From independent coffee shops to the rise of whole-grain wheat bread and the return of Farmers Markets, millions are intentionally moving backward on the technological timeline of human progress. Bigger, faster, cheaper, and more are being replaced by smaller, slower, more valuable, and less in the hearts of a generation learning to say “no” to commercialism, industrialism, and plastic community. What might the modern church learn from this seemingly counter-intuitive, artisanal, paradigm shift?
1. Sometimes BIGGER Isn’t Actually Better
You’ve heard it said that bigger is better. Sometimes, though, bigger is just bigger. The ability to scale production to the highest possible level is a powerful tool for manufacturing and a cancer to community. When it comes to building a community of faith it might be a good idea to focus on the quality, authenticity, and intimacy of your gatherings instead of doing whatever is required to grow them.
2.Good Stuff Isn’t Cheap
Many churches have adopted the commercial instinct to drive prices down by making participation in their community as inexpensive as possible. While this is a reasonable philosophy for a profit-driven corporation or the manufacturer of unnecessary baubles, community is not a product and if it is cheap you’re doing it wrong. The same goes for teaching, worship, and service. Instead of focusing so much on lowering the cost-of-entry (making things easy, fast, unobtrusive,) try focusing on cultivating, rich, real, vital community and let the value of fellowship draw people in.
3. The Customer Isn’t Always Right
While it is certainly a laudable instinct to be accommodating to your visitors and to serve your neighbors, there are two major ways this surreptitious “value” corrupts the way we live out the Gospel. First there is the subtle reinforcement of the unbiblical idea that our primary role as human beings is to be consumers. While our economic system may in fact depend upon voracious and unmitigated consumption, the family of faith is called to a much higher purpose. We are to be producers; co-creators with God. Second, there is the simple fact that customers are often wrong! We want the wrong things. We need the Holy Spirit to renew our minds and heal our broken hearts. Surely when Jesus invited us to “pick up our cross and follow” he wasn’t too concerned about serving us the type of “good news” that we wanted. His offer is so much bigger, and better, than anything our un-renewed mind could possibly want.
4. Beauty Can Be Processed Into Oblivion
One of the most innate urges of human beings is to bring order into the seeming chaos of our environment. This desire to process things has created incredible advances in technology and society. Through automation we are often able to reduce cost, remove imperfections, and increase reliability. Some things, however, lose their identify when over-processed. If not for a certain amount of processing, for instance, chocolate would be an extremely expensive and fragile product only available to the wealthy. Too much processing, however, and we lose the flavor, nutritional value, and artistry that can be found in this mystical food. It’s cheap, sure, but it’s worthless – even destructive. Has automation and processing driven the human factor out of your community in some ways?
5. Good Things Take Time
We are so impatient. Humans will trade quality for convenience and speed 9 times out of 10. Often our desire for speed comes into direct conflict with our desire to save money. We will pay a premium for fast, convenient food, even when flavor is lost and the cost goes up. This craving for expedience can infect all aspects of our lives if we are not mindful of it. When we speed up our relationships they stay shallow. When was the last time you intentionally slowed things down? Take longer to teach through that chapter in Romans. Spend long chunks of time with a small group of people talking about life and sharpening each other’s iron. Speed is often the enemy of purpose. Slow it down.
Crafting Our Faith Like Artisans
As millions of people eschew “organized religion” and self-identify with terms such as “spiritual but not religious” we disciples too often wring our hands in angst and try to buff the product we offer to an irresistible shine. Instead we should listen to the changing culture around us and respond with care, compassion, and craft. Might it be that these people have not actually rejected the words and the work of Jesus because they’ve not made it through the manufactured, corporate, obstacles we have placed between them and the Gospel? Many followers of Jesus speak with such heavy industrialist accents that this generation can’t even understand what they are saying. If we demonstrate humility, approachability, and a willingness to extricate the beautiful melody of Good News from the pollution of factory thinking we might be surprised how many people begin singing along.
In the stories of a baker, a farmer, craft brewers, a chocolatier, a woodworker, one of the top coffee experts in the world, and his own musical history, John J. Thompson searches for truth rippling beneath the surface of the handcrafted and small batch culture shift happening all around us. Inspired by the artisanal way and driven by a personal journey to a deeper spirituality, Thompson suggests that keeping the faith today starts with going back to the gospel’s grassroots and extricating it from the clutches of industrialism. For more information, and a free sample chapter from Jesus, Bread, and Chocolate; Crafting a Handmade Faith in a Mass Market World visit www.JesusBreadChocolate.com.
Publication date: May 12, 2015