Tuesday, February 17, 2015

What are we serving? Evangelism (Part II)

“In a world where people believe they are not hungry, [churches] must not offer food but rather an aroma that helps them desire the food that we cannot provide.”  (Rollins 2006) In his book, How (Not) to Speak of God, Peter Rollins, one of my personal theological superheroes, gives us the evocative metaphor of the church as a restaurant, luring people in by the smells of tantalizing food that the public doesn’t even know they’re craving.  I love this image for many reasons, most of all because it reminds me of Dwayne Johnson, AKA The Rock.  You know, Dwayne Johnson, the professional wrestler turned actor, the guy with the handsome face and catchy catch phrases back in his wrestling days.  The guy who used to taunt his opponents with, “Can you SMELL what the ROCK is cooking?”  The Rock was a great evangelist; he really made me wonder what he had in store for his opponents.  He lured viewers in by the aroma, just like a church should do.

Which leads me to wonder, what is MY church cooking?  Well, since it’s Lent, the literal answer is, “Fish!”  We serve lots and lots of fish on Fridays during Lent, and the delicious aroma and buttery taste does bring in the crowds sometimes.  With the fish and potatoes, we serve up some friendship, some moral support, and some teamwork.  We serve the community with our smiles and our sugary treats.  Which makes me wonder again, what other aromas do we put out into the world?  Do we help people hunger for God?

Rollins warns churches not to pretend to answer questions, to offer security blankets in an insecure world, and to promise easy fixes for complicated problems.  Rather than patching wounds with band-aids and promising heavenly salvation at the end of a sad, sad life, we need to challenge the easy answers, ask tougher questions, and strive to love in a broken world.  If we live into the love of Christ, we live into a messy, mundane mystery, one we cannot understand, but one we can only hunger for as we follow the aroma.

How do we speak of our church to those we meet?  Do we speak as though our work there is an obligation?  Do we use it to sound necessary and important to the community?  Do we use it to sound like “a good person”?  Or do we share the excitement we find?  Do we share the frustration and our desire to do more, help more, and serve more?  Do we share the challenges we find there, the richness it brings to our life, and the important questions it raises?

What aromas are we creating in our relationships with each other?  Do we accept and value differences of opinions?  Do we recognize individual’s gifts, even when those gifts are different from, or challenging to our own?  Do we speak honestly and respectfully in times of conflict?  Do we support each other in times of need?  Do we gossip?  Do we backstab?  Do we apologize when we can’t help but fail, from time to time?  Do we forgive?  Do we allow ourselves to be vulnerable and accept help graciously?

Churches often talk about how to attract more people, to get our message out, to be seen in the community.  What aroma do we evoke to the community?  Are we looking to serve our needs:  balance our budget, work our fundraisers, or teach our Sunday School classes?  Or are we looking to open our minds to other people's perspectives, to question our own views, and to challenge us into a greater love?  Do we strive for justice?  Do we help the needy, while working for a world in which the needy won’t need us anymore?  Do we proclaim the gospel?  Do we enact the love of Christ until every last person we meet feels loved?  Do we hunger for God so much that we seek to meet him in the face of every person we encounter?

In a world where people don’t know they’re hungry, what are we serving them?

Rollins, P.  (2006).  How (not) to speak of God. (5th ed.)  Brewster, MA:  Paraclete Press.

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