An introvert at a potluck

“I hate potlucks.”

My head snapped up and I stared at the woman who had just uttered the unthinkable. You hate potlucks?! Did you mean “ate” potlucks? Because the only time hate and potlucks should be used in the same sentence is, “I hate missing potlucks.”

My snarky side was just about to say, “What other glorious things do you hate? Puppies? Sunsets? Justin Timberlake?” But before I could snark, another woman in the room chimed in: “I do too. They’re so . . . awkward.” And before I could react to that, a third woman (who happened to be my wife) agreed, “I know. I use our kids so I don’t have to sit alone.”

Whaaaaaaaaaaaaaat?! How in the world could anyone feel that way? One of the simplest equations in my life is Food + People = Happiness. So how could three women whom I respect solve the equation so differently?

Thankfully, I listened long enough to learn the answer. I realized that potlucks do not guarantee happiness. Rather, the Potluck Happiness Meter (patent pending) could be measured on a scale of 0 to 3:

If you drove to church with a significant other, a spouse, a child, or a friend, add 1 to your score.

If you are a long-time attendee of the church, add 1 to your score.

If you are extroverted and find small talk as easy as breathing, add 1 to your score.

The scale made sense of the comments. Imagine being new, showing up at church by yourself, and not being wired to just walk up to strangers and ask if you can sit with them. Imagine shuffling through that line without kids as conversation starters. Imagine wandering around the tables of strangers with marshmallow fluff on their faces.

I would hate that too. I would feel awkward enough to take my Styrofoam plate of Jello salad (with the floaty fruit in it) back to my car.

Please don’t misunderstand. I’m not knocking introverts. Being married to one for 15 years has helped me to see the dangers of my personality and the blessings of hers. I say dumb things without thinking. She prays before opening her mouth. She sins less with her lips. I have to apologize for what I just said into a microphone.

But when it comes to certain social situations, extraverts can have an advantage. And this is where the Bible calls us to true fellowship, to bend-over-backward love.

After all, we are the people Jesus invited to his table. He was famous for seeking and sitting with the lost, the lonely, the sinful, and the spiritually awkward. King David praised the Savior who “prepared a table” for him, inviting him to let go of his sin, anxiety, and fear. This grace is why we love God, isn’t it? We know we always have a place to sit, a reserved seat at the head table in heaven.

No wonder the apostle Paul wrote, “Let us do good to all people, especially to those who belong to the family of believers” (Galatians 6:10). 

So I’d like to encourage all my “3 pointers” out there to do good to the family of believers, especially those who struggle socially at church. If you showed up with someone sitting shotgun, are a veteran of the church, and have the gift of gab, would you potluck intentionally?

How? First, look. Look for unfamiliar faces standing in the buffet line or sitting at a table alone. Second, ask. Ask if they’d like to join you for the meal. Third, eat. Eat and enjoy real fellowship, real love between real people, knowing you didn’t just get good food; you did a good thing. You helped someone feel like this church might be a place to belong. A church family.

I don’t know if Paul ever went to a potluck, but I know he wrote this: “Whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do it all to the glory of God” (1 Corinthians 10:31). And few things glorify God like love.

And potlucks, of course.

Pastor Mike Novotny has served God’s people in full-time ministry since 2007 as a pastor in Madison and now Appleton, Wisconsin. He also serves as a host and speaker for the Time of Grace television program and contributes to the written resources of Time of Grace Ministry. Pastor Mike is married to Kim and has two daughters.

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