Chefs Not Microwaves

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.

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