The whole point of s’mores is fireplace, firepit or campfire entertainment with the family. You roast the marshmallow on an actual flame, then use the residual heat to melt a chocolate bar, grip the gooey goodness between two graham crackers, and go to town on it. Making them is far more enjoyable than eating them. Watching your children make them is even better.
You can do it in the microwave instead, if you like. But the crackers lose their crispiness, the marshmallow slides everywhere, it’s just a mess. There is, however, a device that will make the best microwave s’mores ever. It looks a bit like a carnival ride for insects. You load it with water, attach it to the s’mores, hit start, and perfect s’mores emerge just seconds later.
This is the epitome of a solution in search of a problem.
When we think we’ve created the perfect s’more with improved speed and less mess, we have lost our way as a culture. OK, maybe that’s overstating it a bit. Still, surely we can all agree that the path to cultural greatness is not defined by whether or not it produces a problem-free dessert. (Not that we are turning away any problem-free desserts, mind you.)
S’mores are a delight to millions of Americans because they represent family time, self-sufficiency, simple pleasures, and good old-fashioned playing with fire. We don’t need them to be clean, or quick, or modern. We just need them to be.
As with most everything else these days, that makes me think of the local church. Our modern society has all sorts of ways to improve things for the X Street Church of Somewheresville. Live-streaming the worship service to reach those who are unable to attend. Eliminating inconvenient events and gatherings to focus attention on fewer, more intense experiences. Shortening sermons to lighten the loads of the parents of young children. These and many other innovations and approaches are almost universally intended to remove some of the hardships and difficulties that come upon Christians as a result of doing it “the old-fashioned way.” And I emphasize here, clearly and firmly, I am not necessarily against such measures. I am all in favor of congregational autonomy. If local church elders decide to shepherd the flock among them (1 Peter 5:2) in those directions, far be it from me to tell them nay. If the East Hill shepherds do so, I will submit and support as always.
That said, I think we’re missing the whole point of local churches.
The church is the body of Christ (Ephesians 1:22-23). The local community of believers is also described as a body (1 Corinthians 12:27). The various members are brought together in a cohesive union that is greater than the sum of its parts. The emphasis is on “the building up of the body of Christ” (Ephesians 4:12). Each part gets stronger individually, and as a result the body is built up as well (Ephesians 4:16). Therefore we should be emphasizing the things that make the body stronger.
Here’s the punch line. The things that make the body stronger are not necessarily the things that avoid complications, or salve hurt feelings, or that please the majority. In fact, they are frequently the exact opposite of such things. I was blissfully happy eating fried chicken three or four times a week; then I realized I had put on 25 pounds and my blood was starting to resemble cottage cheese. I made a change. I started making my body stronger instead of happier. And the weird part is, I’m happier now than when I was elbow-deep in fried grease.
Healthy churches are happy churches. So read Acts, brethren. Find your roots. You can embrace the traditions of those who are older and wiser while you are seeking new traditions of your own. If the goal is always, first and foremost, presenting the body of Christ as effectively as possible to a lost and dying world, the details of the approach will work themselves out.