Image Source: Bakersfield Waiter Service
Two weeks ago, I ended a 4-month stretch of avoiding Christians on Sunday mornings by visiting a new church. A combination of factors, including depression, anxiety and pride, kept me at home Sunday after Sunday. Well, I finally broke my cycle by visiting a small church plant that my former youth director co-pastors. Although I enjoyed my worship experience, I didn’t feel any better being there than I would have felt staying in bed streaming a service online. Also, the very thing I feared would happen by going there DID happen: I was singled out and given special treatment with the hope that I would eagerly join. I mean, this is my first visit and we haven’t spoken in years, but you’re already trying to put me to work in youth ministry? This is exactly how bad people end up in high places while those with untapped gifts grow bitter and hopeless.
Although I wasn’t too happy with my immediate recruitment, that wasn’t my main issue with the visit. In general, I didn’t leave with what I expected to get. After the service, I scrambled to make it to my former stand-in church and made it there in time for the sermon. I didn’t get to see or speak to anyone I knew, so it was sort of a “drive-by” visit. The sermon was rather blasé, which I expected because it usually is. I only stayed at that church as long as I did because of the nice people I met there. While contemplating visiting another church this Sunday, and actually making plans to do so, I was halted by a grave realization. With much ease, I was turning into one of those people. By those I mean professional church patrons, who hop from place to place depending on their taste or mood. Searching Google Maps for directions made me feel like I was making reservations to try out a new restaurant hoping the positive reviews were true.
I had a divine revelation, a moment where I came to the realization that I was off course. Churches are not restaurants and services are not dining experiences. Many people use the phrase, “I’m going to church to get fed”, boisterously as if that’s an appropriate angle to have. No one, except a person who has yet to receive the gospel, should come to church hungry, place their napkins on their laps, pray over their meal, and dig in. Every believer should come into fellowship with other believers expecting to serve rather than be served. We are the waiting staff, each one of us, so let’s not grow accustomed to only coming to “get ours”. I understand that sometimes we need to receive, so in those situations, think of church as a first date. One of the common rules of dating is to never show up to a restaurant starving. Always eat a light meal beforehand so the focus remains on your date instead of your plate. The equivalent to this rule in the context of church is to spend some time in devotion (e.g. bible, prayer, worship, meditation) in preparation for every gathering. Even if it’s just a few minutes, those few minutes can make a huge difference. In fact, I need to resume putting this rule into practice — especially in this season of trying to find a church home.
Rather than walk into every new situation asking, “What are your specials for today?” I need to instead go in asking, “How may I help you?” Christ, though a perpetual visitor, had the heart of a servant. He knew the power living inside of him was far superior to anything his hosts could offer him. For this reason, he embraced anyone who was sincere with him. “Greater is he that is in me” than any expectation, need, or desire that I have to be fulfilled. No church is perfect. No gathering of believers is complete. The body will never be whole until it is truly one; each of us has a unique dish to bring to the table. Serve whatever the Lord has placed inside of your hands with a glad heart without expecting a good tip. Knowing your manager is pleased and your patrons are satisfied should be enough for any servant of the Lord.
This song can be found on the Church Clothes mixtape at Datpiff.com