Thursday, October 18, 2007

Kitchen Nightmares

Chef Gordon Ramsey and his show, Kitchen Nightmares, has become a regularly watched show in our house once our children are in bed. Now, let me make it clear that I don't appreciate nor do I condone the profanity that seems to come out of his mouth on a regular basis. If you haven't seen the show before, let's just say that he has a potty mouth. Better yet, you could probably say that he curses like a sailor. Nevertheless, behind all of this lies a complete restaurant makeover that I'd like to comment about.

The premise behind the show is that "world famous" chef Ramsey goes to a restaurant that is floundering, that is struggling to stay in business. Their glory days are gone and they are on the verge of closing the doors unless something changes. Just last night, such was the case with The Old Stone Mill, 45 minutes north of Manhattan. While the outside of the restaurant was mostly presentable, the inside was another story. Most notably, the food was really bad! After a few days of observing the restaurant, watching the staff and chef work, and even eating the food, Ramsey offers his rather startling conclusions-the need to change the menu and offer something that people will come back to. In this case, after a quick survey of the restaurants nearby, Ramsey concludes that there really are no Steakhouses. Therefore, his conclusion is that The Old Stone Mill needs to become the one Steakhouse in town that people will be drawn to. After closing the restaurant down for a few days, the makeover is done and they relaunch the place as an upscale Steakhouse. In the end, it's a hit and the steakhouse really starts to take off. A fairy tale ending you might say.

What struck me about this show is how much this has been like our experience at Wilson Ave. Wesleyan Community Church which has now been reopened or relaunched as The Voyage Church. When something is obviously not working, churches (like the Old Stone Mill) need to be willing to change what they are doing. As someone once said, we don't need more churches like the kinds of churches that people are already not going to. Churches need to be culturally relevant and what's culturally relevant in one town, one place, may not be in another. It just depends. You wouldn't want to open up a Steakhouse in every town, but in that particular instance highlighted above, it made sense. Likewise, churches can't nor should they, duplicate each other and somehow think that it will work. Each situation calls for its own unique solution.
And churches need to be constantly looking at how the culture around them is changing and be willling to change along with it. Otherwise, churches will quickly lose their relevancy and will look nothing like the community that surrounds them.

I say all of this to highlight the fact that The Voyage Church must continue to keep in step with the community we are trying to reach. While we could easily get caught up in what we like or our creature comforts, we need to we students of our culture and be in tune with what's changing. Change is inevitable-it's going to happen. The question is whether or not churches will be willing to change too. Even if it means closing our doors for a time, maybe that's not a bad thing in order to reinvent ourselves and to make church the city on a hill that will shine for all the world to see.