Dedicated. Expectant. Joyful. Hungry. These are some of the feelings we share in preparation for a corporate church experience. However, that was my reality a few weeks ago while waiting in line for Franklin Barbecue in Austin, Texas. My wife and I accompanied a few of our friends (Hey Ryan and Emily!) to Austin for a quick weekend getaway following Easter. We enjoyed craft beers and great music. Two thumbs up for Austin.
What was most interesting to me hit me while waiting in line at the barbecue hot spot. We chose not to “go to church” that Sunday, but found ourselves glorifying God in this experience. We might not have been in the sanctuary, but Jesus was on our minds. It was easily one of the most spiritual experiences I have had in some time. But what was it about this morning and this line?
Franklin Barbecue does something that most churches only dream of doing. They set an atmosphere. For days afterward, I asked myself “was the food really that good or was the experience so great that the food was just greater?” The answer is both! Experiencing the atmosphere while waiting in line from 7:45 a.m. until noon for brisket and beans is utter madness to some. 4 hours of waiting, and every bite made up for the wait and then some. What is it about atmosphere and experience that draws us deeper in? Why is it so important for us to have encounters?
As believers, our history is shaped, not only by our actions, but the actions of another on our behalf. Our history isn’t primarily what we have done, but what was done for us. When Jesus resurrects, He lets us into the story by giving authority back to man and gives the presence of God to come dwell amongst the people in a new way. In scripture, the story is recorded like this:
“When the day of Pentecost came, they were all together in one place. Suddenly a sound like the blowing of a violent wind came from heaven and filled the whole house where they were sitting. They saw what seemed to be tongues of fire that separated and came to rest on each of them. All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues as the Spirit enabled them.
Now there were staying in Jerusalem God-fearing Jews from every nation under heaven. When they heard this sound, a crowd came together in bewilderment, because each one heard their own language being spoken. Utterly amazed, they asked: “Aren’t all these who are speaking Galileans? Then how is it that each of us hears them in our native language?
Parthians, Medes and Elamites; residents of Mesopotamia, Judea and Cappadocia, Pontus and Asia, Phrygia and Pamphylia, Egypt and the parts of Libya near Cyrene; visitors from Rome (both Jews and converts to Judaism); Cretans and Arabs—we hear them declaring the wonders of God in our own tongues!” Amazed and perplexed, they asked one another, “What does this mean?” Some, however, made fun of them and said, “They have had too much wine.”” Acts 2:1-13.
I do not have any interest in a debate about what all of this means. What I am interested in is the encounter they experienced. They were together in one place and something powerful happened. What is recorded is an incredible experience where everyone is filled with the Holy Spirit. The breath of God takes fills the hearts of those gathered there - a holy encounter and supernatural experience.
Something else to note is what was going on around them. There was a sound like blowing wind from heaven that filled the space. The atmosphere was noticeably different from when they had first arrived. A new language was introduced.
Now, I am not suggesting that at Franklin Barbecue we experienced the return of Christ.
But what happened was special. The atmosphere was different. The space was wrapped in excitement and there was a language surrounding the entire experience, tied clearly to the space, expressing itself in quantities of meat and types of homemade pies. We had church that day. We broke brisket and partook of soda and sweet tea.
The important thing to note here is that Franklin Barbecue is a restaurant in Austin, Texas. It does not claim to be Pentecostal or Baptist. It is just Franklin. The church has something to learn from a place of excellence that sets a friendly, welcoming atmosphere. At Franklin, the meat runs out, but the presence of God never does. Ryan Schwartzman’s tears testify to that.