A couple weeks ago our family went to Golden Corral, a buffet restaurant in Springfield – about 90 miles away from Boston – as part of our pilgrimage in picking up one of the kids from camp. It was a destination we chose at the behest of our daughter, who had seen commercials for the establishment for months. The cotton candy and chocolate fountain on the summer menu was too much for a 14 year-old to resist. Without trying to plug the joint myself, I’d have to admit, the ride was worth it.
What impressed me about the Golden Corral was the sheer number of choices. Want breakfast? They had eggs and bacon. Want a salad for lunch? They had an extensive salad bar with all the fixings. Want dinner? They had cuisine from Asia, the South, Mexico, and everywhere in between. Would you like dessert? They had over a dozen options (including the chocolate fountain and cotton candy mentioned earlier), all of which looked great. It offered something for everyone.
While having something for everyone is great for the restaurant world, it can be dangerous for the church world. In a culture steeped in the ideology that we can have whatever we want whenever we want, the church serves as a source of counter-cultural refreshment. Speaking just for myself and given to my own devises, I would only taste and enjoy the things I crave – my style preferences, my contextual likes and my personal desires – and skip over the beneficial things being offered. I’d eat dessert first, last and maybe only.
The church mustn’t be a buffet with the consumer determining the menu. The Holy Spirit must lead the communion of the saints, making sure we chew on the meat of God’s word, receive nourishment from the good things the Lord offers, and delight in a bit of dessert. There is nothing wrong with enjoying the things we enjoy, but it is dangerous to assume our likes and dislikes are all that matters. One aspect of the discipline of the Lord – the tough training that the writer of Hebrews describes – is the ‘spiritual stretching’ that takes place when we feed on God’s word which enable us to become what we will be and no longer be simply satisfied with who we presently are.
Going to the buffet with the family is a wonderful experience, just wait until after church – not during – to enjoy all your personal preferences.