How to Ruin the Recipe for a Good Church


The Girl Scout cookies had arrived.

They say that the way to a man’s heart is through his stomach, and to this I must attest. At least for this man. In part, anyway.

Samoas are the bullet train between my cardiac and GI functions. All toasted coconut, chocolate, overcooked caramel goodness in a cookie.

I opened the box and examined the current iteration of the cookie.


See, I remember back to the days of Ronald Reagan’s “America,” when a Girl Scout Samoa was a thing of epic scrumptiousness. A big ring of coconut not only run through with veins of caramel love, but at its core a solid ring of caramel that threatened to choke you to death if you ate the cookie too fast. As thick as an index finger, too, and the chocolate drizzled over that recipe of Samoa was substantial enough to be tasted in its own right. This was heaven’s own cookie.

Which is why the pathetic replica facing me disappointed so. That chewy ring of caramel? AWOL. Just a few streaks of caramel remained. The waxy chocolate barely made a difference in taste. The whole thing served only to remind me how badly this current cookie failed to live up to the gustatory genius of its forerunner.

It’s not a matter of cost, either. I think those of us who loved Samoas would have paid twice as much to get the old version that enslaved us so. I would.

No, it’s just the spirit of the age. More of that lowest common denominator decent into blandness and underperformance.

Some soulless bean counter sat in on a meeting somewhere and said, “People won’t miss _______ if we concede to cost realities.” He had to. Because that’s what bean counters do. Marketing then finds a way to spin the change when they should be the line of defense to say, “Whoa, Nelly!”

There’s always a way to make something worse. That the way to worse is so easy to find and implement…

The lesson for the Church  is to think and pray hard before jettisoning ANYTHING that is part of the recipe of the Church. If God is not specifically speaking by His Spirit to leaders regarding some big plan those leaders envision, just STOP. Chances are high that what comes out of the oven will be a tasteless disappointment.

Make a little change to a recipe and at first glance nothing may seem awry. Substituting corn oil for lard doesn’t seem wrong. Besides, it’s easier to find AND cheaper.

Tell that to the tasters when the goods are served.

But the neighbor’s recipe used oil!

The surest way for a local church to fall into the pit of lowest common denominator is to copy other churches.

Recipes are tricky. To replicate a successful one requires the precise amounts of the exact ingredients.

The same holds true for churches. Yet the conditions that led to success in one church are NEVER identical to the conditions at a different church. The Bible even notes this. Bad, burned cookiesWhen Christ speaks to the churches in Revelation, each has its own flavor, it’s own ingredients, it’s own challenges. The wrong mix of components (or the right components baked the wrong way), and the result is a flavorless brick. While flavorless bricks may sell to the unknowing, they are not satisfying.

Never replicate another church’s recipe. Doing so is the shortest route to the bottom.

Again, church leaders MUST listen to the Holy Spirit because He alone has the directions a local church must take. And those directions will most likely NOT look like the directions of some other church, no matter how successful the recipe at that other church might be.

Nor can a church make concessions. All of the world, society, and the forces of hell are allied in whittling down the Church one issue at a time.

Cheapen the ingredients. Call bad good. Cut corners in the recipe. Do what’s easier. Avoid the hard work. Rush the process. It’s what everyone else is doing anyway.

No one else will know, right?


Conceding to the spirit of the age leads only to a lowest common denominator Church, a bad, tasteless replica of the real thing.

I see the Church in America rushing toward the lowest common denominator. The converse, authenticity in Christ, is hard to develop and maintain, though. I realize that, but it’s what we need to aim for. Authenticity almost never looks cookie-cutter, which is why authentic churches have their own flavor and zest. Their ingredients are unique and hard to come by, but they follow God’s recipe to the T, and the result is delicious, just what the Master Chef intended.

Today’s church landscape is littered with a homogeneous blandness and lack of discernment toward the rapid approach of the lowest common denominator. If what was once perfectly salty becomes tasteless, what good is it except to be tossed out?

