If you’ve ever stepped into a place and gotten the feeling there were two or three people laying low for you, you’ll understand the vibe that met me the other day. I stopped by my favorite country store, Bubba-Doo’s. It’s a little off the beaten path, and I only get by there if I have to go out of town for a hospital visit in a larger city. Or, if my wife and I are out running errands on a Saturday.
I’d always enjoyed the place because it reminded me of my Dad’s country store. But my love for it grew, if that was possible, once I finally tried their self-proclaimed “world famous” hamburger. I’m not sure it’s all that, but it is an awfully good sandwich.
This visit was a little earlier in the day, so there was more coffee in their hands than burgers as I joined the group. The regulars were convened that morning, and they are always nice enough to include me on my sporadic visits.
They know I grew up on a farm and worked in our family store. So somehow in the relational calculus these grass-fed good ol’ boys do, I’m in. That makes me more grateful than you may understand.
“There’s the preacher,” Stumpy called out. Mickey said, “C’mon Stumpy, you know he don’t like to be called that.”
It’s not so much that I didn’t like it. OK, I don’t love it. It’s just that the people at my church call me by my name, Charles. Or, Dr. Qualls if they must. No “pastor,” “preacher” or “brother,” please.
“We were wishing you’d have been here the other day. That young feller from the groovy church was in here,” Ralph said. “You know, the skinny kid. Looks like he was picked a little green. Fancy hair, tight jeans and an accent that don’t seem like it’s from any part of the country I’ve ever been to.”
Ed chimed in, “Yeah, he talks like a broadcaster all the time. I thought he’d started preach’n, but it turned out he was just asking what row they keep the chips and the Fanta Orange on. While I was showing him, he mentioned something about being on his way back already from a men’s coffee gathering.”
Ralph said, “Did you glance at your watch when he said that? It wasn’t but 7: 30 in the morning. Why do them fellers seem to think that getting there before Jesus wakes up is a show of their faith?”
“Way I figure it, the Lord might appreciate getting to sleep in every once in a while. And their wives might appreciate them helping to get the kids off to school, too!” Ed added.
“So are you guys friends, you and fancy boy? I mean I know y’all are sort of competitors.”
“Guys. What if we take it easy on him and his wife,” I said.
“So are you guys friends, you and fancy boy? I mean I know y’all are sort of competitors,” one of them asked me. I had to think about that one. Then I offered, “Well, I’m supposed to say that there’s no competition among lighthouses. Besides, he’s kinda over in the next community.”
“But really, when you get down to it we’re pretty different from each other. And it’s not just all the music and flashy stuff. Once you get past Jesus, we believe some things pretty differently.”
“So tell me this,” Ralph said. “I mean I know you’re Baptist ‘cause that’s in the name of your church. And I know he’s Garden City Church, which I’m not sure what group that’s in. But what’s the difference?”
“Well,” I stumbled, “they do what they do and we do what we do. He’s a nice enough guy.”
“But do y’all get along?” Mickey wondered aloud.
“He’s a good guy. But we don’t have as much in common as my church members probably think we do. I’d say our theology may be as different as our styles.”
“Yeah, of course we get along,” I said. “I’m serious. He’s a good guy. But we don’t have as much in common as my church members probably think we do. I’d say our theology may be as different as our styles.”
Stumpy was chewing on all this. “OK, I know you all are Baptist but not Southern Baptist. His church is community-whatever-the-hell-they-are. But what categories do y’all fit into?” I said, “If I got your question right, I’d say we’re more moderate mainline Protestant and they’re pretty conservative evangelical. I’m not sure most people really care about that, though.”
“So, who’s getting it right?” Eugene called out from where he’d been taking all this in.
“Hey, Gene! I didn’t even see you over there. Man, that’s a loaded question.”
“Well, take a swing at it anyway.”
“I’d like to think either of us gets things right if people find a welcome place among us,” I started. “I’d like to think either of us gets things right if we find a deep need in our community and meet it. We’re at our best when what we do matters in the world right around us. I’d like to think we’re getting it right when someone is weighed down and we help them carry it somehow. If they’re discouraged and they find hope in our places, I’d pray that God is happy.”
“So, maybe a tie ballgame?” Ralph summarized.
“You know, I’m content for each of us to stay in our lanes. Just because we’re both offering Jesus, there’s no need to try to pretend we’re completely alike. We’ll let God sort all that out someday. How’s that? Besides, I wouldn’t look too good in skinny jeans. It’d be like a mid-life crisis gone bad.”
“Roger that,” Mickey snickered.
“Alright guys, I’m out of here. Y’all hold this place down ’til I can stop by again.” With that mild workout done, I left Bubba-Doo’s and headed on toward the highway. Wondering as I went whether or not I got that one right.
Charles Qualls serves as pastor of Franklin Baptist Church in Franklin, Va. He is the author of eight books.
A chat with Mickey at Bubba-Doo’s about whether I preach the gospel or not | Opinion by Charles Qualls