I've heard Dad use the illustration scores of times over the years as he employed it in numerous revival services around the tri - state area of Kentucky, Ohio, and West Virginia. He would warn the churches about a prominent family which has members in every church. This family could be a dangerous lot, and unchecked, they can do terrible damage to the church's attempt to accomplish Christ's mission. The "family" in question is the "Tater Family".
Now, rest assured that this is not a literal family in the church, but an illustration Dad would use, drawing on the many personality types he had seen in his lifetime as a pastor and evangelist. The story went something like this:
Consider the "Tater Family". Members of this family can be found in every church, and some of them can be very dangerous. Some churches have a few of these family members, and some unfortunate congregations include the whole clan!
The head of the family is "Uncle Dick Tater". He is the guy who has the tremendous need to be in charge. Never mind that the Bible tells us that "Christ is the head of the church". Uncle Dick Tater figures that since Jesus is not physically present at the moment, that Christ obviously needs his help to run things until the Master returns. Dick Tater can be found in a number of positions in the church family. Sometimes in some congregations he might be a Deacon, or a Song Leader, or a Committee Chairman, or even the Pastor! He sees himself as indispensable to the operation of the church, and his opinion is the only one that matters. When hard pressed, he will dig his heels in and fight to have it his way. He can appear kind and benevolent at times, but Uncle Dick Tater can be a dangerous guy.
His wife is "Aunt Hesi Tater". She knows that Dick Tater is out of line, but she hesitates to confront him. "It's useless to try to do anything about Dick" she'll sigh. "Maybe if we let him have his way on this particular issue, he'll settle down and quit trying to run everything". Nice thought, but it's just not going to happen. She knows what ought to be done, but hesitates to "upset the apple cart".
Some of the other members of the family are just as interesting. Consider the following:
There is "Cousin Emma Tater". Now Emma Tater is not nearly as abrasive as Uncle Dick, but she can be an aggravation as well. You see, Emma is never happy just to be herself. She has much to offer the church, but rather than use her own God given gifts, talents, and abilities, to play her part in the church, she chooses to imitate others whom she admires. The church is a body, very similar to the human body. Its made up of many members, each of which play their important role in the work of the church. God gives each of us a place to bloom where we are planted. He distributes roles and gifts as He sees fit, for the benefit of the entire body to operate properly. That's why the Bible says (paraphrased) "If the whole body were the eye, how would we hear?" Emma Tater just needs to be herself - not someone else.
Another interesting character in the gene pool is "Cousin Spec Tater". You'll never find old Spec trying to take the role of Uncle Dick Tater. He might complain from time to time about Uncle Dick, but Spec is not interested in taking his job. In fact, Spec is not interested in any job. He doesn't want to serve, he doesn't want to lead, and he often doesn't want to follow. He is content to just show up from time to time and check out what's going on. Apparently he's never read that passage of scripture regarding the body and each member taking his role. He'll tell you very quickly, "If I don't get involved, I won't get hurt!" Kinda sad, huh?
One of the most onerous members of the Tater Family is "Brother Agi Tater". He's as dangerous as Uncle Dick, but in a more subtle and insidious way. Agi is one of the more active members of the church, but he's rarely up front or visible. His work is mostly behind the scenes. He will blend into the crowd, and rarely desires the spotlight, but rest assured he's busy at his job as he sees it. And he sees it as the need to stir up trouble. He may do it through gossip and character assassination. He may do it by creating cliques, and then inciting one group against the other. He enjoys turmoil and seems to get his greatest joy in seeing friendships destroyed, relationships strained, and churches split. All of us have heard of the "Seven Deadly Sins". That is a moniker that has been given to a passage in the Book of Proverbs which lists seven things that the Lord hates. The last characteristic on the list is "He that sows discord among the brethren". Agi Tater is on awfully dangerous turf!
Then there is "Sister Common Tater". Like Spec Tater, Common Tater, isn't especially interested in either leading or following. Sister Common Tater is content with sharing her comments and opinions on just about everything that goes on in the church. She's not likely to hold an office, teach Sunday School, or be part of any ministry in the church, but she has her opinion of those who do, and she'll share that opinion with anyone within earshot. She'll comment on the Pastor, his sermon, and his family. She'll comment on the music. She'll comment on the custodian and his work. She'll comment on the decibel level of the PA system. She'll comment on the temperature in the sanctuary. She'll comment on what others are wearing. She'll comment on those who are working for the Lord. She'll comment on those who aren't. She'll comment on who was there Sunday morning, and who wasn't. I think you get the idea.
Every Pastor knows that the Tater Family can be a rough group. But there is one other member of the family who is an absolute joy to have around. That is "Sister Sweet Tater". What a wonderful church member she is! Unlike the rest of the Tater Family, she has the sweetest disposition anyone could ever want. You see, Sweet Tater loves Jesus - and it shows! She knows what Grace is about. She has her opinions, but she realizes that the Church is not about her, it's about Him! She has never gotten over being a recipient of God's Grace, and her complete desire is to be a conduit of that Grace to others. She is focused on the Mission of the Church. She will accept positions she is given in the church, and work quietly and diligently to do her part in fulfilling the Great Commission. Sweet Tater gives liberally of her time, talent, and treasures to the work of the Lord. She believes in missions, and she practices it in her live. Where does she get that sweet disposition? Obviously through a personal relationship with Christ. She is a woman of prayer and her relationship with the Father shows in every aspect of her life. Is she "perfect"? No. Far from it, but she walks after the Spirit, and His fruit is evident in her life.
The Tater Family will probably be in church this Sunday. They usually are. My prayer is that more of our members will be like "Sweet Tater" than any other member of that prominent clan.