Confession: I love buffets.
There’s such a variety. And the quantity of food is the restaurant version of Costco. I mean, c’mon, the bacon comes in bulk. It’s an incredible invention. I feel like a king. I can choose exactly what I want and avoid that unidentifiable, seemingly discolored soup in the corner.
The reality is many of us are treating our churches similarly. We love the variety. We love the quantity of options available. We can hit up what we like and avoid what we don’t like. The fellowship is offered in bulk. We can be misled to think the church is here to serve us rather than us being here to serve the church.
Let me share a couple of examples to illustrate.
Years ago I led our “hands and feet” ministry. The idea is simple: serve the community around us. What I found is people loved the idea of being the hands and feet of Jesus. I’ve never seen so many people sign up for a ministry. You’d think we were petitioning the government to send Justin Bieber back to Canada. But in reality, on a Saturday morning, when rivaled against sleeping in, going for a run, or sipping a latte with a friend, Jesus’ hands and feet proved lame (in both senses of the word: boring and unable to walk).
I’m not hear to criticize others. I’m guilty of this. I’m a fan of the OCB church.
Another illustration comes out of small groups. Whether called small groups, cell groups, missional communities, soma communities, or yo-momma communities (okay, that last one was made up), the aims are similar. We read and study the Word. We encourage one another to keep living for Christ. We invite others to join us. And we experience “fellowship.” And fellowship is often where it goes pear-shaped (that’s a metaphor for “not good”).
Fellowship is an amazing reality where believers in Christ perform the “one anothers”. The Bible calls us to love one another, serve one another, care for one another, exhort one another, and forgive one another. Unfortunately, fellowship has been mistaken for friendship. Why is that problematic? Well, when many people think friendship they mistakenly (and often unconsciously!) warp this to mean someone is to be my friend. So someone in my small group should love me, serve me, care for me, *skip the part where they exhort me* and forgive me.
Again, I point the finger at myself. I find it much easier when someone befriends me with love, care, and forgiveness. It’s much harder when I’m asked to reciprocate and be a friend to them.
The OCB church has so much to offer me and asks nothing from me in return. I can receive. I don’t need to give. I take the best of the best and ignore everything else.
Just like too much OCB has consequences (“C’mon now, PREACH IT!”), so does treating the church like OCB.
To stop treating the church like OCB, we need to start viewing church more as a potluck.
What’s the biggest difference between the two? Unlike with a buffet, you and I are expected to contribute something to a potluck.
Back when I was a college student our church was quite small. There were a few founding families. And then there were a bunch of college students. I’m sure you can imagine what our potlucks were like. There were one or two crock pots which were quickly emptied by the first few through the line. And what remained were countless bags of potato chips and 2-liter bottles of pop. Neither nutritious nor filling but that’s all we college students could afford.
The church is rightly viewed as a potluck, NOT a buffet. The potluck church may not offer nearly as many options. There may be less variety. It may feel like the only thing coming in bulk is frustration. You may feel more like a servant than a king or queen.
Honestly, you may find yourself giving more to this potluck than those around you. You may be opening your house more often, sharing your time more frequently, and losing more Saturday mornings than others. Your potluck contribution may dwarf the contribution of others.
All I can say is “Thank you!”
Your example exhorts me to stop my OCB thinking. Your giving, rather than waiting to receive, preaches Jesus’ words that it is more blessed to give than receive. Your acknowledgement of the messy person in our midst calls me to stop playing favorites. Your “one anothering” of this broken, ugly, lame bride of Christ reminds me of how much more Jesus loves his bride. Thank you.
So let’s together exchange our a la carte, OCB spirituality for something much more compelling and filling.
Do you agree or disagree with the message that we need to stop treating the church like OCB? Why or why not?
What else do you think can be done so we can help one another to view the church more as a potluck?
I like to start conversations around the gospel in the areas of your life that matter most. Your comments are critical to the conversation!