Chefs Not Microwaves
The necessary time commitment to church revitalization has been well documented in other forums. I will only address the difference and then show how Church Revitalizers need to be more like Chefs instead of button pushing Microwave operators. When it comes to Planting or revitalizing a Church; planting can be done in the reasonable time frame of 3 years; whereas Revitalization will require 5-7 years. Obviously, the pastor/leader needs to be in place for an extended period of time to see the “revitalization” to fruitfulness.
I use the analogy of a Chef versus a microwave to illustrate the time difference in creating a meal. I have been a fan of the Food Network for a few years. I watch Iron Chef and Chopped Champions series. It is intriguing to see what the chefs come up with based on their ingredients. I also watched my mom cook for 8 people. It seemed like she dirtied every dish and pan in the house cooking a meal for us.
Warren Wiersbe wrote a book called “God is not in a Hurry.” Sometimes when pastors and leaders approach revitalization, the objective is to turn the church around as soon as possible. However, this often causes great conflict and failure. Let’s look at what you get with a microwaved meal.
In a microwave meal, it comes neatly wrapped and pre-cooked. It is already seasoned and determined what it will taste like. This is all done in an assembly line atmosphere. The seasonings and ingredients have been pre-ordained by the “fast food” cooks and recipes. You open the box and you get what you get. While this is good for someone in a hurry, and only wanting to eat something; it is very unappetizing for others that wanted a more nutritional and satisfying meal. If a pastor/leader tries to do revitalization by “Microwave” there may be an end product, but it was already pre-determined what it would be and what it would look like. There isn’t much preparation in microwave cooking; plus no amount of cleaning up afterwards. The objective was met – get something on a plate. The fast food is just that, fast, but most of the time not healthy. It also is a product of mass assembly; thousands upon thousands of duplicated end product meals; easy for the consumer to ingest. Often time in minster we would call this “modeling church.” The leadership/pastor picks a model, take it off the shelf, unwrap it and put it out for all to consume. The only problem is the product may or may not be what was needed. It carries the mentality of “do something, let’s hope it works.”
However, if we are to be chefs, our task is much more difficult and time consuming. There is ingredient preparation, or in Chopped Champions, inventory of the basket to set what one has to work with. The revitalizer must start here and determine what the raw resources he has to work with are. Revitalization is not a nice neat little grocery basket full of all the right ingredients and spices. Many times, the revitalizer must improvise along the way because much is lacking. In fact you can count on this; otherwise the church wouldn’t be in a revitalization situation in the first place. The revitalizer will need to determine what is inside the church and outside the church to assess what is readily available for the work. This can be leadership, demographics and other church and community resources. After the gathering of ingredient information has been inventoried then the decision must be made what can we make? The Iron Chef and Chopped Chefs are often thrown a monkey wrench, for they will be given either a certain food to work with, or a very odd food to use. A pastor/revitalizer will run across this as well.
The revitalizer will have to next start preparing the ingredients for the end product. Now I have watched enough episodes to realize that chef will have to have some basic culinary skills and experience to get the ingredients to cooperate together. This would be leadership for the revitalizer. Something else I notice, you can’t cook all the ingredients at the same time, some need to be prepared before you can include them in other cooking, things like sauces and gravies and the like. Now something important here, the chef/revitalizer are working on a basic recipe. There will be modification based upon what is on hand for them to use. Before the cooking begins, a lot of preparation time is invested to get everything ready to cook. Obviously being a chef isn’t just throwing a bunch of stuff in a pot and hope for the best; likewise for the revitalizer’s world too. As the foods are prepared, a plan of attack is being implemented. The Strategic Planning Team would be the revitalizer’s recipe to follow. While the chef uses a proven recipe, the revitalizer will have to use proven skills and principles. Often recipes need to be modified specifically for the ingredients one is working with, this is where the “model” principle of cooking and revitalization have no place. The chef and the revitalizer must come up with their own specific recipe/plan for the situation they find themselves in. What worked in one place will not always work in another. Revitalizers and chefs must adapt to their working places.
When the cooking begins; obviously you can’t cook everything at one time, nor need too. The stages of cooking and continued prep will be evident. So it must be to a revitalizer. While there are certain steps ranging from communication, inventory, leadership development and strategies to be fleshed out, the revitalizer keeps the end objective in mind. In the kitchen some of the chefs look like they are absorbed in chaos, this can be the atmosphere in revitalization as well.
