My wife likes us to eat healthy. Lots of fruits and vegetables. And most of my kids fall right in line with this. They pretty much eat whatever is put on their plate. But a couple…not so much. One of my children, who is growing like a weed, is magically “not hungry” when a vegetarian soup is served. Another of my children just accidently overlooks the plate full of steamed vegetables. This annoys my wife, but I get it. Because I was a picky eater (My wife would claim I still am a little). Don’t get me wrong, I love vegetables. I just don’t dig fruit so much.
However, finicky not only describes how some of my kids approach food, it also describes how many Christians approach church. Church is viewed as an array of choices. So many in fact that numerous Christians are looking for a church that perfectly pleases their religious palate. Because we have so many church choices, there is very little need to partake of something that we don’t like. We can just keep looking for what we prefer.
So the chase of the “perfect” church begins. I like this theology, but I prefer that type of worship. I want a church that loves and takes care of the poor, but also has amazing classes for my four-year old. I want a church to take the exact right stance on every social and political issue. I want a church that calls me to a deep commitment to Christ, but understands that a whole lot of Sundays I won’t be there because I like to camp and travel. I expect a church to love me like I am family, but stay out of my personal business. And a church needs to understand that if I leave, it is not because I am not committed, but because the church is just not authentic/loving/compassionate/liberal/conservative/(fill in your own reason) enough.
Ignore the fact that there is no church on earth that can possibly fulfill all of this. Or that a church that even pulls a decent portion of this off would be an amazing place. For the finicky Christian, the impulse is to not consume even one thing that doesn’t please.
For years we have talked about the consumerism that plagues our churches. That it is easy to view church simply as another business whose job is to keep the customer (me) happy. I feel like we are moving toward something different. The finicky Christian isn’t merely interested in being happy or entertained (which is shallow), but rather believes they are right. They have figured out the answers. And church should conform as closely as possible to their viewpoint. So churches pretty much stink. If only they would do what I tell them. That is scary, and beyond self-righteous.
I run into more and more Christians who tell me they have no church, and don’t really want one. They are following Christ, and that is all that matters. They are Christians at large. I understand that the church can be a rough place. That horrible theology and practice, and even abuse or neglect, are real and could make anyone not want to attend. And we should all push for changes that help our churches look more and more like Jesus.
But I don’t think that’s the deal. For the finicky Christian, if a church can’t be found that really floats their boat, well….then perhaps there is no need for church. The church must change in the way I see fit, or I will leave. Whoa.
Of course, as any parent knows, there is something that can be done about finicky eaters. At our house, you can either eat what you are served, or you can be hungry. We are not making another meal because you refuse to eat broccoli or tomatoes.
But when it comes to finicky Christians, there is no way to force someone to do what might actually help them grow and mature. Instead, with our large number of churches and the advent of social media, we have made it easy to simply gripe, complain, and switch churches. Write a couple of Facebook posts about the hypocrisy of Christians, complain to your best friend that most churches aren’t doing enough to help people, and then you can say you tried to make it work, but churches don’t want to change.
For the finicky Christian, any breakup with the church is an “it’s not me, it’s you” situation.
But here is the big problem. Because we are so picky, we remain children. Part of being mature is the growing understanding that it ain’t all about me. That a group of people is highly unlikely to fit all my preferences and meet all my needs. But that is learned through sticking things out. I often call marriages “maturity factories.” They kind of force us to grow up, change, and mature. There is only one stipulation: you have to stick it out long enough for some growth to happen. Sometimes the reason church matures us is because IT IS NOT the way we would choose it. But again, that takes time.
When I was about eight years old, we sat down for dinner one night and there was some fresh, green onions on the table. My parents seemed to really enjoy them. I wanted to try one, but I wasn’t sure because while they may have been fresh and green, they were onions. When there was one left I took it. My mom said that I could have it, but I needed to actually eat it. No problem. But then I took a bite. Ugggghh. I kept chewing and chewing, but it wouldn’t go down. I sat and chewed and sat and chewed. How can food somehow grow in your mouth? Plates were now being cleaned. I was the only one left at the table. My mom gently encouraged me to just swallow. It will be okay.
This story would probably sound strange to my children. Because I love onions. I can eat one like an apple. I am not saying that I love onions because my mom made me keep chewing. I am just pointing out that often the problem isn’t the onion, it is the kid.
For many of us it may be time to grow up, and eat our vegetables.