I’m not much of a shopper, especially as a destination experience, but I finally got around to visiting an IKEA store. I’ve heard people talk about IKEA as if the stores had pearly gates and golden streets. I’ve known of folks who drive more than 100 miles for the sole purpose of shopping at IKEA — so I was naturally (if belatedly) curious to see what the excitement was all about.

I didn’t notice any pearly gates, though the overall building had the look of a giant blue and yellow cruise ship. And I didn’t see any golden streets inside, but there were marked pathways with arrows on the floor to lead customers through a host of showrooms. My favorites were those that showed how one could fit furnishings (for one, at least) into less than three or four hundred square feet.

And there was food. A whole restaurant on the top floor, and a snack bar on the bottom. I learned that IKEA does many things very well, though ribs are not at the top of the list — perhaps I should have gone with the Swedish meatballs. But that was a minor thing.

There were people. Hundreds of people — you wouldn’t know that there’s an economic downturn on from the cars in the parking lot and the crowds of eager shoppers coming through, unless their big yellow IKEA bags were less full than usual.

IKEA does home furnishings very well, and it has become the world’s largest furniture retailer. Starbucks does coffee very well, and it dominates the market. Chick-fil-A does chicken sandwiches on a large scale better than anybody, and their stores are always busy — except on Sunday, when they’re closed to honor God and allow employees time for church and family.

Which should lead us all to wonder, what do our churches do well enough to inspire similar loyalty? Do we do worship well? Do we care for people in amazing ways? Do we bring a prophetic voice to the community?

Some churches are like full-service mega-marts, while others call to mind boutique speciality shops. Not every church can offer every kind of ministry or service, but all churches, I think, are called to find at least one way to serve God that we’re good at, and do it as well as we can.

And, if what we do offers the potential of making a real difference in people’s lives, you’d be surprised how far they’ll drive.


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