By Steven Norris
My wife and I love finding new foods and experiencing cuisine from around the world. Our greatest joy, however, may come from not having to prepare, tend to, or clean up in the kitchen. We just show up and let someone else do all the work for us.
What happens, however, when this kind of attitude finds its way into our churches? What happens when we expect the church to be our spiritual restaurant and the pastor our personal gourmet chef? Maybe you’ve heard such an attitude reflected in comments like this: “I used to be a part of that church. I just wasn’t getting fed anymore so I found a new one.”
To what degree is that the churches responsibility? Don’t misunderstand me, I firmly believe that churches and church leaders are responsible for putting truth before their members and seeking to help them grow in the life of faith. However, in the same way that we don’t expect children to thrive on a diet of milk alone, the goal for people of faith is to help them learn to feed themselves.
I am becoming more and more convinced that God desires churches to look more like a potluck meal than a gourmet restaurant. Maybe that’s the Baptist in me with our penchant for covered dish dinners, but I think it’s more than that.
Too often, we adopt a passive approach to church attendance and involvement. Attenders come, sit, and watch, consuming the religious goods and services produced by the professionals — professional quality musicians, professional productions, professional speeches by gifted communicators. Then, too many attenders go on to Sunday lunch without ever really contributing to the conversation that is taking place.
Contrast that model with a collaborative model where every person is expected to bring something to the table. Imagine how our communities might be different if each God-created and Spirit-filled individual contributed to the ways in which we read, engage, apply, and live out scripture together.
I picture this collaborative model of proclamation as a metaphorical group sitting in a circle with the scripture placed in the middle. As each person’s unique perspective on the text is offered, a fuller, more accurate picture of the text and its meaning begins to emerge.
The kind of church and community that I dream of would be such a community — one where all members took the initiative to wrestle with the scripture before meeting together. Then, rather than a single meal prepared by a single servant, we might pull up a chair to a veritable potluck feast, drawing nourishment from each member’s contribution. There would be no room for mere consumers or spectators, for if everyone didn’t bring something, there would be nothing to “eat.”
Over the past few weeks, I’ve been talking about the kind of church I dream about and would love to see. What about you? I would love to hear from you. Email me a description of the church you dream of to firstname.lastname@example.org.