Food for thought
by Terry Camsey, Major –
I had an interesting conversation recently with the lovely lady who baby-sits my grandchildren. It happened to be her birthday and I was joking about her being 21 years old “again.” Then I asked her whether she would be having a party with her family. She said she wasn’t but would be celebrating by going out to dinner with her husband and children.
She is of Mexican descent and I was telling her that, although there were dozens of Mexican restaurants around, I suspected not all were selling authentic Mexican cuisine. I had assumed, wrongly, that because she was Mexican she would be going to a Mexican restaurant. So, I was flabbergasted when she said that they were going to an Italian restaurant.
When I thought about it, what she was doing was not unreasonable. I was born in the UK and brought up with fish and chips (served in a newspaper), bangers and mash, toad in the hole, Welsh rarebit, roast beef and Yorkshire pudding—and a host of other British ethnic foods. Even as I write, I am reminded that the UK taste in food has dramatically changed with the influx of immigrants—many from former Commonwealth countries—who decided they’d like to come and live with their English-born “cousins” who built the British Empire in the first place. “Going out for a curry” seems to be popular there these days.
Personally, I like Chinese, Italian, and Mexican food as well as traditional American fare. Eating British food is more of a nostalgic trip today. Certainly, we cannot assume from a person’s ethnic background what kind of food is preferred.
I found myself thinking about “spiritual” food—the fruit of the Spirit, the milk of human kindness, the bread of heaven, the water of life, the meat of the gospel—and wondered whether these contribute to a spiritual equivalent of the food pyramid.
They do seem to have a relationship to functions the church is supposed to fulfill—to nurture (disciple) the people, to evangelize, to worship God, to grow in fellowship with one another, to meet the needs of the poor. And, I guess that—just as different dishes may be made from the same ingredients, according to the recipe, the mix and mode of preparation—different churches may offer a variety of expressions of ministry.
In fact, not “may offer” but “have to” offer. If all the restaurants sold exactly the same menu, there would surely be less people eating out! If all churches were exactly the same, there would surely be less people in church each week.
There’s a kind of parable here, too, isn’t there? Firstly, we must not assume that what we enjoy (feed on) in church is what others will, or should, enjoy. Secondly, we cannot assume that people of different ethnicities will only enjoy (be attracted to, and feed on) that which they grew up with within their own culture. Some may want to be “fellow-travelers” with the new culture until well established in their new homeland, at which point they may then revert to their roots.
A final point: Have you ever been overwhelmed when faced with a menu that has hundreds of choices? Isn’t it so much easier to make a decision when there are fewer options—less clutter in the menu? Perhaps there is an argument here for simplifying the programs churches offer, especially if there is a shortage of leaders to run all programs well—resulting in a few willing workers burning out through wearing several leadership hats.
Simpler can often be better—whether it be a meal, or a simple church program focused (as the Great Commission commands) on winning and discipling the lost.