As the chef timely adds the various ingredients to the dish, so the revitalizer must to the same. There must be time to allow the principles and changes to absorb the other changes and principles previously implemented. The meshing of the ingredients is important to a chef, for it is through their combination that the unique taste and “lively” meal are born. All the while the chef and revitalizer appear to be using up every tool/utensil to create the end product. This should be expected. The masters of the art of cooking and returning health to churches must leave no tool unused. Cooking and revitalization is messy – but the end product can be so savory!
As the chef brings all the pieces of the recipe together, there will be added seasoning, and tasting to ensure that the ingredients bring out their fullness. The revitalizer must also “taste, test and smell” what he is cooking. Timing is very important in both situations. The chef doesn’t want to under cook or over cook, so there must be constant attention to detail to know when the meal is ready. The revitalizer will spend months trying to add “a new ingredient” into the “recipe;” he must be attune to know when the timing is right; otherwise the result could be a disaster.
When the cooking is all done, the proof of the chef’s work is found in the actual eating. If the meal is unfit to eat, then all the preparations and work are useless. Likewise if the Revitalizer does all the prep and cooking but never implements the “recipe” it’s all wasted effort.
While the shows I mentioned before have time limits for the chefs, the revitalizer has a more open ended time frame. Like my mother cooking, she was done, when the meal was done. Often she would be working on a meal for 2-3 hours, which we would consume in 20 minutes. Chefs and revitalizers are more like artisans than assembly line workers. Each time the “create” in is something new. While there may be some likenesses, none are ever the same.
Time, everything takes time; and in this face paced, hurry up and wait world; we must take the time to get it right. Time in inventorying the ingredients, time in preparation, time in assembling and cooking, time to cook, time to taste and evaluate. Time the chef and revitalizer must stay long enough until the finish product is done. To be in a hurry or delay will create a “tasteless” product. Like chefs cooking, revitalizers must stay the course. If neither is going to see the task to the end, then don’t start what you won’t finish.
Monthly Archives: January 2016
Chefs Not Microwaves
We start this week with the reading of the book of Isaiah. This prophets writings will carry us into April. Isaiah is a major prophet, and one that is not without controversy. You may have heard of Deutro-Isaiah, which is basically Isaiah 40-66. Some scholars think that the restoration prophecies of Isaiah are too long after the prophet lived to be attributed to him. Isiah ministered under five kings of Judah, a period of about 110 years. To look more closely at the events Isaiah writes about, read 2 Kings 14:17-20:21. This passage takes in the reigns of the kings mentioned in Isaiah 1:1.
The time frame of Isaiah is before the Assyrians defeat Samaria and the Northern Kingdom fall; with this in mind, Isaiah writes of the “vision of the LORD for Judah.” The time frame of the Kings mentioned put Isaiah preaching long before the 10 tribes of Israel fall. One would think that the judgment messages would be to the Northern Kingdom at this time not the Southern kingdom. We could look at the dynasties of each Northern and Southern kingdoms; specifically 19 kings, and 19 dynasties in the North. But 19 Kings and 1 dynasty in the South, the Davidic Kingdom Dynasty. Remember the promise of God to David that there would not cease to be one of his heirs sitting on his throne. Ultimately, Jesus the “Lion of Judah” will sit eternally on David’s throne. Could it be that with Jeroboam and his successors, that led the apostasy and anarchy of Baalism be already rejected and judgment pending from God? We know that Judah is God’s chosen people [not to say the other 10 tribes were not part of the original plan] where He will bring forth the Savior/Messiah Jesus.
Obviously from the 1st chapter there is a “worship that has gone wrong.” People have turned from God, and gone their own way. While they continued to worship in Jerusalem, they added worship “on the high places” also. The sin of idolatry has saturated the holy Zion. Even though indictment after indictment is given in chapter one, we still observe the “hope of restoration” in verses 18-19. Of course this is not without warning, if they refuse to return and repent in verse 20. The worship in Judah had become so infiltrated with pagan rituals of new moons, and festivals. The problem was even though the nation Judah continued worshiping at the Temple; God was repulsed by their actions. Judah was acting like as long as they kept God happy in the Temple sacrifices, they could do whatever else their hearts desired. Now things are not as bad as things will get, but they are bad enough. During the reigns of Manasseh and Amon, the sons of Hezekiah, Judah will hit an all-time low in morality; capped by the sacrifices to the fire god Molech.
