Saturday, September 5, 2009

Recipes for Missional Living: Part Two

Welcome back to the second part of our series on the excellent book by Anna Robbins, entitled: Sharing the Feast: Recipes for Evangelism and Discipleship for Today’s Church (Spring Harvest, 2005.) (Again, I highly recommend its purchase, it is one of those “need-to-have-it-in-your-library” books.)

Quickly, I’ll review what we’ve gone over so far…The premise of the book is a simple one: “The way we relate the gospel to the world today is much like hosting a dinner party, or serving up a feast.” We are serving up a “feast” for others; some will be familiar with our offerings will come to the table readily; others, because they’re culturally unfamiliar with our ‘fare’ will be hesitant or no-shows to our fĂȘtes if we (the church) continue to serve nothing but the standard, boring fare we have been for centuries. Robbins teaches how to present the gospel to “unfamiliar taste buds” (the un-churched) because it is a necessary part of evangelism and discipleship. She reminds us that there are those who find comfort and peace in having their “pearl onions” every Christmas (enjoy tradition in their faith practices), and who hold onto those traditions with a death grip. These trappings, however, Robbins posits, can be distracting rather than attractive. Although Robbins points out that there is much that is good that should not be discarded simply because it has been ‘sitting around for a long time in the cupboard,’ she emphasizes the need to be able to distinguish between the “staples” of ministry and doctrine from the “seasonal produce” that may or may not need to be added to make the “dish” palatable to an audience from a different culture. She then sets forth a set of principles with regard to “cooking up” opportunities for evangelism and discipleship within and outside of the church utilizing a healthy and fresh combination of “staples from the cupboard’ and “seasonal items”.

Recipes for Missional Living: Part Two

During my first month at the University of Pennsylvania Cancer Center, I was informed by a number of people **repeatedly** that I must try Carol’s Jewish Apple Cake. One day, I was promised (by more than one person) that eventually she would bring it in and then I would know how really good a Jewish Apple Cake could be… I looked forward to this event with great anticipation. When the day finally came I cut myself a nice slice and savored that first bite. And then something strange happened…I tasted peach. Yes- peach! It turns out, Carol always substituted peach for apple, and to make matters even more bizarre- (and, normally, this wouldn’t have mattered- except for the peaches…) In fact- Carol was not even Jewish. The cake was undoubtedly delicious, but from there on in, I kidded Carole and the other co-workers that they had all sold me a bill of goods- substituting Carol’s Catholic Peach Cake as a cheap substitution for the “real thing.”

Here’s another scenario…

A friend of mine had a dearly loved recipe for carrot cake. I mean it was the most delicious carrot cake I’d ever had. She gave me the recipe and I made it several times and everywhere I took it- people raved. Then one day, instead of putting three teaspoons of cinnamon, I accidentally put in three Tablespoons. Three friggin’ tablespoons of cinnamon- geez! Well, there was nothing I could do but bake it, so I did. Well, let me tell you- I used the word “was” (as in “it was the most delicious carrot cake recipe I’d ever had”) for a reason…Because now the Three Tablespoon Cake is the best carrot cake in the world. Oh yeah, I mean it. It’s good. Real good. (And if you’re very, very good- I’ll give you the recipe.)

So what’s the point of these two stories?

What I’m trying to articulate is that, in cooking, sometimes you can get away with substitution and addition with only minor alteration to the overall product. Sometimes, however, you end up with an altogether different (albeit palatable) creation.

All joking aside- have you ever tasted something and it was not what you expected? Whether the sensation is good or not, the reaction is similar-“Oh! What is that?”

What if that was the reaction from someone to whom you had been attempting to minister? What you promised to “feed” them was not what they had expected…

What do you do after that- when what is delivered does not meet expectations? Does not fill them…does not fully satisfy?

This is the point that Anna Robbins makes, in her book: Sharing the Feast: Recipes for Evangelism and Discipleship for Today’s Church.

Today, we’ll discuss more in depth Chapter One~ Assembling the Ingredients: from the Store Cupboard.

Robbins starts chapter one with the premise that everyone is spiritual, and hence has beliefs, expectations and a world view which is informed by these (albeit ill-defined and/or ill-informed) beliefs. Everyone has a basic theology, and we all have an answer to the question: “Who am I?” –even if it is “I don’t know” she asserts.

“As Christians,” she further claims, “we base our understanding of God and ourselves on the Bible. We believe the Bible to be a reliable account of God’s dealings with humanity.” These basic beliefs make up the “staple ingredients” with which we prepare our evangelistic/missional/discipleship “feasts.” Robbins instructs us that how we use these staple ingredients will determine and effect the ‘overall flavor and texture’ of what we offer to those who we wish to serve. And so, she cautions, it is with utmost care that we should “take stock” and are consciously aware of the traditional ingredients that we have available for necessary use. We don’t want to ever serve anyone “Christianity-lite”- it might give them the impression that that is all we’ve got- nothing but platitudes and bumper sticker theology. We want, right from the outset, for people to rest safe in the knowledge that the faith we offer has substance and meat; that it’s not cotton candy that tastes good for a moment, but is amorphous and transitory.

Moving Past the Myths that Mess Up the Mix

Robbins asserts that the explanations (“myths”) that spring up in our culture to explain human nature or address certain existential issues frequently go unchallenged by Christians. She cautions that we must address them, and we must know how to do so with a deep understanding and with an ability to respectfully engage the culture.

Here is the list of Myths that we must be capable of understanding and addressing with knowledge and respect:

Creation versus the Myth of Mindless Evolution- we must always include the Creator;
Crash vs. the Myth of Human Goodness- apportion helpful discussions of sin &“the fall”;
Covenant versus the Myth of Creative Distance- incorporate the “God who pursues”;
Christ vs. the Myth of the Good Teacher- never, ever dilute or substitute the Sonship;
Call versus the Myth of Hedonism-too much sweetness and fat ruins the recipe;
Consummation vs. the Myth of Meaninglessness- purpose creates a true existential hope.

Robbins stresses the importance of ensuring the inclusion of all the “staples” (qualities to the above left) but cautions the error of over-stressing them to the point of an unbalanced flavor (she writes “flavour”- she’s a Canadian ex-pat living in London.) There is, she acknowledges, room for diversity with regard to degree of presence of the abovementioned “staples.”

In other words:
We don’t want to serve up Peach Cake when Apple Cake is on the menu; but it may be exceedingly fortuitous to “spice up” the Apple Cake with a generous amount of cinnamon.

Happy “cooking”….more next week.


No comments:

Post a Comment

Thanks for commenting. I am honored that you have come over to spend a little time at the Nacreous Kingdom. Your comments will be posted after I get the pleasure of getting the first read. So tune back in soon...Peace!