The baristas at Starbucks know I’m a pastor. Last week, one of them, making small talk, asked me if I was pumped up for Sunday. I was caught off guard and didn’t really know what to say at first.
As I thought about it, his question made more sense. I regularly see sponsored ads on Facebook for local churches where pastors with slick promo videos pump up would be viewers about the exciting and amazing Sunday that is coming this week…every week.
Of course I look forward to Sunday but not because every Sunday is going to be amazing and exciting.
Ordinary Means of Grace, Not Constant Excitement
Central to Christian worship and therefore to Christian formation, are the Word and sacrament. The reading and preaching of the Word leads the assembled to communion at the Lord’s Table.
The church lives by the bread of heaven, the bread of life, Jesus Christ, heard in the preaching of the Word and tangibly received through physical signs around the Table.
Both the Word and the Table nourish Christians as they respond to God’s word by remembering the body and blood of Christ, enacting and embodying the kingdom through a simple and ordinary meal of bread and wine.
It is through the Word and Table that we are fed, week after week, so that we grow up into godliness, maturity, and wisdom. Just as we need food to survive and grow physically, we need regular nourishment from God’s Word and Table. And in the same way a steady, healthy diet sustains our physical survival and health, so also a consistent, sound diet of Word and Table sustains our lives in Christ.
The American church struggles with severe diet problems, probably because, in part, we expect every meal to amazing and exciting. Rather than serving consistently healthy meals, our churches offer hungry people food that satisfies our worst cravings and leaves us unable to live on mission to starving world.
We have candy churches that offer delicious experiences that get people excited and energized but lack the nourishment needed to grow strong.
We have fast food churches built on efficiency, convenience, and predictability that will serve thousands food that tastes good at first only to leave people feeling sick and bloated with self-indulgence.
We have buffet churches that give people all the options they could want to stuff themselves with whatever they choose.
We have extreme diet pill churches where fraudsters promise miraculous results by making false promises that will only destroy.
We have franchise churches with branding and style that works everywhere, with popular dishes shipped in frozen and made to order, lacking local flavor and personal touch.
We have Cracker Barrel churches thick with nostalgia complemented by good home cooking that makes you feel all warm inside longing for a culture that no longer exists, if it ever did.
We have locally sourced vegan churches that serve ethical meals but lack the meat needed to grow.
We have cutting edge, trendy churches for those under 35 where no one knows what they’re eating.
I’m sure you can think of others.
We have all sorts of churches with diet problems. Just like children who don’t know how to eat need parents consistently providing healthy food, we need churches that responsibly nourish the family of God with simple, balanced, healthy, meals that are usually unexciting. That’s hard to stick to when the neighbors constantly offer the more appealing and exciting junk food at every meal.