Small Group Tools
Contemporary Comments 2015
Texts: John 4:4-30; Matthew 8:5-13; Mark 5:1-20; Matthew 15:21-28; Luke 17:11-19; John 12:20-32
“Give ‘em the pickle!” With those words Bob Farrell became a world-renowned authority on customer service. “Give ‘em the pickle and they’ll be back.”
Farrell, who founded Farrell’s Ice Cream Parlours in 1963, learned that lesson firsthand. A regular customer at one of his restaurants always asked for an extra pickle with his order, which Farrell and his employees happily provided. One new waitress, however, charged the man a nickel for that extra pickle, which angered the customer. He wrote to Farrell, stating that he wouldn’t be back because of the charge. Farrell made amends by writing back and offering the man a free sundae. Farrell then began chanting his customer service war cry to his employees and businesses worldwide: “Just give ‘em the pickle and they’ll be back. Those are the three most important words in any business—‘They’ll be back.’ ”
Farrell passed away on August 14 in Vancouver, Washington, and was regarded as the Walt Disney of restauranteurs. It’s a real treat to go to Farrell’s on your birthday. The whole place explodes with excitement as employees come out with sirens, flashing lights, and whistles, singing one of their own special birthday songs and bringing you a free sundae. When Bob once discovered that they’d missed singing to a six-year-old, he made the sundae himself. He then stood on a table and declared to the whole restaurant, “We made a mistake, we didn’t sing to Alex. Will you all help us sing to him?”
Bob did whatever it took to keep ‘em coming back. “I didn’t sell ice cream,” he later reflected. “I sold a good time. The ice cream was the vehicle” to keep them coming.1
The challenge of cross-cultural ministry is learning what will get, and keep, a person’s interest in the gospel. As we see in our lesson this week, Jesus didn’t use a one-size-fits-all approach. He broke down cultural and gender barriers to reach the Samaritan woman, and He ignored traditional hatreds by healing the Roman centurion’s servant. It took cultural sensitivity to awaken the spiritual interest of the Greeks who came to see Jesus in Jerusalem.
As stated in Friday’s lesson, it’s easy to become complacent about the truths God has entrusted us with. When people sense that we’ve lost our excitement about the good news, they wonder why they should bother with it. When we take time, however, to learn what interests them and connect with them, they see the importance of what we have to share.
Successful cross-cultural ministry requires that we do whatever it takes to learn about people we may have little in common with. Reaching across cultural boundaries often requires that we go the extra mile in our outreach efforts to keep ‘em coming back to the gospel.
Indeed, sometimes we just need to give ‘em the pickle!
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