Quantity, Quality, and Presentation

By Mark A. Taylor

We were oohing and aahing about the meals we had just been served. Only a few bites into the delicious dinner, our college professor friend at the table shared a snippet of research about food and socioeconomic status.

“The poor worry about quantity of food,” she told us. “Those in the middle class are concerned about the quality of food,” she added. “The affluent are most interested in presentation how food looks on the plate.”

And now, a few days later, as I contemplate this issue about spiritual formation, I’m thinking about spiritual food.

For example, I’m wondering if an emphasis on quantity of church related activities each of them supposedly promising spiritual health might actually betray spiritual poverty ? Do we enrich our souls by racing from committee meeting to choir rehearsal to Bible study to softball game to youth outing to banquet to all church cleanup day? Have we substituted busyness for building a relationship with God? Do our overfilled church calendars hide a population of church members with souls that are empty?

Those concerned about physical health reject the lifestyle of the overweight, undernourished masses gorging on empty calories in super sized “value meals.” But what about spiritual health? Can church provided commotion ever satisfy like a connection with God?

Admittedly, this kind of talk can degenerate into snobbery. We’re bored by friends who insist their elitist diet is healthier than our everyday meat and potatoes. And we’re put off by the Christian who deems himself too spiritual to participate in our church’s programs.

It’s true that legitimate spirituality is never a substitute for ministry; knowing God kindles a fire for sharing the truth and compassion of Christ. But spiritual progress is a process, not a program. What would happen if first and most we invited church members to growth instead of cajoling them to activity? How would our church newsletters and Web sites change if spiritual nourishment were our first priority?

Meanwhile, quality versus quantity doesn’t tell the whole story.

Paul told the Colossians his ministry goal was to “present everyone perfect in Christ” (1:28). He encouraged his disciple Timothy, “Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved” (2 Timothy 2:15).

Ultimately, it’s all about presentation—and not just looking good (like an artistically arranged entrée in a gourmet restaurant), but being good, like a morsel of food prepared to perfection.

We gladly seek perfection, because we want to please our Savior God who exhorts us to be holy, even as he is holy. In that pursuit we find the way of Jesus, the Bread of Life, the Living Water. We are filled with his presence, and deep within our hunger is satisfied.

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