Indictment after indictment, Isaiah brings against Judah. The description of Jerusalem in 1:21-23, speaks of the polluted, mixed religion of the day. In a constant barrage of evil adjectives, Isaiah identifies both the depth and extent of the “failed worship.” This should cause us today to think of what we have made worship in our churches to be. Do we think we can just “do something” and expect it to be acceptable to Jehovah God? 1:24-26; hints at the cleansing that Yahweh will accomplish in His judgment. It is a sad testimony of God’s people to realize that they have the One and Only True God; yet they were never satisfied, seeking after more sensual gods to their liking. We [mankind,churches] are guilty today of desiring not God, but our own form of worship, a worship that feeds our more basic instincts and animistic desires. [Michael W. Smith – Coming back to the Heart of worship, it’s all about You Jesus]
We find quickly that God is not pleased with His people. He is sovereign, He is in control and He will rule without equal. God is going to judgment Judah and Jerusalem in the future. Even though there was ample warning, Judah didn’t listen. While God is long-suffering and merciful, people take it for granted that they “got away with sin.” Not so, Yahweh see all.
Jehovah will direct the future events of rulers and conquests for His own will. Judgment is coming and judgment must begin at the house of God. Today in America, we must consider our own ways – is judgment pending for America? Assyrian kings will devastate the Northern Kingdom and Samaria in the near future of Isaiah’s writings. Will Judah take heed to the fallen Northern Tribes? No is the answer. Just because Judah gets a reprieve, doesn’t mean that God will now justifiably send them into captivity. The waywardness of Israel/Judah is evident. They were cautioned not to “engage with the Canaanite nations, lest they be duped into following their immorality and idolatry – they did it anyway. God is a jealous God – He will not shrug His shoulders at our unrighteousness!. Isaiah 5 speaks clearly about the reasonable expects that God should have for Judah or any nation that has benefited from His providence to them. A sad story will unfold – yet it will not be without hope of tomorrow.
This weeks reading is the book of Jonah. Most of us have heard the story of Jonah and the whale so often, we can recite it from memory. However, looking closer at the story, the point is more than a rebellious prophet unwilling to obey God. Right off the bat we find that God not only pays attention to the prayers of the Saints, but is aware of the evil going on in the world. The commission of Jonah to go preach was met with resistance and out right rebellion.
Throughout this story we find that God is in control. He sets in motion the “natural” things to accomplish His will. The story is more about the Father’s grace and mercy, than it is about Jonah. Even though Nineveh was wicked, God was compassionate to send a witness to them. The knowledge of Jonah about what God could do, resulted in his running away. Jonah knew that God was compassionate, merciful and gracious. Jonah’s problem was he didn’t want salvation for Nineveh, but judgment. Too often we are like that too. We would rather see the “wicked” get theirs, rather than get mercy. Yet this is ironic because Jonah was the object of God’s mercy, as we are – why shouldn’t we want others to come to know the Lord? Probable because then we have to love those who we love to hate.
In this story we have two groups of “Gentiles” the ship mates and the Ninevites. Gentile people were considered unclean and below the Gospel. So strong is Jonah’s hatred for the city of Nineveh, he would rather die, then preach to them. On the ship we find Jonah taking his ease in the midst of the storm, which God rose up, Jonah is sleeping and the shipmates are crying out to their gods. In 1:6 the cry of the gentiles – “call out to your God, maybe He will have compassion on us that we should not perish. This is repeated by the King of Nineveh – 3:9. The Gentiles were hopeful that Jonah’s God would be merciful on them. Jonah didn’t care about anyone else but himself and his own prejudices. The rebellion of Jonah is come to light, the shipmates ask, How Could You Do This? Still unrepentant, “just throw me in the sea, and all will be okay.” Jonah had no regard for what he was doing to others. 1st a person cannot run from God – He is omnipresence, secondly God is mercy and long-suffering and does not want anyone to perish. Oh that we would be as compassionate about the Lost regardless of how sinful they are and how repulsed we feel about them! Just as God raises up a storm, He APPOINTS a fish to swallow Jonah. This speaks of God’s omnipotence. There is nothing that is not subjected unto His authority. Finally, Jonah prays, weird place to pray, but inside a whale is as good as any I guess. I often thought of 3:1 being an example of God giving 2nd chance, however really, this is God still working out His plan. The plan never changed – go to Nineveh and preach!
Nineveh was a big city of 3 days walk, notice though that Jonah only walked 1/3 of the city [3:4]. He didn’t even walk through the entire city to let all know. Here is God’s love revealed – He will use the meager attempts of obedience to accomplish His will. Just as Jonah feared, the people repented and Nineveh last another 100 years. Rather than be over joyed at the repentance of the people, Jonah still has an attitude against God and the “wicked” Ninevites. The story about the plant that provides relief and then the boiling heat after it withers, exposes the carnality of Jonah. In the end – Jonah the messenger of God cared less for the Lost and more about the plant that provided him shade. The sailors and the Ninevites both call on God for salvation and worship Him for who He is; yet the one most familiar, was “displeased” with God for saving the scoundrels.
