A Recipe for Tasty Goodness

In a strange twist, I’ve recently discovered that I like to cook. Why am I surprised by this realization? Until the last few years, I found it relatively easy to consume food. Whether from the stove, from the oven, out of a box, or from a cheap, fast-food joint, I could eat it. But alas, I’ve been forced to change my eating patterns and food preparation has taken center-stage in my life.
No, I’m not a natural in the kitchen. Unlike my father, I’m not intuitive about spices, food combinations or suggested cooking procedures. And unlike my mother, I can be sloppy about following directions. I’m not drawn to cooking shows and I certainly wouldn’t brag about my meal offerings to others (although my mashed potatoes are pretty spectacular, if I do say so myself).
So, I’m surprised by the fact that I’ve discovered a fondness for food preparation. And no one in my family has complained loudly enough for me to drop my new hobby.
As the pastor of our church, I often find myself to be in the kitchen. No, I seriously doubt that Ruth and her team of kitchen experts would value my presence in the Mission and Fellowship Hall Kitchen. Better said, I find myself in a position of arranging our church’s resources—think ingredients--in such a way that the yeast can rise and a tasty offering can be made to our community and world.
Most experienced cooks know that food preparation and kitchen management is a bit of an art form. Cooking requires appropriate care for the different kinds of items that will go into a meal or dish. Flavors need time to marry. Entrees need quiet moments to marinate. Skipping steps in preparation will yield an unhappy outcome, and too much tinkering, stirring and flipping will turn a lovely dish into an unsightly mess. Cooking, like pastoring and leading, requires preparation, trust, and above all, patience.   
I can imagine that if there was a recipe card for developing a rich and bountiful church-- complete with a savory sauce and a sweet aroma--it would look something like this:
1.) Assemble the following ingredients in advance, and then wash them with the water of baptism and pat dry:
-Individuals endowed by the Spirit with a variety of dynamic skills and gifts
-Individuals with a willingness to share what God has given them
-A corporate desire to work together
-A willingness to share a common vision together
-A desire to take Christ-like risks out of love for others
-Courage to be honest
-A boundless, faithful love for one another
2.) Place the ingredients in an appropriately-sized mixing bowl.
-Please note: The bowl doesn’t need to be too big, or the ingredients won’t mix properly. Also, the bowl doesn’t need to be too small lest there’s not enough room for new ingredients to be added later.
-Gently mix the ingredients until everything is uniformly distributed. This process may take more time than expected, depending on the pliability of the ingredients.
3.) Allow ingredients to set, and for the flavors to fuse.
-Do not rush this step. Be aware that if you do, ingredients will become lost and the rich flavors will not be drawn out.
4.) Add the yeast of the Holy Spirit.
-Stir in the yeast and allow time for the mixture to rise.
-Caution: The mixture may not rise as you expect or imagine. Be open to what occurs and what may develop during this step. Also, be aware that it may take longer for the mixture to rise than you first thought.
5.) Place in a casserole dish and bake in a setting that will transform the ingredients into a wholly new creation.
-Be aware: The mixture will take a different form and may look completely different by the time it’s done. Also, know that the mixture may spill out of the pan. This is completely acceptable.
6.) Final words of encouragement:
-Do not skip steps, or the dish may become spoiled.
-Do not leave any ingredients out, or the finished product may be distasteful.
-Do not rush the process of allowing everything to marinate and settle. Rushing the cooking process may result in wasted ingredients and a failed product. This will inevitably yield distrust and may risk future attempts at cooking.
Y’all, as one of many cooks in our faith community’s kitchen, be assured that the quality of our ingredients are second to none. I’ve been in a variety of kitchens over the years, and I know the goods when I see them. The First Baptist Church of Sylva is uniquely arranged, and supremely stocked, to provide a banquet feast for the community in which we are located.
I’m hungry. Let’s get cooking together.