This post is part of an ongoing blog series on Pomomusings entitled “(Re)Imagining Christianity.” To read about the series, as well as get a full schedule of participants, click here.
What is one belief, practice or element of Christianity that must die so that Christianity can move forward and truly impact the world in the next 100 years?
First, let me say that I love potluck dinners. I often feel compelled to sample each and every batch of deviled eggs to determine the best one (bonus point for dill relish). My go-to item to bring is a bucket of KFC chicken. I realize it’s not homemade but there is never any left after the first couple dozen people go through the line. And let me share one of my potluck tips for you beginners: always go last in line, because:
- You get points for being polite.
- You can take seconds of the good stuff right away since everyone has been through already.
- You can sneak over to the dessert table and grab a quick bite while everyone else is lining up for the main food.
Now that I’m on the record as loving potlucks why am I suggesting they need to die so that Christianity can move forward?
Potlucks make church members happy. Making church members happy is not a bad thing. It is a bad thing when we reinforce the belief that the point of church is to make members happy. Most potlucks have no other purpose other than to “build community” or “have fellowship,” but often the fellowship is limited to existing church members who usually end up sitting and talking with the people they already know. So while church members are happy, there has been no outreach, no equipping, and no faith growth has taken place.
Potlucks are used as a measure of success. The people who attend potlucks are often the core of a church, those who volunteer and make up the church leadership (formal or informal). Once the potluck is over the core is happy and they feel that they’ve really done something positive for the church. If a church has a regular schedule of potlucks then it’s easy for someone to feel that the church is living into its mission simply because they (and the people they know) are enjoying themselves on the church property.
Potlucks are a poor excuse for real community building. I fully believe that churches should eat together. The way Jesus uses food and eating, figuratively and metaphorically, demonstrates that there is something Godly about sharing a meal. But relationships need more than 45 minutes every month or two sitting in a folding chair.
So let’s get rid of the occasional potluck and replace it with a weekly communal meal that happens right after worship, or before worship or maybe even in worship! Let’s have a simple meal that is easy for visitors and members to enjoy. Make it an outreach meal that provides a hot lunch and a caring environment for those in need.
Let’s move beyond potlucks. Move beyond spending time, energy and resources on planning events where “we all have a good time.” Move beyond more activities that are trapped within our church buildings. Move beyond filling out the church’s calendar with cruise-ship activities.
Instead let’s figure out how to set a table where everyone is invited, made to feel welcome and truly fed. Let’s set a table where we are not the guests but the waiters who are serving guests we have never met before.
I would gladly give up my deviled eggs for that.
Shawn Coons: Shawn is the Pastor of South Lake Presbyterian Church, in Clermont, FL. His wife Carrie is also a Presbyterian Minister and they have two children in grade school. Shawn is also a geek, video gamer, Steelers Fan, ex-podcaster, and Lloyd Dobbler-wannabe.