I wonder in our time, are those that we would rather see punished, killed or annihilated rather than redeemed by the Grace that we have been recipients of? Jonah preached against the people, not for the people. He only wanted to indict them with the Gospel, not get them redeemed? Are preachers guilty of the same today. Example are, we more prone to preach against homosexuals and drug addicts; adulterers and the like than we are to reach out to them with the Grace and Mercy of God?
For the readers, I hadn’t thought about it until recently, some of you do not have the 16 in 2016 reading plan, you will now find that under the icon of this blog’s main page.
As we continue looking at Daniel, specifically chapters 7-11; there will be a great struggle for some of you. These chapters have been overly “prophetically interpreted with a Pre-millenial, Pre-tribulation rapture and American dispensation view. In other words the dreams, visions and beasts have been view more about the End Times at the close of earthly existence. This being the case, what has happened is the message for the THEN times. The dreams and visions were specifically for Daniel to understand and convey to the Kings of the known kingdoms. While I have said this, there is application for our times and the End of Time times. Daniel continues to live is the favor of God and the four Kings he served. There are no less than three different times in these eleven chapters that God gives a history of the kingdoms to come. There are four kingdoms in the dreams and visions, Babylon, Persia-Medes, Greek and then the Roman. In these dreams, there is an end to the earthly kingdoms, but a fifth kingdom, the divine, heavenly eternal Kingdom of God reigns forever. the four beasts in chapter seven relate as follows: Lion = Babylon, Bear = Persia-Medes, Leopard =Greek and the 10 Horns = Roman. In the Greek kingdom, there is the four heads, this shows the division of Alexander the Greats kingdom being divided. All the dreams and visions are historically accurate, the kingdoms identified came and went just as it was THEN prophesied.
The Ancient of Days does bring into account the Kingdom of God and the picture of final Great White Throne judgment [Rev. 20:11-15] In the last half of chapter 7, we find the description of Jesus and the reign He will have. [Paul – Phil 2:8-11]. The tendency to re-interpret the visions of Daniel via the daily newspaper is tragic; especially when we are given the God-interpretation in the scripture. One of the problems that resulted from the Great Earthly kingdoms was the propensity to establish Imperial Idol Worship. This will become glaring with the Caesars of Rome. The earthly kingdoms are described as overpowering the saints until the Ancient of Days judgment is passed. Herein we must understand that persecution and martyrdom will be on-going until the Bowl Judgments are poured out. This in itself is a struggle for American believers, yet we know that Christians around the world are giving their lives because of their faith. Any interpretation of the End Times that does not take into account the persecution and death of believers by the kingdoms of the world is a false interpretation. I have heard so many interpretations on End Times that emphasize the “escape” from persecution and tribulation times. There is a warning here, for Israel felt they were exempt from the turmoil and persecution because they were the “people of God.” Remember Daniel is writing from an exiled position. In chapter 8 we find that the vision and interpretation of those dreams continuing; however, rather than trying to ascribe a present day application, we need to see that the interpretation provided gives us the story of how the Persians and Media empires fell to Alexander the Great. Chapter 9 is a wonderful chapter; the prayer uttered by Daniel is gloriously stated. The prayer is in line with what Nehemiah prayed in Neh. 1:4-11. These prayers of confession and supplication go right to the heart of the situation Judah found itself. A soon answer is given to Daniel, Gabriel, the Messenger angel gives reply. In the reply, Daniel is given further future pictures, namely the 70 weeks of Daniel as it has been called. If Daniel was “sick” over the earthly kingdoms, how would he respond hearing the End of all Earthly kingdoms, and the ushering in of the Holy Kingdom. The 70 Weeks, are broken down for us to understand – 69 week will lapse before the Messiah comes – it was 490 years from rebuilding to Jesus’ birth – historically accurate! The last week, which has been over prophesied is the culmination of the Age. The Week is 7 years, countless scripture passages, indicate the tribulation times lasting 7 years, but I hold that this is the LAST seven Bowls/vials poured out of God wrath. Identified is the conflict with saints and the Anti-Christ. Much has been written about the 3 1/2 years to get Pre-Trib, Mid-Trib and Post Trib rapture scenarios. Reflecting back on Revelation and the point time of “resurrection” in Chapter 15, I see the church gone before the 7 years tribulation. But I need to say this I hold that we are now going through the Seals and Trumpets times currently. When they culminate [Father’s time], then history will enter into the Anti-Christ days and wrath of God on the world. Daniel was given historically accurate dreams and visions for his time. We are given a view of our time as it was related in 9:24-27. Chapter 11, is historical again, this time it relates to Antiocus IV, the time frame of the Hanukkah, or Festival of Lights. 1 & 2 Maccabees gives the details of how the times of trouble and Abomination of Desolation occurred. Again so much has been made of “reading” into chapter 10 to make it appear that it was a End Times Futuristic event, future, but in the near future [175-168 BC, Maccabeans Revolt]
