Saturday, February 11, 2006

How to Fellowship

Every second Sunday of the month, the church that Amy and I attend has a pot luck dinner. Everyone is always invited and it is a lovely time to fellowship and enjoy some good eating.

An oddity of this congregation is that many of the members have their own plates. Some have normal, round, dinner plates, others bring cafeteria trays. Everybody busses their own plates after eating and most leave the dishes on the Church shelves.

No one has ever said anything about this to us, and I’ve always figured it was just some odd quirkiness of the members. Like they prefer larger plates for larger portions, or maybe they are allergic to Styrofoam. We’ve never been asked to bring our own plates, and paper or Styrofoam plates have always been provided…until now.

Very recently the Elders announced that they will no longer be providing plates for the dinners. It is apparently a budget concern. I guess they were just spending too much money on throw away dishware for these monthly fellowships.

The more I think about this, the angrier I get. What does this say to visitors?

“Come fellowship with us! Everybody is welcome! Oh, you didn’t bring your own plate to church? Sorry, I guess you’ll have to go to Cracker Barrel.”

Come to me all who are weary and heavy laden…but bring your own dishes, because we ain’t got none for you.

Beyond the visitors, what does this say to members? We’re not important enough to spend a couple of bucks on a month? It’s not like paper plates are expensive. You can buy them in bulk for cheap. The congregation is small. We might have 30 people attend a fellowship dinner a month. Half of these bring their own plates already. For ten bucks they are serving 6 months worth of dinners.

I might not be so angry if I knew that money was going to something good. If they were shipping plates to Africa, or using the extra money to buy Bibles for Chinese orphans, I could say fine, I’ll eat out of my hands. But the congregation has a surplus of money. They literally have two savings accounts with over $10,000 sitting in it.

They do send small amounts of money to a few missionaries (and Apologetics Press) each month, but the left over is more than enough to pay for plates.

I am dumbfounded at the lack of sense, or Christian charity here.

As Amy says, I’m about ready to leave this congregation. I want to dis-fellowship them because they don’t know how to fellowship.

Tomorrow is second Sunday and before we eat I’m running to Sam’s and buying a whole stack of paper plates.


Diana said...

Budget concerns over paper plates? I'm as Budget concious as the next fellow, but most paper plates are cheap!

That is so strange to me. I was going to say, well a member can't donate paper plates? But it looks as if you're onto that very thing.

Jamison said...

here are some things you can do:

buy a bunch of paper plates and put them on the counter with a sign that says "For visitors; they have to eat too!"

put an announcement in the bulletin that says "If youd like to donate money to buy paper plates for visitors, please see Mat Brewster"

Let me send some paper plates to your church. I'll include a letter than says "Greetings from the church of our Lord at Dalraida. It has come to our attension that funds are low and that you have visitors on your fellowship days. Please use these plates to feed them. Let us know if you have more budget concerns as we seem to have an extra 10 bucks a month in our budget that we don't know what to do with..."
Or, just talk to an elder and tell him how silly it looks from the outside.

It is easy for me to say that after my spat with an elder over something more serious... my advice; find the youngest elder you can... it sounds like the oldest one came p with that idea, or they are lying about the surplus, or they are taking money out and into their pockets, but i doubt that.

that is the strangest church story I have ever heard.

Brewster said...

I went to Sams and bout 175 nice styrofoam plates with the little seperation bumps in them for $10.75. I didn't make a show about it but walked them to the kitchen. The preachers wife looked at me with a look that said both thank you and I'm sorry you even had to do this.

Jamison said...

Well done... the preacher made this rule or the elders did though...?

bigsip said...

Brew, you have taught us all something.

I think you did a very humble and good thing, even if it was just paper plates.

I think cutting out plates and other eating stuff is the stupidest thing I've ever heard.

What happened to churches who knew how to talk to people? The recent sign thing and this are making me wonder how antisocial and cloistered people have become.

Brewster said...

Our church has two elders. One is like 82 years old and has a very foreceful personality. The other is a big younger and has a very mild personality.

THe reality is that the older one, Bob, pretty much calls the shots. He's not a bully or anything, its just that his personality is stronger than the other one. The other one, Irwin, I don't think every disagrees.

The problem is that Bob is slowly going senile. A couple of winters back Amy and I showed up to church and found nobody there. A visit with the preacher determined Bob had cancelled services b/c of the weather. It was cold, but there was no ice or snow on the ground. Bob cancelled it because it might possibly snow later that day.

Read that again, he cancelled church because it might snow. Not that it was snowing or had snowed because it was possible in the future. Normally you would think we'd have services and if it started snowing heavily you'd just end early. Not here, nope.

Amy and I were actually gone when the plate decision was made. I'm sure it was Bob though. He's so old schoolI'm sure he remembers the depression and pinches every penny. Bob makes the decision and no one has the cajones to tell him how ridiculous it is.

I'm also fairly sure it is bob who keeps a savings account full of cash. A just in case fund.

Jamison said...

so what is a disiple of Christ to do when this happens? Do we stand up for what we feel is right or just let an elder call the shots? Are elders so holy that we can't disagree with them?

I hung up on an elder from University once and felt very guilty... at the same time, as a human, he was being a jerk. But he was an elder... does being an elder give one some sort of super power?

bigsip said...

Elders are fallible. I think the reason why they do some of the things they do is because people don't have the courage to talk to them.

Most elders will listen and some will even change. But, nothing will happen unless someone says or does something.

I'm proud of Jamison and Brew for speaking up. You guys would make good elders one day, I think.

Diana said...

I'm with Sip.

All of you guys are very good examples to us little baby Christians. I want you guys to know how much I admire you.

The only comment I want to add is that, if you're going to buy disposable plates, please buy paper. It biodegrades. :)

mullinz8 said...

Brew there is your ministry outlet. Your job is to ensure the brothers and sisters and those wandering, lost soul visitors have the appropriate cutlery and settings for all manner of pot luck.

I mean you might think I’m joking but you could help keep the kitchen or service area prepped for functions.

Then again a church being lead by a bunch of wimps and a cracked old man might be a good place to leave. I would hate to think that it would be leaving them to fend for them selves because I think there is a lot you could offer to those folks (if they let you) to pick things up a bit.

Brewster said...

We think about leaving all the time. We don't for several reasons. There aren't a whole lot of choices in town. We do have some friends at the congregation and I just don't know how to tell them we're splitting. It just doesn't seem right. Should we just up and leave a church because we don't like some things? Wouldn't it be better if we tried to make the right changes?

Jamison said...

Yes Brew, I think before you up and leave, you need to try and make it right...

When people leave a church and do nothing to change it, it gives the impression that those people are looking for a church that suits their needs and wants... like trying on a pair of pants...

The church is us, you, me, and we. Not Them, they, or those. YOU are the force of the church, the elders are pretty much there to make sure you dont do anything unscriptural and make sure you dont turn the church upside odwn on itself.

bigsip said...

I'm with Jamison.

You've already shown some personal courage through your actions.

There's definitely more where that came from.

Even if things don't get better and y'all eventually move on, you can at least know you tried to help.

mullinz8 said...

Copy Red 5 and Gold Leader. Before you go all rouge agent you need to see how receptive they are to small changes.

if you can work those then you'll have a voice in how things can continue so that should new folks come in they too can be welcomed with open arms rather than the display of stingy pot luckers.