People joke about how connected church life is to food and eating sometimes, but maybe there is more there than first meets the eye. It seems to me that far too often we approach church life as if it were a fast-food drive-through window while the Father intends it to be more like a potluck. Here's what I mean:
A drive-through meal is the lowest form possible of exchange regarding food. Pull up to a menu board and microphone, bark in your requests, drive around, give what it takes to get what you want and off you go. No relationships outside of your own car - and probably with minimum time to have them inside your car as well! I may give something, but it is an absolute minimum, not even a tip. The exchange is initiated and controlled by me. I go for what I want. I get what I want. I pay what I have to for what I want. I'm gone.
There are plenty of times I feel folks walk into my church looking for the menu board. "What's offered and what does it cost?" is what their non-verbals say to me. If I'm lucky, I can engage them in conversation. They might have very specific questions about my doctrine or programs, but it all feels like "what are you offering and what does it cost."
Frankly, I think what the gospel is "offering" is more like a potluck. Bring some food, help us get set up, have a seat and eat with some folks while the kids are running around. When it's all over, we'll pitch in to various degrees and help clean up while standing around and talking while the kids are still running around.
Don't have any food? Not a problem, really. You're here, and we're happy for you to just join in. I loved how the Cajun church I served in Louisiana would say, "Sure you can stay. We'll just put another cup of water in the gumbo!" and mean it. And come to think of it, the gumbo was no less tasty for the extra water.
Along the way, there should be abundant opportunity for new relationships. Give it enough time and stick with some relationships and you learn about new recipes, new foods, encouragement for life and work, how you can help clean up, as well as what other people are doing and facing in life. Before long, you have more that you can bring to the next potluck. And the kids grow up to be teen-agers; the ones over there in the corner, while a new crop of little ones has climbed out of their stroller and is now running around.
Time, relationships, everyone contributing, a community growing together. It's the exact opposite of fast-food. And a drive-through seems so soul-less and unsatisfying by comparison. I'm thinking a potluck is where the Bread of Life is best tasted. And I can enjoy one of Brigitte's homemade scones at the same time.
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