There are numerous metaphors of church in the New Testament. Church is a bride (Eph 5:22-31, Rev 21:9), body (Eph 4:4, Col 1:18), temple (Eph 2:21, 1 Peter 2:5), vine (John 15:1-8) just to name a few.
But what of other places that we should be looking to for a better understanding of how we can operate as a church? For the last 30 or so years churches have been looking to the business world: there are mission statements, executive pastors, hierarchal management styles, etc. This is not a problem, but in this and the next post I want to look at two other places we should also be looking at.
Church as Restaurant
What if we thought of church as a restaurant? These days there seems to be an obsession with food and chefs. Recently there was even a dedicated food channel added to SBS.
How does the metaphor work? If you think of a church like a restaurant where the food is the Bible teaching, more specifically preaching, and church is the restaurant.
Here are somethings we can learn:
Preaching is a lot like cooking. There are some things that you right and some things you can great wrong. A steak can be burned, if a pasta dish does not have pasta, it’s going to be sent back. There are certain skills that every preacher should have when they step into the pulpit the same as there are certain skills that every chef should have when they step into the kitchen. In short you can get preaching wrong.
That being said, there is also a certain flair that every chef can have, a personal touch. Cooking is not merely a craft that you can get right or wrong, it is also an art form that can be expressive of a chefs particular personality. You can dump a steak on a plate and it will still be a steak. But you can do better. It is the same with preaching. It is not merely about skills, but every preacher will put his own stamp on the same sermon. There are better and more effective ways of presenting the same sermon. Or another way to look at it, you should not serve up different passages the same way.
Indeed just as every food will not be served up the same way, every passage of the Bible should not be served up the same way. There needs to be some thought put into how do I ‘cook’ this and serve this well? But again we need to keep in mind that there are rules that mean you can get things wrong.
A good restaurant will know that it should be about the food. There are numerous TV shows where the expert comes in and fixes up the failing restaurant. Most of the time the restaurant is failing because the restaurant has lost its focus on food in some way or another. The expert takes them back to the fundamentals: restaurants are about good food. Churches should be about the Word. This is how Jesus rules and grows his church. Good churches will grow around the Word, and mustn’t lose sight of that.
While good restaurants will know that it should be about the food, great restaurants know it is not merely about the food. The food will shape the whole experience from the decor, to how the food is presented, to the sounds, even in some cases the smells! If the word is shaping the church, then let it shape the whole church. (As a side note I have been watching TV shows on the great chefs to see how they do it to lift my game as a pastor and preacher).
Like all metaphors this will fall down at points. The main one being that people who come to church are treated like consuming customers.
If your church was a fine dining restaurant that served the Word in quality, what would it look like?