Do Buffet-Styled Churches Honor God?

For years, I have bought into the church growth principle that the more choices you give people in a church, the more successful the church will be.

To agree with that principle, you must gauge a church’s success by the number of people who stay at that church.  But is that true success?

Here are the courses that the American church is serving up:

  • Worship – traditional, contemporary, blended, cutting edge, emergent, ancient future, classic, golden, choir, band, hard rock, country western, southern gospel, chandeliers, go-bos, expensive organ, expensive guitar, etc.
  • Discipleship – Sunday school, community groups, small groups, Bible fellowship classes, on-campus, in-homes, co-ed, single, married, guys only, girls only, by hobby-interest, by age, by life situations, etc.
  • Preaching – coat and tie, jeans and t-shirt, podium, table, old, young, hip, wise, screen, video, sermon, message, talk
  • Family Ministries – discipleship times, creative programs, glorified babysitting, “community” sports programs with a side of Christ, men’s ministry, women’s ministry, single, divorced, newlywed, with kids, with small kids, with fussy kids, for fussy kids, puppets, Awanas, GAs, RAs, children’s choir

And the list could go on.

  1. Is God honored when we explain what church we belong to by describing the type of music we like?
  2. Is God honored when we defend our group’s methods within the church rather than celebrating the diversity of the whole church?
  3. Is God honored when we try to woo members from other churches because this program is better than that program?

Maybe God would be glorified if we stopped looking like buffet lines and started uniting ourselves around our adoration of Jesus that pales all other comparisons out of our sight.

What would the American Church look like if we followed God’s Word concerning a church?

1 I therefore, a prisoner for the Lord, urge you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling to which you have been called, 2 with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love, 3 eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. 4 There is one body and one Spirit–just as you were called to the one hope that belongs to your call– 5 one Lord, one faith, one baptism, 6 one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all. -Ephesians 4:1-6

If we followed this, the church wouldn’t look like a buffet line.  What would it look like?

Travis Agnew is a Christian, husband, father, pastor, author, blogger, and religion instructor.

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5 Comments

  1. Jason Griffith

    Choices can be good and yes they draw numbers, but two things that need to be considered when having success: 1. are worshipers only going to be consumers of the church and not serve in anyway. Having a church that offers a lot of ministry opportunities is great, however if worshipers are coming in every Sunday and any other day in the week to consume what the church is providing, then that can becomes an issue. Unfortunately all churches that offer lots of chioces, have a lot of consumers and not both consumers and servers. 2. The most important thing to messure the success is if there is life change. Are people having there lives change because of the ministry.

  2. Adam Langley

    Ed Stetzer and Mike Harlan videoed a great conversation on this issue entitled Worship: Relevance vs. Reverence. The same issues are addressed in their conversation. I am definitely on the same page with you on this one. The reasons for offering such diverse worship and church options are well intentioned and multi-faceted. I do not believe the proliferation of choices available in many churches displays a picture of the love and unity that should characterize the church. Ultimately, you have to make a decision as to how your worship service is going to look, what form your small groups will take, etc… What should drive these decisions?

  3. Jamie Strutton

    I think the fundamental question here is simply this: Is the church here for us, or are we here for the church? We often times get caught up in what we get out of the church, but the church isn’t here to just minister to us. We are in the church to share in the ministering, to actively be a part of the body that takes care of itself. We are called to serve one another, not just sit back and let others serve us. When was the last time someone joined a church simply because they had a gift/ability/resource that would benefit the church. People base there decisions of church membership on what the church can do for them. To re-phrase a popular quote: “Ask not what ‘the church’ can do for you, but what you can do for ‘the church’.” When we focus more on the service we give than the service we receive, we get more out of it in the end.

  4. B. Noble

    I have always believed that God DOES care what we wear in worship to HIM. That’s NOT to say that we should outdo someone else just for the sake of it; if a person does that, it’s not right. But if we wear our best for the Queen of England or other dignitary, why do we do less for the one who died on the cross for the propitiation of our sins??? If our very best is blue jeans and tee shirt – we have nothing better in our closet – then so be it. But would you wear that for the dignitary? Would you find a way to dress a little better? Even though it’s a given that we cannot impress God, we CAN give him our best. And if a man comes in off the street in rags, but his heart and intentions are okay, we’re not to judge badly of him, but welcome him as a brother. Our reward will be the same in the day of judgment, I believe, because God knows our hearts, HE knows we’re made of dust, and we can’t impress him, but we CAN respect him! Don’t wear “to church” what you wear to baseball games. “GIVE OF OUR BEST TO THE MASTER”, OUR CREATOR, OUR SAVIOR!!

    • James 2 My brothers, show no partiality as you hold the faith in our Lord Jesus Christ, the Lord of glory. 2 For if a man wearing a gold ring and fine clothing comes into your assembly, and a poor man in shabby clothing also comes in, 3 and if you pay attention to the one who wears the fine clothing and say, “You sit here in a good place,” while you say to the poor man, “You stand over there,” or, “Sit down at my feet,” 4 have you not then made distinctions among yourselves and become judges with evil thoughts? 5 Listen, my beloved brothers, has not God chosen those who are poor in the world to be rich in faith and heirs of the kingdom, which he has promised to those who love him? 6 But you have dishonored the poor man. Are not the rich the ones who oppress you, and the ones who drag you into court? 7 Are they not the ones who blaspheme the honorable name by which you were called?

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