God, putting others first, and even sacrificing ourselves in the process, if need be—all to proclaim a transcendent truth that is greater than ourselves.

Pastor, Assistant Pastor, Youth Pastor, Deacon, Church Laborer, Church Member, Bible College Student, Follower of Jesus Christ–I hope you can sense the great need for followers of Jesus to be exactly that. It is a lifestyle. Being what you are is being a maple tree in full bloom amidst a brutally scarred forest; standing out in stark contrast while calling onlookers to know Jesus Christ personally. You are the salt of the earth, and you are the light of the world; let your life bring glory to God. How are you living out the Guiding Principles and Server Absolutes of the Christian life?

Be what you are, not what you’re not!

Tim LaVere was saved as a six-year-old boy and surrendered to preach at age seventeen.  At eighteen years of age, in 2009, he began attending Heartland Baptist Bible College. Tim graduated from the undergraduate program in 2014 and began graduate school in the fall of 2014. Tim married Sarah Simon on December 20, 2014. Tim and Sarah are expecting their first child on November 23, 2017, and Tim hopes to finish graduate school in May 2018.

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4 Comments
  1. Good article Brother Tim! Albeit the mention of Cracker Barrel was hard to take right after I read Preston’s article on healthy living! I was just about to go eat a bowl of Kale and run a marathon, till I read about Cracker Barrel. Think I’ll go order a plate of their lard dipped chicken! Say Hi to Sarah!
    See you at the treadmill.

  2. Good article Tim, I appreciate the thought and effort put into presenting a helpful truth.

  3. Good article and good quotes! Thanks for serving!

  4. Bro. Tim: All this time that you’ve served our meals at Cracker Barrel I thought you were just naturally a nice guy. Now you tell me that Cracker Barrel TRAINED you to be a nice guy! 🙂 But seriously, the article was well done. You’re a good writer; keep it up!

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