In 1971, a roadside food-stand opened near Williamsburg, Virginia called Pierce's Pitt Bar-B-Cue. This so-called restaurant was nothing more than a shack with an order window. Only one meal was served: barbecue on a bun, with coleslaw or without, plus French fries and a drink. No one complained because Pierce's Pitt simply served the best barbecue in the world. Their meat was slow-cooked in a special pit behind the store and mixed in a tomato sauce that can only be described as… heavenly. Truckers from Florida to New York spread the word on their CB radios and the rest is history.
Several years later the two-lane highway became four and a wire fence was erected cutting off Pierce's Pit Bar-B-Cue but by now, it made no difference. Cars and trucks by the dozen simply stopped along the side of the road while people scaled the fence to walk over and place their order. Later an exit ramp was built nearby partly because of the traffic jams caused by this little food-stand.
Over the last thirty years, the roadside stand became a full service restaurant and the surrounding area is now full of outlet stores, hotels, other restaurants, Christmas shops and many other attractions in addition to nearby Colonial Williamsburg. Was the success of Pierce's Pitt Bar-B-Cue the reason why all the change occurred? Of course not… but it is an interesting part of the story.
Why am I telling you this? Because I discovered Pierce's Pitt in 1971 while traveling from home to college. I was one of those nuts who parked a car on the side of the road to climb the fence and place an order. At least once a year, I still visit the Williamsburg area and you can bet that I will find an excuse to eat one of those delicious barbecue sandwiches. Are you getting hungry yet?
Also in 1971, I preached my very first sermon in church. Now don't get any ideas. I was not yet a minister. You may wonder if I was even born in 1971 because I look so young. (Please don't answer. Let me enjoy the fantasy.) Actually, I was in my first year of college and not doing well. I was lonely, homesick and scared. Grades were terrible and I was worried about telling mom and dad. One night, there was a call from the pastor of our church asking me to preach in December for youth Sunday.
His invitation changed my whole outlook. Never once, had I seriously imagined myself standing in a pulpit. Preachers were people to admire but me actually preaching? Never! Suddenly my life had meaning again. The library rather than the local tavern became my next stop that night in order to research a topic. Within days there were seven pages of notes in my folder. I was ready.
On the big day, I wore my finest (and only) suit. The service seemed to last forever before finally coming to my part. When the big moment came, I confidently strode to the pulpit area, laid out my notes and began to speak. There was so much to say… my hopes and dreams. What a real church should and could be. Was it me or did time fly? I finished, sat down, looked at my watch and gasped. It was only 11:30. My entire sermon lasted six minutes…
six minutes. It was probably the shortest worship service ever. People still remember how early they got out of church one day, because of me.
Fifteen years went by before I would again stand in the pulpit. I never had any intention of becoming a preacher. Looking back, however, I've discovered that every experience along the way was carefully crafted by God to shape and mold me. The encouragement of a church and pastor who believed in me was an invaluable aid toward shaping my future. I will always be grateful.
In 1971, I had a lot in common with a little roadside stand, Pierce's Pitt Bar-B-Cue. We were both just beginning and our future success depended upon so many factors. Looking back, I realize the reason we are both still around is because of the support we received along the way. Maybe this is why I encourage youth to become a visible part of our worship. I pray we will play a role in someone's life.
"Without wavering, let us hold tightly to the hope we say we have, for God can be trusted to keep his promise. Think of ways to encourage one another to outbursts of love and good deeds." (Hebrews 10:23-25) Do you see the promise that God is in control? Our part as followers of Christ is to be a source of encouragement along the way whether the road leads to the pulpit or to a barbecue pit.