When we got home from church, Mom would walk in the front door, pull on her apron, and go to work in the kitchen. A little while later, we’d all take our places at the table for the Sunday meal. It might be chicken fried steak. Or baked lasagna. Or hamburgers.
The meal might or might not be our favorite. But whatever it was, we had two options: eat it or go hungry. She didn’t make four different meals for herself, my dad, me, and my sister. This wasn’t a restaurant. This was Momma’s Sunday kitchen. And it didn’t come equipped with menus.
“HOW WOULD YOU LIKE JESUS THIS SUNDAY?”
The church’s Sunday “kitchen” does, however, come with a menu. At least, it does now. Almost any church of any size has a smorgasbord of options. Would you prefer Traditional Worship? Contemporary Worship? Blended Worship? Age-Specific Worship? Worship with or without Communion?
Whatever fits your fancy, whatever you feel most comfortable with, whatever your personal taste might be: well, we’ve got a service for you.
How would you like Jesus served to you this Sunday? And do you need room for cream?
We're making the one, holy, catholic and apostolic church, the multifaceted, taste-driven, cafeteria of religious options.
As well-intentioned as such a Worship Menu might be, what's happening is this: the church is aping an individualized consumer culture, further fragmenting our (already fragmented) corporate identity, and giving the impression that worship is a place for selling a product specifically packaged for potential buyers.
We're making the one, holy, catholic and apostolic church, the multifaceted, taste-driven, cafeteria of religious options. We're reinforcing our Me-centered, I’ll-do-it-my-way consumeristic lifestyle. It’s one more item on the mile-long list of ways we’ve democratized American Christianity.
We need more Us and less Me in the church.
HOW MANY CEREALS DO WE NEED?
In The Cloister Walk, Kathleen Norris remembers listening to the abbot of a monastery give a lecture at a convention. Suddenly, going off script, he vented his frustration at the “growing number of cereals made available for breakfast in his community.” “How many cereals do we need,” he asked, “in order to meet genuine health needs without falling into thoughtless consumerism?” The audience erupted in applause. By means of a seemingly trivial example, he pinpointed the problem.
We don’t need more “worship cereals” in church. In fact, we need to cut down on what we already have. We’re not on the verge of falling into thoughtless consumerism. We went off that cliff a long time ago. And it’s high time to climb back up.
LESS ME, MORE US
We need more Us and less Me in the church. And by “Us,” I mean the whole body, not teens or young adults or 30-somethings or retirees. I mean everyone, from the newborn to the gray-haired.
We need Us coming together to decide what kind of body we’re going to be. Are we going to continue to split everyone up in worship: children go here, teens go there, organ-people here, guitar-people there, liturgical-types here, and contemporary-types there.
Or are we serious enough about the desire for community, for cohesion, for unselfishness, for the sacrifice of personal preferences, to come together as one body, for one worship, in the presence of the one Christ?
Are we ready to say, “To hell with consumerism! This is the church, not Starbucks.”
I don’t know about you, but I am. My momma’s cooking wasn’t always exactly what I wanted that Sunday, but it was always a meal. It always satisfied my hunger. It gave me nourishment. And my little family always sat together, eating the same food, around the same table. This wasn’t a restaurant for consumers; this was a home for the family.
The church is a home for the family of God. It’s not a mall, a café, a coffee shop, or Amazon. It’s where we usually don’t get what we want, but what we need. No one goes to the mall to be told they’re a sinner and need something they can’t buy. Malls make money by tricking people into buying stuff they don’t really need. Churches tell people they really need what cannot be bought.
We need Christ. We need the peace, healing, forgiveness, and life that he alone gives. And we all need it together. We need it as his body, joined together, skin to skin, bone to bone, believer to believer. We need him and his life in our life together.
What we don’t need is a menu. So don’t give us options. Give us, all together, the one and only Christ in one service that is all about the one thing needful.