I fully realize the consumer mentality that all Americans have, and American church-goers are no different. Fortunately, most cities in America probably have just about as many churches as they do restaurants. If we have a bad experience or our palate simply changes, we can pretty easily find a new church.
So imagine a restaurant that made you wait 15 minutes past your reservation. The hostess was somewhere between flippant and just outright rude. When you finally sat down, the first thing you notice is how dark and loud it is – like uncomfortably so. The waitress waited 10 minutes before she introduced herself, and then took forever to bring your drinks. (I’m not going to mention that they only had Pepsi products.) She was slow to refill, absent on the additional napkins, and couldn’t keep any orders straight. When the food finally came out, it was cold, hard, and had no flavor. Maybe your attitude had soured by then, but it was all just gross. If you were a mean person, you would have let the manager have it, but you don’t like to make a scene so you just didn’t say anything. You gave a 10% tip (before taxes) and you were out of there.
You’d NEVER go to that restaurant again, right? In fact, you’d tell your friends to avoid that place at all costs. It was terrible. If you weren’t so busy you would hop on Yelp.com and go to town. (Note to self, buy the domain for ChurchYelp.com)
So let’s go back to our concept of thinking of a church as if it were a restaurant. I might have just described your church. It starts late. No one’s friendly (other than you). The sound and lighting are just terrible. The pastor doesn’t remember your name. But worst of all (and the most spiritual thing you have to say), you just aren’t being “fed.”
Here’s the problem. If the church is a restaurant, then you aren’t a patron at that restaurant. You’re a server! You’re a chef! You’re a hostess! If the restaurant is bad, it’s your fault! We aren’t customers at the God’s restaurant, as Christians we are the line staff.
1 Corinthians 12 says something to the effect of “There are a variety of jobs but the same General Manager. He gave some to serve, some to cook, some to be welcoming, but all for the good of the restaurant. Can the server say to the chef that he’s not important? Can the barista say to the shift manager that because he has no idea how to mix a caramel macchiato that his job is not important? If the restaurant had all chefs, who would serve the food? And if the restaurant was all waitresses then who would prep the appetizers? God has placed each person in His restaurant to fill a specific role.” (My guess is that God stocked his restaurant more full of servers than food critics, but I admit that’s just a guess.)
What made me first think of this illustration is the statement I hear all the time: “I’m just not being fed.” I don’t understand what they mean. First of all, if you are only eating once a week on Sunday morning, then of course you aren’t well fed. In fact, you are down right malnourished. I know for me personally, if I get a bad meal at a restaurant, and don’t eat my food, I wouldn’t starve to death. Not even close. I’d go home and make me a sandwich or microwave some chicken nuggets. The church isn’t designed to feed you. It’s designed to teach you how to feed yourself!
Of all the restaurants I’ve ever been to, NEVER have I been to one where they cut my food up into little bite size pieces, stabbed it onto a fork, and literally fed me as I sat there making yummy noises. That’s what you do for infants. Big boys and girls feed themselves. If you are expecting a church to “feed” you, then you are holding a church to a higher standard than a 5-star restaurant. A restaurant presents the food, and then you eat as much or as little as you want. Churches are to present the spiritual food, but it’s up to you to eat it. They present the Word, but you do the chewing and digesting. (Side note: if a restaurant doesn’t serve food then it’s not a restaurant. The same can be said of a church.)
On the other hand, if you’ve been eating 42 oz prime ribs for 12 meals straight, then I understand how you might not feel satisfied from the church service. You probably walked into that meal pretty full. Who could be hungry after a week like that? So many seem to be going to church for the wrong reasons. They’re looking to be fed or fill their tank or grow in their faith. Church is where you go to serve other believers. It’s where you go to edify other Christians. What you want from a church is really what you are supposed to help provide for it.
Find a church you want to serve in, then stick it out. If they’re just the worst church/restaurant imaginable, good, they need a connoisseur as awesome and talented as you then. The crappier the church is, the more help it needs :)
P.s. Yelp.com already has a category for church reviews… smh.