We start the year with reading from Daniel, this blog covers the 1st 6 chapters. I titled the blog the way I did because looking at Daniel and Joseph they had similar experiences. Joseph sent into “exile” by his brothers – ultimately winding up in Egypt. Whereas Daniel was taken captive into Babylon during the first deportation; around 587 BC. Both entertained Kings; were elevated because of their ability to interpret dreams. Most obvious, the fact that the Lord God was with them and they prospered. Daniel served from a young age of about 20 years old. He was of aristocracy lineage, royalty of sort, so he was taken in first wave of exiles. Early on we find that even though Daniel [and friends] are in a foreign country, they held to their convictions and faith. The story of not eating the King’s food and wine, so as not to be defiled, speaks highly of these youth. We must remember the context of this book – Judah had been destroyed by Nebuchadnezzar as punishment by God for their gross idolatry and immorality. In an attempt to “convert” the Jewish children to the ways of the Kingdom, and show superiority to the masses; a test to indoctrinate them in all kinds of literature, and such seemed to be the way to go. Only thing is, these youth were already the cream of the crop; not much risk there. I find it very admirable that in a strange place, names changed and cultural difference prevalent; that there was the “made up mind” not to give up on who they were as Israelites. Under the same circumstances, I’m not sure how people would handle it today. End of that story, the four Hebrew children were better than those who had been indulging in the fine food and wine of the King. A Point of Interest – even though the Jews were in exile; they were given freedom to continue worship and cultural practices; such was not the case for the Northern Kingdom of Israel, they became the “Lost 10 Tribes” being so dispersed.
Daniel was elevated over all the Babylonian “counselors” until Cyrus was made King. The Image Dream is a huge revelation in this book. More than just a dream; Nebuchadnezzar is given a glimpse of future history for the next 600 years. Daniel gives the dream its interpretation for Babylon to be the greatest earthly kingdom – ever; followed by Persians-Medea; then the Greek empire under Alexander, then finally the Roman rule and the Caesars. I find this significant, for this was prophecy of God to man, and the facts we look at being fore-told, came true as God said. The historical accuracy of scripture is often overlooked. Too many times the Bible is discounted because it’s just “a religious book.” A statement was made by the “counselors” in 2:11, that no god could give the interpretation for gods did not reside with men. We have a Creator, Savior, and Heavenly Father that is Here! He has not created and left us to our own vices. God is at work in humanity, bringing His Plans to fruition. Daniel’s knowledge came from the Lord, not from his education. Daniel asked for interpretation and was given it – James 1:5-7 works!
There was one more Kingdom revealed by Daniel – the Eternal Divine Kingdom of God. the Picture that Peter draws in 1 Peter 2:6-8 is glaringly obvious in 2:31-35. Impact? There will be great kingdoms on Earth, but the Kingdom of God will always remain. Out of this dream interpretation, Daniel is promoted again. This time to the Chief prefect; of course Daniel didn’t forget his friends, they are elevated as well. The testimony of Nebuchadnezzar of “your God is god of gods” is short-lived. In chapter 3, Nebuchadnezzar builds an image of gold for all to bow down to and worship. So much for humility and praise of God. The herald cried out – when the music plays, all fall down – interesting I use to play a game that we fell down when the music stopped! We know the story, Shadrach, Meshach and Abed-nego refused to bow. I wondered as I read, why Daniel wasn’t thrown into the fiery furnace> He was in-charge, I guess they just wanted to make an example of the friends – Daniel was in good favor with the King. As you can imagine, people from the home country watching these upstart exiles being promoted was enough jealousy to cause them to be watched for opportunity. NOTE: is we are living out our faith, the world will not have to look too hard to find who we serve.
I am not sure what King Nebuchadnezzar was eating, but he sure had a lot of weird dreams! This dream however was a result of his own pride and arrogance. God reminded him just who was the greatest, and who was in-charge. For 7 years, Nebuchadnezzar was like a “wet dog” outcast from society; he did repent, but only until then would God restore him to the previous glory. In chapters 5-6 we find another king, Beltshazzar [note different spelling of Daniel’s new name Belteshazzar] the son of Nebuchadnezzar, doesn’t learn much of a lesson, for he exhibits the same pride and arrogance his father did. The hand-writing was literally on the wall for him! Kings will come and go; but Our God will always reign!