Friday, June 29, 2012

Yogurtland Church?

One of my new favorite places on the planet is the local Yogurtland.  If you haven't yet visited a Yogurtland, you are missing out on a dessert that borders on health food... and for those of us who don't have my husband's metabolism, this is a good good thing.

As Geoff and I were just there last night, we mused briefly about Yogurtland as a bad metaphor for church.  The missional church has come a long way from the consumer model... but I wonder if there aren't still some similarities between the way that we participate in our missional communities and the way we engage a Yogurtland.  

Here's what I mean...
At Yogurtland, you serve yourself.  You clean your own hands.  You grab your own bowl.  No attendant is forcing you to make up your mind by asking, "are you ready to order?"  Take as long as you need to be ready.  No coersion.  Your indecision inconveniences no one.  If you're not ready to partake and engage, others simply go around you.

On any given day, there are a dozen flavors to choose from.  If you're not sure if you'll like a flavor, you can pick up a little paper cup and sample something to see if it dances on your tastebuds like you thought it might.  You can choose from flavors like cheesecake, huddles / discipleship groups, blue lychee bliss, missional order / house gathering, chocolate twilight, eucharist / worship, apricot tart, or post worship barbeque.

Once you've decided on your flavors, you choose your own portions.  You take as much or as little as you think you might be capable of digesting.  You can choose multiple flavors, or stick with just one thing.  Some days, that might be a bit of everything, filling the bowl to overflowing... other days, your appetite might be small and you can only take in a couple ounces.

After you've chosen your yogurt, you walk by the toppings.  There, you'll find extras like blackberries, scripture memorization challenges, weird fruit flavored gelatinous balls, and short-term missions trips.  Again, take only what looks appealing and mix and match as much as you like.

Finally, you're ready to weigh your creation.  You pay only for what you take.  During this whole process, you've been carefully selecting only what you've been willing to pay for, realizing that every delicious bite has a price.

When you come to the register, you're finally aware of the presence of a few bi-vocational pastors scurrying about the store... usually 3 or 4.  One has been monitoring the toppings, making sure that everything is fresh and inviting.  Another has been out wiping tables, disposing of trash left behind, and interacting with the customers if necessary.  You know there is at least one person in the back, attending to the yogurt machines, but you're not really sure who it is because they remain hidden during your visit.  Lastly, someone tells you how much you owe and receives your contribution to keep the store running in exchange for what you've received.

After you've enjoyed the taste explosion, delivered by a quality pink or green spoon, and been dazzled by the clever touch of strawberries bobbing in the chilled water dispenser, you're ready to go and tell all of your friends about the magic of Yogurtland... where you rule.

My hope is that more of us might view the gathering of God's people as a stone soup event.  Everyone brings something, either out of their bounty or out of their lack.  There's not a defined recipe... but everyone contributes something of value.  A wilted carrot, a handful of herbs, a pound of parsnips, some kale or chard... none of it is incredibly appealing all by itself.  But when everyone is willing to participate in the mystery, the ingredients combine to produce a uniquely flavorful stew that blesses and nourishes all those who partake.  A reflection of an entire community, centered around a stone.

What do you think?  Do people view your missional community as a Yogurtland?  Or as Stone Soup?  Or as something else entirely?  Are we still believing the individuals rule?  Or are we submitting to the mystery of the stone that unites the pieces?


  1. So I resonate with this alot...One of the questions I have is; does anyone ever order something they don't like at, on purpose, order it to see what they are missing, or gain an appreciation for something they wouldn't self-select?

    Wondering the same thing about missional communities; how might we have communities where people are invited to taste things they wouldn't self-select...different cultures, ethnicities, genders, generations...

  2. I like how your illustrations both contain elements of freedom. In yogurtland the customer has choices to make about what s/he wants. In stone soup each person has a choice about what they bring. In my experience Friends silent meetings are most like stone soup. During meeting time anyone is invited to share what the Spirit leads them to share or not as the Spirit leads. Most churches are uncomfortable with this arrangement. They feel the need to control content to some degree or another -to prevent heresy, prevent conflict, stay focused on topic, improve quality, only allowing mature Christians to have a voice, prevent hypocrisy.... So they end up in some sort of programmed worship where people are selected to give and everyone else is encouraged to 'pay' or tithe for the results.

    Missional orders, liturgy, worship and the like is designed to disciple people. In the language of discipleship there is a concept of control. The discipler knows more than the disciplee. The discipler has the power of knowledge. The disciple submits to the control of leader in order to gain the power of knowledge from the leader. How does a missional order leader, or the liturgist, or the pastor, or the music leader disciple like Jesus? How do they wash the feet of their disciples? How do they come along side with grace? How is the power dynamics turned upside down with the disciple having the power over the leader? Is it through their willingness to 'pay'?

    On some level leaders have to trust that the Spirit working in the disciple. That the disciple's hunger or desire for certain flavors or toppings is because that is where the disciple most needs to grow. A leader some how has to take responsibility without taking control. The follower has no idea where to go. Only when they trust the leader are they willing to give up control and follow. Until then the leader will have to walk with the follower until the follower realizes that they don't know where they're going and is willing to ask for help.