Garden City, Michigan is my hometown. When people asked where I was from I would proudly declare that my hometown was home to the very first Little Caesar’s Pizzeria (on the corner of Venoy and Cherry Hill Roads) AND the home to the very first Kmart (on Ford Road just west of Middlebelt). I’m not quite sure if people were jealous of me or pitied me when I told them, but I was always proud of my home town. We didn’t have many gardens in Garden City, but we were the first to give America cheap pizza and the blue light special (anyone remember that?).
Yesterday the Sears Corporation (Kmart’s parent company) announced that they were closing a bunch of Kmarts, including the store in Garden City. It’s a sad day for my hometown and I was a bit sad for the news too. I have good memories of “the saving place” (one of Kmart’s slogans). Getting a sandwich from the Kmart deli as a kid was always a treat. Once I bought a Kmart hamster and it died two days later. So I rode my bike back to the store with my dead hamster in a paper sack to return it. The merchandise return lady didn’t quite know what to do with a dead hamster (and why did my mom let me return a dead hamster instead of just taking in the receipt? Why did she let me ride my bike as an 11 year old all the way to Kmart and return the dead hamster by myself? I don’t know but I digress). The merchandise return lady gave me a new hamster. That hamster didn’t live long either (I’m sure riding a mile and a half in a paper sack on the bike ride home had nothing to do with its demise).
I haven’t been in a Kmart in years. My guess is that a lot of Americans haven’t been shopping there either and that’s why the stores are going under. But that got me thinking of another “saving place.” Isn’t that what the church is supposed to be? I know people can find Jesus anywhere, but isn’t the church supposed to offer the saving grace of Jesus. If the church was the original “saving place,” could we ever find ourselves in the same position as Kmart?
I’m not a business expert and I suppose students in business classes will be discussing “why Walmart and not Kmart.” But my guess is that somewhere along the way, Kmart lost it’s focus and message. People thought that better deals were at Walmart or on-line. Kmart was no longer “the saving place.” It was just “another place” that sold lousy household goods.
When the church loses its focus and becomes just “another place” for people to see old friends, share old stories or remember times past then we might as well put a “going out of business” sign in our front yard too. We must always be the “saving place.” We must carry out our mission of making Christ-like disciples. We must fight against turning the church into anything but the place where the saints are equipped and empowered to share the good news and love of Jesus. Being the “saving place” is our mission and our #1 priority.
In the minds of many, Kmart was no longer the saving place and its doors are being closed. When the church is no longer the saving place, you might just as well close our doors too.