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Bubba & Cindy Cathy describe business ties to God’s kingdom

NEW ORLEANS (BP)–Corporate America has a bad reputation. The recent collapse of energy giant Enron has done nothing to help this “looking out for number one” image. However, one American company stands in stark contrast to the rest, refusing to buy into the “success at any cost” way of doing business. Chick-fil-A Corporation was started on Christian principles back in 1946 and has managed to remain true to the conviction of its founder, Truett Cathy.

When Cathy opened his first restaurant in Atlanta, he kept it open 24-hours a day through the week but closed every Sunday, a policy that all of the stores continue to this day. The company, which operates more than 1,000 restaurants in the United States, opens every new store with a dedication meal including prayer and Bible reading. Meetings at the corporate headquarters are joyous occasions that begin with a Christian devotional. The company has also given away millions to support Christian ministries that assist children, young adults and families. Not exactly corporate America’s blueprint for success.

Truett Cathy has instilled the tradition of honoring God in all they do in his children Dan, Bubba and Trudy. They have played key roles in the restaurant chain’s success and continued involvement in ministry and service for Christ. At 81, the elder Cathy still serves as chairman of the company; Dan is the president and Bubba is the senior vice president. Trudy didn’t join the family business. She and her husband, John White, served for 10 years as missionaries to Brazil.

Bubba and his wife, Cindy, delivered the Tharp Lecture on the campus of New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary on March 26. The Lecture began years ago when James H. Tharp set aside an endowment for an annual chapel service in which a Christian layman comes to address the ministerial students.

“I thank God for the Cathy family because they have been such a wonderful witness to the secular world [that] you can stand by Christian principles and you can be successful in business as well,” NOBTS President Chuck Kelley said. “In spite of going against the grain of everything the business world has said is important to do in order to maximize profits, we have seen the Cathy family and Chick-fil-A enterprise bless and prosper beyond all imagining. And they continue to invest in the kingdom of God in so many ways.”

The Cathy families’ involvement with NOBTS dates back to the 1940s when Jeanette (McNeil) Cathy attended the seminary before she married Truett. Later, Truett Cathy served as the lay lecturer for the Tharp Lecture in the 1970s.

“This is a Baptist family who loves the Lord, who loves the Lord’s work, who have been called to minister in the name of Jesus in the world of business. And what beautiful job they have done,” Kelley said.

Bubba began his remarks by noting how thankful he is for the Christian family he grew up in, crediting his parents for making God a priority in their home as well as their business. Their influence helped keep him away from harmful behaviors and to make the decision to follow Christ at an early age. His voice was tinged with emotion as he read the inscription in the Bible his parents gave him when he was 16.

“This book will keep you from sin, and sin will keep you from this book, Love Mom and Dad,” he read.

Cathy also stressed the importance of finding a mission in life. While his mission in life includes honoring God at Chick-fil-A, he is involved in his share of ministry as well. Through Chick-fil-A’s WinShape Foundation, Bubba and Cindy have ministered to many hurting children. The foundation funds 11 foster homes ministering to 125 children at a time. One of the homes is located in Brazil. WinShape also sponsors 125 college students attending Berry College in Rome, Ga., as well as summer camps for boys and girls and other ministries.

“We remind folks that there’s more to life than just business,” Bubba said. “There’s more to life than just making money selling sandwiches. We hope to make a difference in people’s spiritual life as well.

“You all are going into the ministry in some facet, and I applaud you for that,” Bubba said. “It was through the ministry of J.S. Brown that I became a Christian. I can’t tell you the influence people in the ministry have had on me.”

Cindy Cathy said she believes God has placed her husband in the business world for a reason. “He got a call from the Lord; I think just as clear as you have a call to ministry, he was called into business to be a Christian man in business,” she said. “God has blessed him. He has an evangelist’s heart. Anybody he comes in contact with, he’s sharing Jesus with them.”

Bubba is not the only evangelist in the family. On the way to New Orleans, Cindy struck up a conversation with a young African American woman on the plane. The lady, who was moving back to New Orleans after several years away, was very open to hearing the gospel. After Cindy shared her faith, the lady prayed to receive Christ as her Lord and Savior.

“When you get so burdened down with your studying and that Greek and the humdrum of getting your training preparing to be a workman, if you need some rejuvenation, get out on the street or go to the mall and share Christ with somebody,” she encouraged.

Cindy, who has a master’s degree in counseling, recently joined her husband in what they call the ever-expanding “heart side” of Chick-fil-A: the WinShape Foundation. It was something she felt God was calling her to do after her youngest son began kindergarten.

During her time at WinShape, she has seen God move in a mighty way. The camps were first housed at Berry College during the summers, she explained. As the program grew, WinShape needed more space. At every turn it seemed that God was closing doors. Finally, Berry College offered the foundation a complex of buildings they were not using: a dozen or so former dairy buildings.

After God helped Chick-fil-A find a way to donate an additional $2.5 million to WinShape, renovation began on the complex. The Cathys plan to operate the complex year round, expanding to include marriage enrichment seminars. Where helping foster children was a passion of Truett and Jeanette Cathy, Bubba and Cindy have a passion for strengthening families by strengthening marriages.

Not only does the family business go against the grain, their family does too. Bubba and Cathy decided to do away with their television 20 years ago and have never bought another one. They have used the time saved by not having a television to build relationships within their family and with other families.

Bubba Cathy closed his lecture by challenging the audience to find a life verse, something his father challenged him to do years ago and something he has challenged his own children to do.

“Mine comes from Deuteronomy 6:5, ‘Thou shall love the Lord your God with all thy heart, soul, mind and body,'” he said. “I challenge you, if you don’t have a life verse to pick one out, and you could spend a lifetime trying to live out one verse.”

For more information about the history of Chick-fil-A, visit www.Chick-fil-A.com. Information regarding the ministries of the Cathy’s WinShape Foundation and the new retreat center at Berry College is available at www.winshape.com.
(BP) photos posted in the BP Photo Library at http://www.bpnews.net. Photo title: CINDY AND BUBBA CATHY and TRUETT CATHY (file photo).