Back Away From The Buffet

Buffets are awesome. Enough said, right? Post finished.

Think about it for a minute. You pay one set price, but then you get to consume as much of a large variety of food as your stomach can hold. I don’t know whose idea this was, but I’d really like to thank him (or her).

Do you have a favorite buffet?

Back in the day, we always had a hot spot that we hit up after church every Sunday. The place of choice for us during this season of life (i.e. college) was Cici’s Pizza. WELCOME TO CICI’S! I don’t remember hearing a message about the sin of gluttony on a Sunday morning, but there’s no way I would have let what the preacher said keep me from enjoying a heaping plate full of cinnamon sticks or chocolate chip topped pizzert! Today, however, as an adult and a parent in a family who has adopted clean eating, Cici’s is no longer an option. But I still get a little flitter in my heart every time I drive by a location.

Unfortunately, many organizations and institutions apply the buffet model to providing services and programs. The established, traditional local church is many times one such organization that has fallen into the “more is always better” mentality. If we can, then we should. There is a felt desire/want/need and we should address it. Period.

But are people’s lives better because they are a part of a church with the most programs, events, and services? Are there fewer divorces, wayward children, because there is more from which we can choose? Is there more hope? Is there a greater confidence in who God is and what He has promised?

This is a tension for me. I want and feel the need to make being a part of the church easy and we cannot put the term “church” in a clean, well-defined package. But at some point, we have to do the hard work of prioritizing. Who are we? Who is God calling us to be or reach? How are we best gifted? What is the greatest need for our community? Let’s not do the really difficult work of wrestling through these questions. Let’s just do a bunch of stuff.

The problem with buffets is that the value is in quantity, not quality. So there’s lots of food, especially considering the price, but none of the food is exquisite. People don’t choose buffets for their display of culinary succulence. Honestly, the food doesn’t have the option of being mouthwatering. Some options will be tastier than others, but every dish competes with every other. There is finite energy, money, time, and other resources. If these resources have to be stretched across the green beans, mashed potatoes, salad bar, soup station, banana pudding, and everything else, then there’s little opportunity for any one item to be spectacular.

Similarly, when a church has to spread its resources (time, money, focus, people, etc.) across a broad spectrum, it makes for a nice brochure, but perhaps not for real-life change (which is the real business of the church).

I googled the best burger in the country. Obviously it depends on your specific location, but some of the favorites were In-N-Out Burger and, locally, Cowfish. One thing I noticed is that people are passionate about their burgers. I read some reviews that demonstrated people’s commitment and near martyrdom for their favorite burger. Nobody, however, is passionate about Cici’s. Cici’s just happens to serve a lot of people.

When people think of your church, what do you want their analogy to be? Cici’s Pizza? Or Cowfish?

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