Truett Cathy and a Life Lived Well
My wife Angie grew up at First Baptist Church of Jonesboro, Georgia where Truett and his family are active members. After we had been married for some time, I served as the Minister of Education at FBCJ for five years and was able to personally observe the life, business, and ministry of Truett. When it came to the business world, he was a genius. He essentially invented the modern-day food court in malls and the fast-food chicken sandwich. When it came to life, well, I don’t think there is a strong enough word to describe Truett Cathy. As I think about his passing into the presence of Jesus, I would make several observations.
- Humility matters. Truett was a wealthy and powerful businessman but never acted like it. He chose humility. At Chick-fil-A, everyone is on a first name basis, including Truett and his family. For many summers at WinShape Camp for Boys (where my sons have attended), Truett would teach during the Sunday worship service and his theme was consistently “I am third.” It is the way that Truett lived: God is first, others are second, and I am third.
- Kids always matter. Truett could have chosen anything to fill his time. He chose the needs of children. He even wrote a short book about it: It’s Better to Build Boys than to Mend Men. At FBCJ, Truett taught a Sunday School class for 8th grade boys for over 50 years. It was a common occurrence for Truett to have a herd of young men in tow at church and in other places. I never observed any type of mentoring plan. He simply spent time with boys and their families, pouring into their lives, taking care of their needs, and providing for their future.
- A living faith is a beautiful thing to behold. Most are aware that Truett was a man with a deep faith in Jesus. He prayed over issues of family, ministry, and business. But perhaps the importance of his faith is displayed most prominently in the lives of his children and grandchildren. His children Dan, Bubba, and Trudy are wonderful Christians. Every one of his grandchildren I’ve met are joyful about their walk with the Lord. Truett did what so many long to do – he lived what he believed.
- Faith can thrive in the marketplace. Truett showed how to keep your faith in a prominent place in the marketplace. He was not rude or arrogant about his faith. He simply allowed it to guide him. Thus, his businesses are closed on Sundays so employees can go to worship. He spoke openly about God and matters of faith to business associates. The purpose statement of Chick-fil-A is “To glorify God by being a faithful steward of all that is entrusted to us. To have a positive influence on all who come in contact with Chick-fil-A.” He was happy to talk about his church and what the Lord was doing in his life. Truett never made it awkward but simply a matter of fact in his life.
- Friendship is a grand thing. In all of my interactions, this incredibly smart, entrepreneurial, extremely wealthy, and busy man never rushed passed me. He was happy to simply be a friend to so many of us. I never felt small or insignificant when I was around Truett. In every conversation, he was invested in the person standing in front of him. The rest of the world faded away. For Truett, people always came first. It is a great lesson to hold onto for the rest of us: be a friend to the person in front of you no matter who they are.
The world is a better place because of what Jesus did through the life of Truett Cathy. I’m grateful to have been near his life for a little while so that I could learn from his life lived well.