By David Faust
I’m guessing he would have felt right at home at a church fellowship dinner.
I have been a well-fed man at churches in most of the 50 states and more than a dozen foreign countries. The ability to cook evidently is among the gifts the Lord generously bestows upon the body of Christ in every culture.
There’s a time to fast and a time to feast, and in the American church we tend to focus on the latter. Seldom do we preach against, or repent of, the sin of gluttony. Christians count attendance, offerings, and baptisms, but we’re not so good at counting calories—and it’s no wonder, considering the amazing array of food served on paper plates in church fellowship halls.
I have enjoyed every delicious morsel of it. I’ve savored roasted chicken with homemade noodles and mashed potatoes. I’ve tasted Italian and Chinese cuisine prepared and served by Christian friends from Italy and China. I’ve eaten country fried steak fried by country cooks, sub sandwiches assembled by city-dwellers who ride the subway, and warm rolls baked by warm-hearted moms.
Can you picture the table in the fellowship hall spread with inviting dishes? There are 10 platters of meatloaf—some covered with ketchup, some plain—arranged next to bowls filled with eight different kinds of potato salad. There’s cherry pie filled with hand-picked fruit, and hickory nut cake made from nuts gathered on a friend’s farm. Sometimes at church dinners, my plate, spoon, and stomach simply aren’t big enough to take in everything I would like to consume.
I wonder if the same can be said about the typical churchgoer’s appetite for spiritual nutrition. Jesus warned us to be careful what our minds consume. “Consider carefully what you hear,” he said. “With the measure you use, it will be measured to you—and even more. Whoever has will be given more; whoever does not have, even what he has will be taken from him” (Mark 4:24, 25). Orrin Root explained Jesus’ words as follows:
In a world of many voices, all of us have to choose what we will hear. In a wilderness of gossip and propaganda and empty television programs, we ought to seek opportunities to hear God’s truth. And when God’s truth is proclaimed, those who give a greater measure of thoughtful attention will receive a greater measure of understanding and enlightenment. Each bit of truth we understand and accept enables us to receive more truth. . . . If we hold and treasure the truth, we will receive more and more of it; if we disregard it and do not seek more, we forget even what we have learned.
When you study the Bible or go to church, do you bring a big enough spoon? Do you come to sample, sip, and critique the menu like a fussy restaurant guest, or do you “crave pure spiritual milk” that will help you “grow up in your salvation” (1 Peter 2:2)? Before listening to a sermon from God’s Word, do you prepare yourself ahead of time to take in spiritual nourishment from the lesson?
The more physical energy you exert in exercise, the more strength you will develop. The more you practice shooting a basketball or playing the piano, the better you will become at doing it. The more responsibility you accept for guiding others, the more leadership skill you will develop. The more you invest in a personal relationship, the more you will get out of it. William Barclay says that the ancient Parthians would never give their young men a meal until they had broken a sweat; they had to work before they were allowed to eat. The more you throw yourself into the Lord’s work during the week, and the more you prepare yourself to worship ahead of time, the more blessings you will receive from the church service on Sunday morning. (The Jewish rabbis had a saying: “They pray best together who first pray alone.”)
In healthy churches a spiritual feast is spread for your nourishment every Lord’s day, ready for you to consume; but the Lord won’t force-feed your soul any more than a fine chef will force you to eat.