© 2010 John Casimir O'Keefe

Kentucky Fried Jesus

Not too long ago I read a USA Today article that got me thinking.  It said that over 6 out of ten people 18-25 had no idea who Colonel Sanders was.  That in of itself is pretty weird, but given that over 5 in ten 18-25 year olds also thought he was a made-up icon got me thinking, do people think the same thing about Jesus?  The industrial machine that is KFC has spent hundreds of millions trying to reach a new demographic – the 18-25 year old crowd – in doing so they made their logo “cooler,” cut their name from “Kentucky Fried Chicken” to “KFC,” started to offer more menu options and spent more time on what they did then where they came from.  This got me thinking, has the industrial machine that is called “the church” done the same thing?  Have we spent so much time trying to develop a “cool image” that we ignored our founder?

A few weeks after I read the article I had the opportunity to visit a church plant and chat with some of the people connected with the plant.  In those conversations I found that many of them were very willing, and even excited, to share with me everything they could about their “founder,” Pastor Haden (not his real name, but close enough).  I listened intently as they explained how cool he was, and how he cared for the people that came to his church.   As the conversations were drawing to a close, I was even asked if I wanted to join the church and be part of what Pastor Haden was doing.  I smiled, thanked them and told them I was just visiting.

Have we gotten to the point where we have lost sight of the founder of our faith?  Several years ago I had the opportunity to be part of Evander Holifield’s evangelical event in Las Vegas, Nevada.  During the event the Mayor (Jones at the time) and a bunch of “officials” and “important pastors” in the area got up and spoke at how wonderful Holifield was for putting this event together.  As the list of people grew and more and more people stood to sing the praises of Holifiend I was getting more and more “ticked.”  As the last person stood to speak I lend over to the person standing next to me and said, “Wow, you would think we came here to worship Holifield.”  With that, the guy (it turns out that the guy was one of the pastors of the big church that helped organize the event) gave me a dirty look and said, “Realize who paid for this event.”  I smiled, looked him in the eye and said, “I do remember who paid for this event – Jesus, 2,000 years ago on a cross.”  He just shook his head and walked away.

I was saddened by both events; both have had a lasting impact on my faith journey.  Both have shown me that we have lost touch with our founder – we have replaced Jesus with Pastors, Priests and famous people.  In the KFC article a spokes person for KCF (Laurie Schalow) said about Coronel Sanders, “As time has gone by, the younger generation didn’t get to see and experience him like other generations did” and she added, “We plan to celebrate the fact that our founder was a real person.”  I believe the church can say the very same thing about Jesus.

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