Ask Your Preacher

Ask Your Preacher

“No Luck Potluck”

I attend a church of Christ congregation that has both liberal and conservative members.  We have worked hard to accommodate one another for the sake of peace, and for the most part, we have no practices that are unscriptural.  However, every second Sunday, a potluck is held in a kitchen/classroom adjacent to the auditorium.  The more conservative members, I being one, do not participate because we cannot find anywhere in the Bible where God authorizes potlucks in the church building.  Needless to say, this has caused some debate; therefore, the topic is avoided.  Is there any Bible authority or example that allows potlucks?  We are a small congregation and do not have elders.  Sometimes, I worry that by not attending these potlucks, the more liberal members feel I'm being judgmental by not fellowshipping during these potlucks, but I've always been taught that we must have chapter and verse for anything we do.  Also, several times, conservative visitors have happened to attend on "potluck Sunday" and have voiced their disapproval.  It's difficult to conceal, and in fact, it is announced at the end of services that we are having a potluck – as if everyone hasn't already been distracted by the aroma of roast beef wafting into the auditorium during services.  Please comment.  The bottom line is: I want my life to be pleasing to God and do not want to make an unrighteous judgment.  Thank you.

"Potluck Sunday" Avoider

Dear "Potluck Sunday" Avoider,

We agree that the Lord's church doesn't have authority to use the building for potlucks, social events, etc.  You are right on this issue – there is simply no biblical precedent for the church functioning as a social organization.  The work of the church is simple, and anything that doesn't fulfill that work shouldn't be done.  We posted an answer to a question regarding the work of the church: read "The Purpose Driven Church" for more details on that subject.  There was a time when the church needed to hold potlucks because people traveled such long distances by horseback or foot that it was impossible for people to stay for the full day of worship unless they had a meal between... if they went home for a meal, they might as well have stayed home.  This was an appropriate use of potlucks because they were an expediency for worship.  With today's modern transportation system and the availability of restaurants, that simply is not an issue anymore.  Today, potlucks are for the purpose of socializing, not furthering the work of the church.  If the work of the church is to socialize, we also ought to have gymnasiums, playgrounds, movie nights, etc.  The fact that potlucks are a “tamer” social event than a movie night doesn't make them any less wrong.

Having said all of that, let's now address the issue of your dissenting voice amongst the congregation.  Romans 14 is very clear on the subject of stronger and weaker brethren.  When one brother believes he can do something (this would be the strong brother), and another believes he can't (the weak brother), how should those two interact with each other?  In this circumstance, you are the weak brother.  Weak doesn't mean you are wrong or frail; it means you cannot in good conscience participate in these social gatherings.  Rom 14:1-4 says that the stronger brother should accept you without condescension or mocking because you are trying to do what you believe is right.  Rom 14:13-17 takes it one step further and says that the brother who believes he has the freedom to do something should restrain himself if it is causing his brother to stumble.  Your scenario is a good example of this.  You believe (and with good reason) that this is an inappropriate use of the Lord's funds, and you do not desire to participate.  The congregation should (at the bare minimum) accept your conscientious choice and leave it at that.  It is our experience that the opposite is often true.  Over time, many congregations as they move toward liberalism try and pressure or demean those with dissenting views.  Satan has a way of destroying good relationships by getting more liberal-minded brethren to vigorously fight for their "rights" instead of showing a gentle demeanor with those who don't believe we have the freedom to act so liberally.  Sadly, we have seen it time and time again.

In short, you are seeing things clearly, and you are right to be concerned.  May God bless you as you stand by your Bible-based convictions.