Christian missiologist Ed Stetzer, president of LifeWay Research, did his best this week to counter any further stereotyping of Christians as the result of a viral story about a pastor who refused to tip an Applebee's waitress and left a snarky note on the food receipt. Stetzer gave a generous tip and a complimentary note to his server after a meal. In both cases, the photo of the receipt was posted online.
"We should be known as a generous people. We should be known for our love. Not just with waitresses and waiters at restaurants, but with everyone," Stetzer, who is also a pastor, wrote in his blog post with an accompanying photo of his food receipt published Friday.
"So in response, I've been striking up conversations with servers and asking them about this perception," he added. "Yesterday, I talked to a server, and we discussed the 'pastor tip gate' scandal. I wanted to do a small thing to change the perception so I wrote a note on my bill."
In addition to leaving $9 on a $31.09 food bill charge receipt, Stetzer wrote, "Great job! I'm a pastor and I don't leave bad tips!"
In the incident in which the story became viral news, a server at Applebee's in St. Louis, was reportedly fired on Wednesday, Jan. 30, one day after she posted an image of a receipt on Reddit which carried the signature of the pastor she served and a note which read: "I give God 10 percent, why do you get 18?"
The image, which was posted on Reddit's atheism-related discussions page, also showed that the word "Pastor" had been written on the receipt and in the tip portion of the document, which showed that the recommended amount of $6.29 had been scratched out and replaced with a "0."
Stetzer told The Christian Post via email that Christians need to change the "stingy tipping" perception that many have come to believe because "we want to be known as those who are kind, loving, and generous."
"Tipping well reflects who we are as kingdom citizens – people filled with joy and generosity," he stated. "In Subversive Kingdom, I talk about little acts of Christ-likeness that undermine the perceptions and values of the world – like tipping well, being gracious, and showing kindness."
The pastor has since apologized and Stetzer said that he thinks that is a good thing, "though it would seem to be normal for some to question her judgment as a pastor if this is how she acts in public. However, I (too) have done some stupid things, so it is not my desire to pile on but to point to the future."
Stetzer believes the incident has enflamed a long burning discussion about the stereotype of the conduct and courtesy (or lack thereof) that many Christians display toward servers, waitresses, valets, and others in the service industry. "Among other things, the 'Sunday morning crowd' at restaurants has a bad reputation," he wrote in his blog.
Statistics Stetzer found in the only study he said he was aware of on the subject shows that "Christians as bad tippers" is not supported by the stats. However, he pointed out that although "facts are our friends," in this case, "perception is not our friend."
He added, "And, perception is reality. That perception is real and is, I believe, hurting the reputation of Christians."
Stetzer stated that he understands if someone cannot afford to tip, and offered some advice.
"If you can't afford to tip, and I understand that is often the case, perhaps going to restaurants staffed by servers who depend on your tip is not the best plan for you, them, or the reputation of Christians," he wrote.
Asked about a solution, he answered, "I really want the stereotype to end – so tip well on Sundays. You've been blessed, so bless others."