Full Service or Self Service

Full Service or Self Service?

by Ron W. Townsley


My first hourly job was working at a Gulf gas station in Wharton, Texas. I was twelve years old, in the seventh/eighth grade, and was making 75 cents per hour. When a car pulled up to the pump, I went into action. I asked if they wanted me to fill’er up and what kind: regular or premium. Once the gas started pumping, I would clean every window on their car and check the wiper blades. Next, I popped the hood to check the fluids: the oil and the radiator, particularly. If the oil was low, I would tell them and make my recommendation which was either let me add some or you will need to keep an eye on it so you won’t damage your engine. I would close the hood and ask them if I could check their tire pressure. We were a full service gas station. There was even a bay for the mechanic to do minor work as needed.

More than once, a flat would come in. I would jack up the car, remove the wheel, and proceed to break the tire from the rim. Locating the puncture, I would then do the needed patch. Step by step, the tire was remounted.

After topping off the tank, I would take their money and go inside to the cash register to finish the sale. Giving them their change, I bid them to have a good day and thanked them for the business.

It is difficult to find a full service station anymore. The advent of the self-service gas stations changed everything. People began filling up their own cars. In a hurry, they would seldom check their oil. For fear of getting scalded, they would just forget about the water in the radiator. The belts were not being checked for wear and the tires still “looked good.” The self-service station became a convenience store also. You could now run in and grab a drink, a candy bar, maybe a donut, some gum, chips of various kinds…..surely there is something to stop that hungry feeling until you have time to really get a meal. “Something-to-tide-me-over” became standard fare. Not only did the condition of automobiles start descending a dramatic downhill slope, so did the condition of the driver and passengers. Neglect became habitual and normal.

Similarly, churches across America began to shift from full-service to self-service stations. Expectations shifted. Instead of a bay for repairs, they expect a buffet of refreshments. “You only have black coffee? You must be kidding, right?” They must have a huge selection of flavors and options! Bigger seems better. More and more people go to stations that offer them more, much more, than quality gas and the basic full-service. Full service has become loads of goodies, sweets, and chicken tenders—with a choice of dipping sauces, of course. Inspections of the heart and regular maintenance became compromised and the condition of souls was neglected, if not ignored. To wait for someone to go over a checklist and carefully examine lives wears on their schedule and patience. In a hurry, they run in long enough to grab a snack of their choice, say hello and be friendly, and then excuse themselves as they head back out on the road again. "Aren’t these cup holders the greatest thing since sliced bread?!"

"Hey, turn up the stereo, that squeak from the brakes is grating on my nerves!"

Have a good and safe day!


Pastor Ron W. Townsley – 8/28/2017

(Bro. Townsley pastors in Princeton, IL)