Since I was a young boy, I have enjoyed watching Cooking Shows. In the beginning of the Cooking Show Genre, there were not very many chefs who had a show on TV. I remember watching shows like Yan Can Cook, Julia Childs, The Gourmet Chef, and the Cajun Chef. These shows usually showcased a very classic technique that could be easily learned by the home cook. These shows were very basic and were built on the foundation of the basic skills of the culinary world. As time went on, these chefs became celebrities. In the 90’s people like Emeril, Wolfgang Puck, an others quickly made a name for themselves. Now in 2013, we live in the world of shows based on Culinary Competition. Chefs are judged on how well they can take basic ingredients and elevate them to restaurant quality dishes. Each week the judges throw the chefs challenging curves. These competitions have raised the stakes. Not only do these chefs have to know basic techniques, but they also have to tap into their creative side to take their dishes to the next level. One of my favorite shows is Master Chef. Gordon Ramsey, Graham Elliot, and Joe Bastianich judge this weekly completion. Home cooks from around the country audition to be part of a select few that are chosen to compete in the biggest Culinary Competition in the world. These home cooks are judged on their knowledge of food, cooking techniques, tasting, presentation, and creativity. This show reveals very quickly which cooks are well rounded and can take the most basic of ingredients and make them shine. As I was watching the Master Chef Finale last week, I could not help but see the similarities of this show and shows like it to our churches in America.
Every Sunday, churches across the country set up for the biggest Spiritual Competition in their community. Each church tries to take the basic ingredient (The Gospel) and put their unique spin on it. They are trying to make the Gospel palatable and easy to swallow. Churches often show case other elements of their “dishes” without letting the main ingredient shine. The Gospel, like the best Kobe Beef, requires very little cooking time, but the prep is key. If you marinate the Kobe Beef too long it can become tough and chewy. It does not need a bold or spicy sauce to make it sing. In fact Kobe Beef, is best served rare. The true taste of the marbled meat has a chance to shine. You can really taste the purity of the best beef in the world. The same is true with the Gospel. We need to take care and make sure the prep work is done before we begin to share. We must take time and know the ingredient we are working with. We must also know the taste preferences of our audience. If we were to prepare a very wide range of proteins for this very elaborate dinner and when we begin to serve the main course, we find out that every person at this event is a vegan. We would not be asked to cook for this type of event again. We must know our audience as we share the Gospel. The more we know the audience the better our prep time will be.
Just as a chef knows every flavor profile of the ingredient he is working with, we must also know the flavor profile of the Gospel. We must be like a skilled chef as we break down the Gospel for this generation. We need to be skilled in every technique that will allow the main ingredient, Christ, to shine. Also just as each chef puts his or her signature twist on a dish, we too can put a signature twist on how we share the Gospel. Our talents, Spiritual Gifts, Personality, and Experience help to bring our own sense of taste to the Gospel Presentation. God wants us to serve him out our unique shape. You are the best chef for the “Kitchen of Life” that you have been assigned to. It is up to you to season the Gospel with your own unique spin and flare. This does not mean that we water down the taste of the Gospel or leave out the bitter parts. What it does mean is that we are skilled enough to take the “whole Gospel” and share it in a unique way. Just as every chef has a few critics that do not like his food, we too will have critics who do not like what we serve. Resist the temptation to change the menu. God gave the menu to us, and we must be faithful and share every part of this very pure ingredient. The main ingredient must be the star of the dish. We must not cover up or add to the redeeming work of Christ on the Cross. That in itself is a very savory dish that will dance upon the pallet.
So how do we become a Missional Master Chef? First, we must recognize that we ARE Missionaries. Biblical faith is growing and spreading as never before in History. 1 out of every 10 people in the world is a dedicated believer. Although the gospel has spread rapidly, it has not been able jump across cultural barriers, which results in many being left isolated by the gospel. We need to help the local people develop tools to share the gospel with their culture. It is more likely that the gospel will be received by one of the indigenous believers than by the influence of a foreigner. This is true in our churches today. Churches have become social cliques. We only reach out to those people who are like us. We need to train our people to share the gospel with the culture in which they live. A blue-collar worker will be more receptive to fellow workers than he would be to a Wall Street stockbroker.
Second, the blessing that God gave Abraham of becoming a blessing to all nations begins with the message of salvation. The essential missionary task is to develop a viable, indigenous church planting movement. That means churches must be growing on their own, led by local people, and continuing to reproduce intergenerational fellowships that will reach the entire people group. The world is broken into thirds. One-third claims to be Christian. One third is non-Christians living within reached peoples, and one third lives within unreached people groups. We should still keep sharing the gospel everywhere we go. Just because a people have been reached with gospel not everyone will believe. We must not stop once they are no longer classified as unreached.
Third, in order for indigenous churches to be started and continue reproducing, the local people must become involved. The local people need to be trained to do the ministry. We tend to only train a few workers, and soon they become frustrated and overworked. Every member of the local church should take part in sharing the gospel with the people to whom they belong. Local congregations must be given the tools to become equipped for kingdom work. If not they will become dependent upon the paid staff, and when he or she leaves the ministry will die.
In the New Testament, churches were spontaneously expanded. There was no great appeal by the apostles to coerce the local church to go start new congregations. The Great Commission was understood as a tenant of the Christian Faith. They just went and did it. Wherever the Apostles went, they started new churches. They were discipling new believers and then turning them loose to do God’s work. We often times think only “School-trained” people can do the work in a local church, but that is not the case. These new converts were uneducated men who yielded their lives to the leading of the Holy Spirit. We as a church need to return to this way of mission’s work. It worked back then and it will work now. Until we realize the power a local believer has in the church planting process, our world missions effort will become retarded and frustrated.
So I encourage you to become familiar with the taste of the Gospel. Try and savor all the nuisances of flavor. Notice the rich undertones of Grace, Mercy, and Love. Also be familiar with sharp and pungent taste of Judgment. For the Gospel to be presented in its entirety, we must create a balanced dish of all these components. The Gospel must be presented in such a way that Jesus will shine and the true flavor of Salvation can be tasted in every bite. The last question I have is this: Who are you cooking for? Who will taste the dish that you are serving? Take some time this week and survey your neighborhood, work place, school, and church. Take note of what you are serving. Would God be pleased with the dish that you are serving? If the world were to taste it, would the Gospel be so hidden or foreign that it would be lost in the sugary sweet coating that we use to make it more appealing? Serve the menu you were given in your unique way. You will be surprised at the number of diners you will attract. Just as a local restaurant gets a reputation for the meals its serves, you and your church will get a reputation from the very ones you have been called to serve. Let’s get out there and serve the best dish in town, Christ and Christ Crucified!!!