Truett Cathy, the owner and founder of the Chick-fil-A chain died Monday, September 8th at age 93, surrounded by his family. His funeral will be held today at 2pm at the First Baptist Church in Jonesboro. The legacy of Chick-fil-A far exceeds the chicken sandwich and a pickle. Truett Cathy has left behind a legacy of faithfulness to his family, friends, and employees who follow in his footsteps.
Through the years, I have grown to love the famous chicken sandwich popularized by Truett Cathy and his Chick-fil-A restaurant. Growing up in the Atlanta area, I can remember eating my first Chick-fil-A when I was 6 years old in Fayetteville, Georgia.
The church I serve as pastor (located in Douglasville) is not far from the home office of Chick-fil-A and they have graciously offered up one of their meeting rooms for our annual staff planning day the past couple of years. During our visit, the Chick-fil-A employees have treated us well – including feeding us a great lunch with their employees. On both visits, we have visited Mr. Cathy’s office. Inside his office, many things stood out (including a dummy of Willie Nelson complete with braids sitting in a leather chair). In front of his desk on the floor is a wooden wagon filled with bottles of Coca-Cola to remind him of one of his very first jobs as a boy which involved pulling the wagon and selling bottles of the drink.
One of the takeaways from my visits to Mr. Cathy’s personal office was his wide influence. Framed letters from former presidents of our country lined the wall as you entered his office. As I stood in his office, which he referred to as his tree house because it was surrounded by trees that lined the large glass windows, I was reminded that he gained his influence by standing firm upon biblical principles and remaining consistent without compromise.
Mr. Cathy was never there when I visited his personal office, but one day as my wife and I were on our way home from a hospital visit, we stopped in a Dwarf House Chick-fil-A in Fayetteville for a quick lunch. As we were waiting to be seated, I noticed a man seated in the booth next to a window that resembled Truett Cathy. When the waitress seated us, I asked if that was Mr. Cathy and she confirmed that it was. After we finished our meal, I approached him and thanked him for his faithfulness to Christ through his business. He responded by saying, “It’s important to never compromise biblical principals – even in business.” I then confessed to sitting in his desk in his office when he wasn’t there during my visit, and he just chuckled.
His words ring true in a day of great compromise and corruption in the world of business. Big business is a cut throat culture. That was not the way in which Mr. Cathy rose to the top. He honored Christ and Christ blessed him. Even through the recent controversy over the Cathy family’s position on marriage, you never heard a vengeful response from Mr. Cathy. He has remained steadfast without compromise.
Many things could be learned from the man who started a chicken empire. Each new store that opens is debt free upon opening day. They compete on the big stage with other fast food restaurants while remaining closed on the Lord’s day. At every turn, it appears that Mr. Cathy has sought to run a business that honored Christ. You can hear stories about how much money he has given away and it will astound you. He has literally given away fortunes in his lifetime for the Lord’s work.
As we say goodbye to a much respected man who started a successful chicken restaurant, we must be reminded of our Lord’s words in Matthew 5:9 – “Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God.” Samuel Truett Cathy loved business. He enjoyed a good chicken sandwich. He really appreciated the artwork of Frederic Remington’s sculptures of the old wild west and had a large collection. He liked cars and had a wide variety in his collection ranging from modern cars to old firefighter wagons to an original Batmobile. Perhaps his family will always remember that Truett Cathy loved Jesus more than all. Mr. Cathy labored to make Christ known through his business so that when people followed Truett Cathy, they would not just learn about chicken, but about Jesus Christ.
As we pray for the Cathy family during these difficult days, we must remember to pray for Chick-fil-A to remain steadfast, immovable and always abounding in the work of the Lord for the glory of King Jesus.
Pastor Josh Buice