the bottomline

Restaurant and/or Church Possible
Saturday, May 2, 2020 by Dan Allen

We’ve been watching a little more television because of the pandemic. One show rediscovered is on the Food Channel called Chopped. We like to see how the chef contestants repurpose ingredients in the basket that are often rather strange — kale, chicken thighs, garbanzo beans and an old sneaker. 

Another favorite on this channel is Restaurant Impossible. Celebrity chef Robert Irvine goes into a failing restaurant and, in two days with $10,000, tries to turn it around. We are grossed out at the deplorable conditions of the kitchen and restaurants. It’s amazing to see what his team comes up with — getting rid of the old and presenting a brand new–like dining room and menu on that tight budget. The two highlights, at least for me, are to see the owners’ and cooks’ response when they taste several dishes Irvine has made (oh, how I wish I could have a bite!). And then, at the end of the program, the looks and expressions of the owners and guests when they first lay eyes on the improvements—priceless.

I’ve often thought we should do a similar reality show, only with churches, many of which have long since lost their fervor, passion, and even purpose—some are completely dead. I preach in different churches all the time, at least I did until the pandemic took the churches to the internet. Some are thriving as they proclaim the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Others seem to have lost their way. They’re doing church, but not very successfully as their numbers dwindle—salvations, baptisms are nil. I often think about what I would do to help them recover and get back on track. What is it that I’d suggest for them to become a welcoming church? One size does not fit all, but there are plenty of things churches are doing wrong that could be killing them.

Often, Irvine will gather the staff at restaurants to correct poor habits and exhort them to become better. But some leave—some quit, and he recommends some be fired. Not sure the churches would allow me to fire staff or the pastor, but sometimes that is needed as well.

According to Food Network Gossip, during the thirteen seasons of Restaurant Impossible, 100 of the 140 restaurants rescued on the show, eventually closed with just 37 still operated by their original owners. That’s not a good success rate, but not a negative reflection of Irvine. He has two days to turn things around. If he were to stay with the restaurant for a longer period of time, I’m sure there would be a greater chance for success. Rather, he has to leave it up to the owners to make it happen.

With a church, it’s up to the pastor, leadership, and congregants to see that the church turns around to become successful in advancing the Kingdom of God. But here’s a great thought — God promised that He would build His church (Mt 16:18) and He has never broken one of His promises. He is with us and the church. If we rely on Him and work hard, we can see new life in dead churches. The image of Ezekiel’s valley of dry bones just popped into my head. Tragically, that may be an apt description of many churches. “Lord, cause breath to enter lifeless churches. Remake us to bring glory to You. Amen.”


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