Wednesday, February 10, 2010
Feed me, Seymour!
A common conversation among pastors, when I was one, was the complaint from folks in our congregations that they weren't "getting fed" or they weren't "getting anything" from church. At that time, my response was simply, you are asking the wrong question. Instead of asking "What am I getting?" ask "What am I giving?" I'm not saying this is the right or only motivation, but I know from my own experience that you always "get more" when you give than when you sit back and receive. (Sounds like some advice from mom, huh?)
As we have moved into a new form of church, I thought we had the answer. After all, as I saw it, our previous conventional form of church encouraged people to be passive spectators by sitting back, listening, and receiving. Not just that, but we even asked people to give money each week so that the "professionals" could perform this sort of service for them. That whole system reaked of "What am I getting?"
Our new form of church, simple and organic, is face to face, interactive, and levels the playing field between "professionals" and regular folks since we have no professionals leading our churches. We have a system that gives great opportunity for EVERYONE EVERY WEEK to give, not just receive. We try to remind each other about 1 Corinthians 14:26 which gives us instruction for this "When you come together, everyone has a hymn, or a word of instruction, a revelation, a tongue or an interpretation. All of these must be done for the strengthening of the church."
So there you have it. New form of church = fixed problem of consumer/spectator Christianity, right?! Wrong.
I've heard it a few times in the past month or more from folks that enjoy and are great participants in our simple and organic house churches. "We're not getting anything out of our times together." "I'm not getting fed."
The writer of Hebrews is dealing with this problem in Hebrews 5:11-14. People are staying stuck in dependence on someone else to feed them simple truths. The Bible often uses an analogy of being a baby or infant in Christ for someone who is new to or young in the faith. The "I'm not getting fed" comment is interesting. In life, who needs someone else to feed them? Babies. Infants. How silly would it be if my mom at near 60 years of age started googoo gahhing me at 36 years of age while feeding me my mashed potatoes by a spoon to my mouth like a little baby?! How crazy is that picture?! As I matured, mom taught me how to use a fork and a spoon to feed myself. At first, of course, she fed me milk through a bottle. I even learned how to hold that myself for a while. But, once we moved on to solid food and I grew teeth, I eventually learned how to feed myself. So now when we come to dinner, I don't have to worry about getting fed. I already know how to do that for myself.
So does that mean we never teach anyone who has been a Christian for more than a couple of years? Of course not. Do you ever feed another adult food? Sure you do. But, not in the same way as you do a baby. You don't have to googoo gaga anymore. You don't have to spoon feed them. You don't have to force it down their throat the way you think is best. You simply offer them some.
Here's how we do it our house. "Would you like some bread?" "Yes, thank you. Could you pass the butter too?" It is a give and take proposition, where we offer some truth and the mature individual considers it, ingests what seems good to them (tested by the Holy Spirit, of course) and offers their own take. (I like that, but with butter too!) This is how healthy adults feed each other. We don't need to hire a professional chef to give us a great show and feed us way beyond what we could hope to do ourselves (though that might be nice on occasion, I love those Japanese Steakhouses!), but in our day to day, week to week meeting together and sharing life, we can feed each other in mature, adult appropriate ways. That way, when we come together, our thoughts and expectations are not on what am I going to get out of this today, but rather how am I serving and feeding others?
Do we "attend" church to get something out of it? (as in a consumer mindset) Or are we getting the family together to celebrate and share life together? A consumer goes places, buys things, and invests their time for a payoff. They want to see a reward for their payment. But, a family member gathering with the family to share life simply goes because they love the people, they enjoy their times together, they are committed to these people, and they know life is simply better together than apart. It is better for everyone. Our meeting together also gives us great opportunities to serve each other. The Bible talks a ton more about giving to each other than it does in meeting together. In fact, there are only a couple of places in the New Testament that even admonish us to meet together. I think this is because meeting together isn't the point. Loving each other, encouraging each other, confessing to each other, giving to each other, helping each other, praying for each other, teaching each other, all of these things are why we meet! We meet to give. Obviously, a by product of everyone meeting to give is that we also receive. But, that's not why we meet. We meet to give.
This blog has gone a little longer than I'd hoped. (Imagine that.)
What do you think about these concepts? Does the form of church even matter? Are you going to give or to receive? Does this challenge your previous ideas or thoughts about what church is or supposed to be? How do you plan to change something in your life?