Buffet or Potluck?

SONY DSCI have a personal question to ask.  Fortunately, in a blog like this, I can ask these kinds of things for no other reason than to challenge you to think through an issue or two.  I don’t expect a direct answer.  That might be embarrassing for both of us.

So here goes.  Do you treat your church as a buffet or a potluck?

Let’s think this through for a moment or two.  Do you approach your time at church the same way you approach your favorite buffet?  “Let’s see what this place has to offer to satisfy what I’m hungry for.”  Do you look at the list of facilities, programs, ministries, classes, mission trips, and service times from the perspective of “What does this place have to offer me?” Are you thinking, “I’ve come here – that’s enough.  Now they should meet my needs.  That’s what they’re here for… right?”

In today’s culture of vast choices and fast delivery, if we’re not careful, we can allow that attitude to slip into our thinking as Christ-followers.  It’s way too easy to fall into the question of “What’s this place got for me?”

But, that’s not what the church is supposed to be.  There’s no place in the New Testament where people came to Paul, or Peter, or John and said, “What programs are available to me?”  Instead, the purpose of the church is revealed to be one of service to others.  Jesus made this clear in one of His very last acts before His death. He washes the disciples’ feet.  Look at what happened.

So when He had washed their feet, and taken His garments and reclined at the table again, He said to them, “Do you know what I have done to you? “You call Me Teacher and Lord; and you are right, for so I am. “If I then, the Lord and the Teacher, washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another’s feet. “For I gave you an example that you also should do as I did to you. “Truly, truly, I say to you, a slave is not greater than his master, nor is one who is sent greater than the one who sent him. “If you know these things, you are blessed if you do them.        John 13:12–17

Did you get the part about washing “one another’s feet?”  “One another” – there’s something very “two-way street” sounding about that, isn’t there?  And if we look into the early church activities we see a lot of this “two-way” action.  Here are some of my favorites:

Love one another – John 15:17

Be devoted to one another – Romans 12:10

Accept one another – Romans 15:5

Care for one another – 1 Corinthians 12:25

Be kind to one another – Ephesians 4:32

Do not lie to one another – Colossians 3:9

Comfort one another – 1 Thessalonians 4:18

Encourage one another and build up one another – I Thessalonians 5:11   

Do not complain against one another – James 5:9

Be hospitable to one another – 1 Peter 4:9

And then my very favorite:

As each one has received a special gift, employ it in serving one another as good stewards of the manifold grace of God.       1 Peter 4:10  

God has given each and every believer a special gift or, in some cases, gifts.  So when we come to church, as all Christ-followers are commanded in the scriptures to do, we shouldn’t be looking for a buffet of services to satisfy our wants; we should be coming with our eyes looking for a spot on the table to place our special gift… for the sake of our fellows.

Ask yourself the question, “What can I bring to serve at the table of this fellowship?” You bring something, others bring something, and everybody gets blessed. Sounds like a potluck to me.

Think about it.


  • Chuck Patrick says:

    EXCELLENT word, Len! You are a blessing my brother!

  • Al Slater says:

    Wow a very good post. Folks need to be busy in the work of the Lord

  • Sue says:

    Good job, Len, bringing service to our body into focus. One other category I would add would be the “café owner” .. for some who spend all their time serving and don’t get fed at all! This extreme isn’t healthy either. Many hands make light work and we should allow others to serve us, sharing the blessings all around. THANKS again for keeping me thinking!

    • Len Allen says:

      You’re right… the cafe owner needs to be disciplined enough to stop constantly serving and sit down for some nourishment or they’ll starve. See the Mary and Martha story as a starting point.
      Thanks for the good words… and thanks for thinking.

  • Matt says:

    Potluck requires preparation time as well as service. Oh I suppose one could run by the grocery store for chips and a two liter bottle of “whatever” but that defeats the purpose of the potluck. There are those who would rather take a convenience store approach to the Christian life over a deeper life that comes through preparation and service. One problem the convenience store approach brings to the table, so to speak, is it has low nutritional value by its very nature . The result is an underfed, anemic, weak Christian life. The potluck is the better choice.

  • Mark says:

    Thanks Len! Great thought for the day. If we look at the world through the eyes of God and how we will serve others for His glory I’m sure the impact can be phenomenal.

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