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27 March 2011

A Potluck Parable

Thanks to my encyclopedic Bible knowledge, I know that potlucks are spoken of somewhere in the book of Hezekiah (though I'm not sure exactly where), and that they were applicable not only under the old covenant, but the new, as well. This is why Baptists (and maybe other Protestant groups) regard them so highly. I know this because I come from a Baptist background.

Today's allegorical scenario: it's a Baptist congregation, it's a Sunday evening, and it is Potluck Night. Everyone knows the rules -- bring enough for yourself or family, plus enough to share. About 50 people show up (an average attendance for this group), and after the prayer they head to the three paper-covered tables where all the goodies will be spread out.

But something's wrong. There's only one bucket of KFC chicken there; nothing else. And it isn't even the GOOD kind. It's the nasty baked stuff. Yech! The first 10 people go through the line and before you can say "jackrabbit" (why anyone would want to say "jackrabbit" is beyond me, but I guess they do), the one bucket of food is empty, as a couple of selfish people got two pieces each. The remaining 40 scratch their heads, wondering how this could've happened. Eventually, after conversation, they leave one by one, most bent out of shape because there wasn't enough food for them.

I'll bet you can already identify the problem, right?

A month later it's time for potluck again. This time only 38 people show up. A dozen have left to go to a more caring church after last month's potluck debacle. This time the pastor (who was the one who brought the lone bucket of chicken last month) is on his game. He figured it out, and this time he brought a big side of potato salad -- just about all he could afford. He accidentally brought the gross chicken again.

Again the hungry consumers head to the tables, which a couple of deacons were responsible for setting up (it left them very tired, preventing them from actually being at the dinner). This time 14 people make it through the line before the food runs out. Once again most of the people leave with an indignant attitude and a nagging headache from hunger.

Some comments overheard as the people leave:
  • "I'm sick of going to these things and never getting fed."
  • "I can't eat baked chicken! It gives me psoriasis, and the pastor knows that!"
  • "Somebody needs to do something about this. I'm calling a special deacon's meeting."
Now, what do you think the problem has been? It's obvious, isn't it? How could anyone miss anything that glaring? Nobody but the pastor brought food!

Most people who have been in a church setting for any length of time know these verses, or have at least read them:

"What is the outcome then, brethren? When you assemble, each one has a psalm, has a teaching, has a revelation, has a tongue, has an interpretation. Let all things be done for edification [or "building up" of the Church]". (1 Corinthians 14:26, NASB)

"Just as our bodies have many parts and each part has a special function, so it is with Christ’s body. We are many parts of one body, and we all belong to each other. In His grace, God has given us different gifts for doing certain things well." (Romans 12:4-6a, NLT)

How could any of us have the gall to repeatedly show up at Church meetings and eventually wander away looking for the next place "God wants us to be" because we weren't "getting fed"? It's not the responsibility of one person (or the 20% in the old "20% of the people do 80% of the work" saying) to perpetually "feed" the rest of us. To think so is an egregious error. To practice it is far worse.
As a follower of Christ, being in Christ, it's your responsibility to meet with the Church to give, to feed, to help, to share. Most of all, to direct attention and honor to Jesus Christ, who is the Head of His Church. Tell your brothers and sisters how you've seen Him at work around you. Invite them to join you in it. Share Scriptures that God used to get to the heart of your current situation. Sing to the Lord. There will certainly be times when we're hurting and the rest of the body needs to gather around and pray with us and for us. But that is never to be the norm.
What's keeping you from taking spiritual food to the next potluck?


Lisa Laree said...

Not to mention that feeding oneself is a growth milestone....

Good stuff!

Tony M said...

I hate when my comment gets lost by clicking "post" - especially after I spent 20-30 minutes on it.

In brief, not near as eloquent summary: I'm convinced that not 100% of church goers today are actually Christans (maybe the 20% you mentioned are?), and of the ones that are, probably many are "carnal" (fleshly), similar to the ones to whom Paul wrote the letter you referenced (Corinthians). So, perhaps, they are not at a point where they can offer spiritual feeding to others (even though they should be). Also, the gifts of the spirit are varied, so we should be careful what we try to "pull" from Christ followers. And a potential pitfall: if we ask everyone to share, we may get less-than-desirable output from those who are not spirit-filled (i.e., the lost, who may actually be faithful churchgoers and seemingly good people on the outside).

That being said, yes, we all should be doing our part in the body of Christ.

(Like I said, this is a highly-condensed version of a much longer reply; sorry about that.)

Christy said...

Great post. I don't think anything I have to say could improve it in any way, so I'll just leave it at this.

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