Canceling Christmas Sunday


And day by day, attending the temple together and breaking bread in their homes, they received their food with glad and generous hearts, praising God and having favor with all the people. And the Lord added to their number day by day those who were being saved.
—Acts 2:46-47 ESV

Now Peter and John were going up to the temple at the hour of prayer, the ninth hour.
—Acts 3:1 ESV

And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near.
—Hebrews 10:24-25 ESV

The God who made the world and everything in it, being Lord of heaven and earth, does not live in temples made by man….
—Acts 17:24 ESV

I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship.
—Romans 12:1 ESV

As one who writes about church issues, I can't ignore the recent furor erupting over the plans of some churches—mostly megachurches—to not have Christmas Day services this year.

Anyone who comes by here enough knows that I hold the feet of American churches to the fire for a number of reasons. Empty pewsMy hope is that the Church in this country will live up to the high calling for which the Lord offered Himself. I love the Church, else I wouldn't be doing any of this.

But honestly, on this issue of canceling Sunday services on Christmas morning, I think too many folks are missing the bigger picture.

The tradition I grew up in called for us to go to Christmas Eve services at my parents' Lutheran church. That service started at 11 PM on the 24th and ended around 12:10AM on Christmas Day. Until Christmas 2000, that was the way my family did it, even after my brothers and I got married. However, I can't remember ever attending a Sunday service that fell on Christmas Day. We'd met together as the Church just nine hours before, right? Honestly, I don't recall if that church had a Christmas Day Sunday meeting.

As much as I crusade for a Church that resembles that of the Book of Acts, not a single person reading this right now carries on a church life that resembles what the early believers followed.

The temple was destroyed in 70 AD and there hasn't been one like it built since then. While the early believers may have gone there regularly for prayer, the temple no longer exists. (God doesn't dwell in temples made by human hands anyway.) Do any of us go up at the appointed prayer hours to pray at our church? Unlikely.

The believers met in their homes for fellowship on what may have been a daily basis. Even house churches don't meet that regularly. Are you enjoying the daily fellowship of believers?

Considering the worship and fellowship patterns of the early Church, are we truly following any of them perfectly? If we're getting hacked off by some churches canceling Sunday services because Christmas is on Sunday, why are we not incensed about our the failure to fellowship in each other's homes several days a week?

When you boil it all down, the biblical command is that we not fail to meet together.

My wife's side of the family is filled with one Evangelical pastor after another, but they don't go to Christmas Eve services at all, and I suspect we won't go to this Christmas Sunday service, either. But I can guarantee you this: We most definitely will be gathered together as believers singing hymns, reading the Word, encouraging one another, demonstrating love, honoring the Lord, and being the church in my in-laws' home. Doesn't that fulfill the mandate God set forward for the Church?

And those megachurches? I'm sure there are people who attend those churches that don't have what I have. Those folks may very well lose something by their church giving up on a Christmas Sunday meeting.

So let's have the right perspective here. It's not about a legalistic "show up on Sunday come hell or high water" attitude, but Christians meeting horizontally with each other and vertically with the Lord. Truthfully, most of us can do that no matter what the time or venue, especially on a day like Christmas. Does it have to be at a physical church location at a set time? For many of us, the clear answer is no.

However, I'm not going to let those "kill the meeting" churches off so easily. They may very well be depriving some people of the ability to meet together with fellow believers that week. Not all of us are as blessed with a steady supply of the saints. If anything, a church that cannot provide that kind of fellowship on any other given day of the week is missing far more than just a canceled Christmas Sunday meeting; the whole of their fellowship is lacking. And the real tragedy is that this is true for many of the churches that ARE meeting on Christmas Sunday. As we see in Acts, the believers met together almost every single day. If we who claim the upper hand here aren't careful, we may also fall under our own condemnation.

Just something to think about whether we're in a church building on the 25th or not.