A new Applebee’s restaurant has been under construction in downtown Chattanooga, Tenn., over the past few months. I’ve watched its progress each Sunday morning en route to the essential hazelnut coffee at a nearby Panera Bread Company.

During my latest morning stroll I noticed the “Opening Soon” banner had been replaced with one that reads “Now Open.”
In response, the Chili’s directly across Market Street posted a banner that reads “Still Open.”

This battle for customers of baby back ribs and Asian-themed salads may not rival the divided tri-state loyalties to Vols, Bulldogs or the Tide. But it does suggest that two restaurant managers will be checking to see whose patio is the fullest.

Perhaps the competition will work to the customers’ advantage. I always felt the prices and services at home improvement stores were better when a Lowe’s and a Home Depot are built near each other.

Though their leaders don’t admit it in public, many churches compete with each other as well. It is easier to pull sheep from another pasture than to bring in those without a home.

However, it is always encouraging when church leaders find points of connection and cooperation while celebrating the distinctions of other congregations. This healthy perspective is often rooted in the acceptance that no one church is for everybody — but is certainly a good place for many who might not know how well they would fit in.

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