Monday, January 7, 2008

Jumbo Shrimp

Today's entry is a rant. And it all goes back to jumbo shrimp.

My family and I were enjoying New Year's eve at a friend's house when we got a phone call. Just as I put it on speaker, we heard a cacophony of voices shouting greetings to us from Houston. As they passed the phone around, our friend Kara said, "Hey Jeff! We're all over at Shaun's house having a great time, and we've got jumbo shrimp. Isn't that enough to get ya'll down here?" I was immediately reminded of the line from the movie "Jerry McGuire," when she tells him, "You had me at 'hello'."

Now, you may not be as familiar as I am with jumbo shrimp from the gulf area. Let me just say that, if you've been eating shrimp anywhere else, you are missing out on how good it can really be. There's just something about that region and the freshness that takes tasty to a whole new level. (You may now insert any of "Bubba's" dialog from "Forrest Gump," i.e., "shrimp salad, shrimp kabobs, shrimp on a stick," etc.)

Now that I think about it, most of the places I've lived have had some kind of food that is a "specialty" for their particular area.

I was never a fan of mussels until I lived on Prince Edward Island, in eastern Canada.

When I ministered in Virginia, there were certain times when some of the ladies would come to the church kitchen and make homemade yeast roles. My office would be so flooded with that incredible smell, that I was hungry enough to eat my stapler by the end of the day.

You have never truly experienced baby Swiss cheese until you've had it from Amish country in Ohio.

For me, all thin crust pizza will forever be second place imitations of St. Louis style pizza. (Ahhh, Imo's...)

While I'm really not sure what makes those Virginia yeast roles so incredible, I suspect it's the same secret ingredient to enjoying cheese in Amish country, mussels on PEI, and shrimp on the gulf: it's local. You might even consider these foods to be expressions of the unique cultures that they come from.

Okay, so is there a point to all this- I mean, besides the confession of my love for all this food? I certainly hope so. If not, I've made you all hungry for nothing.

In my opinion (and that's all this is), it all goes back to the jumbo shrimp. I'm not heading to Amish country any time soon for a taste of the famous "Amish shrimp of Ohio." You get great shrimp in the gulf region because the gulf has great shrimp, and lots of them. Period. You get great cheese in Amish country because those farms aren't as concerned with mass production as they are with producing a great product. Each place has made the most of what it already has locally.

Churches sometimes become enamored by the growth or "success" of another congregation. In an effort to imitate the result, they imitate the outward, measurable actions of the "model" church. Interestingly enough, this second generation just doesn't reap the same results. So what happened? Again, in my opinion, it's the "local" factor. The second generation church has spent less time studying the principles and philosophies of the "model" church, and more time duplicating methods and actions that may be dependent on, or influenced by what God has naturally given the "model" church to use locally.

Here's what I mean: It would be helpful to examine the principles behind a church that has consistently drawn in great numbers of new visitors and helped them grow into Christ-followers.

It would be short-sighted, however, to simply copy a program, curriculum, or event that this same church has used, without considering
similarities and differences in culture and context.

This is not an attempt to get some kind of back-handed jab in at mega-churches. It is also not a commentary designed to warn people against using Willow Creek group studies, Saddleback "40 Days" campaigns, or any other widely marketed tools. No church needs to reinvent the wheel- if an established method or approach fits your church's unique community and personality, by all means consider using it; each can be beneficial under the right circumstances.

What I am saying, is that there is no "one size fits all" approach to church growth. Different people have different needs. Different communities can have many different local cultures and personalities. Our churches are comprised of those same unique cultures and personalities.

What we all share, is the need for a Savior. We all have sinned, and cannot be brought back into a right place with God unless we accept His grace through Christ. In John 17:18, part of Jesus' prayer for His disciples was, "In the same way that you gave me a mission in the world, I give them a mission in the world." (The Message trans.) What could be a more effective way to share this message than by embracing the ways that God has naturally given our churches their own unique "thumbprint" in our community?

So, pass the shrimp, bake the pizza or cut the cheese- but whatever you do, be what God intended you to be, not a copy.

In Him We Live,

Jeff

6 comments:

Corpus Couple said...

Bubba and Company:
It was great to talk with you this weekend. We love you and thank God for the blessing you are in our lives.

Kathy said...

"In the world to come, I shall not be asked, "Why were not Moses?" I should be asked, "Why were you not Zusya?" -Rabbi Zusya

Amy said...

HALLELUJAH! And y'all need to not wait as long as I did to live your life to please the Lord.

How can we draw the lost to a loving Savior if we continue in the same types of behavior that has cast them away from the "CHURCH" and the status quo of self-righteousness.

The ARMY says "BE ALL YOU CAN BE". I don't that's too bad a slogan for the Lord's Army either.

Rant, rant, rant, rant.... :))
ar

Laura said...

Welcome back! You have been missed.
Love to you all,
Laura

mike_and/or_kara said...

He served it up so someone has to take it...
Dude, I've been cutting the cheese for years in church, but I thought that sort of thing was frowned upon.
Seriously, what you are exposing is the different parts of the body analogy on a bigger scale: we can't all be the big toe. Perhaps the Saddlebacks of the world are the big toe. Someone has to be the nose hair.

hola fred said...

nobody comments on my blog so i'm changing the name of it to convergence to try and acheive more web traffic...is that ok?