Monday, February 21, 2011

A cup of culture.

I have vivid memories growing up, of my mom keeping this weird cup of of yeast culture in the fridge. She would cultivate it over a few days before she kneaded it into the bread she would bake. A cup of culture. Invisible in the bread but a vital agent for the final product. Yeast in scripture is often a negative metaphor.Jesus described religious pride as 'the yeast of the pharisees.'

But He also used it positively to describe the kingdom. "The kingdom of God is like a mustard seed that a man plants, which turns into a large tree. It is like yeast that works itself through the whole batch of dough.'(Luke 13 my precis') The mustard seed is small but grows large and visible. The yeast remains invisible but permeates the bread, giving a sense of lightness, quality and flavor. Invisible but very tangible.

My question. Do we spend more time on 'mustard seed cultivation' - practices that hopefully will make our churches grow, than we do on 'yeast cultivation' - less tangible cultures that will keep our churches healthy?

By God's grace our community has grown fairly rapidly. We are grateful for that. What we have found though, is that mustard seed growth can put pressure on 'yeast culture.' You have to work harder to maintain it in a season of growth.

One of those cultures is a sense 'compelling community' - intimacy, gladness and sincerity, family.One has to find other forums than Sunday to cultivate it. Life groups become more important.Perhaps a one-on-one mentoring initiative. Encouraging leaders to live with open homes.Looking out for individuals in the crowd.Some people feel that to have intimacy you have to be small.I don't think that's true. But you do have to work harder to keep it.

Another is a culture of Holy Spirit flexibility. As a community grows one has to administrate more intentionally. It is like a married couple getting a child. You have to prepare better, and have more of a rhythm.You can't decide you are leaving for a weekend to Vegas on Friday afternoon when you have a baby!You have to plan ahead more.But in a growing community, one has to maintain a strong sense of responsiveness to the Holy Spirit's leading rather than relying on meticulous planning. He must have ultimate leadership in gatherings, in decisions and in vision. We cannot programme Him out of our communities.

What are some other 'yeast cultures' that we need to cultivate in a growing community? I'd love to hear from you. let's keep cultivating our cup of cultures.


  1. Alan,
    Whenever I catch someone talking about yeast, my nose twitches a little. Twenty plus years of bread baking still leads me on to discover the secret to a perfect crust and fine crumb.

    It's an understatement to say that bread baking is an art. In fact, the artisanal baker relies on the wild yeast cultures that live in the air, in the bowl, and hide away in the fibers of the canvas couches still used today by French brick-oven bakers.

    If you want to bless the Body of Christ, the sheep of His pasture, be ever generous in your teaching, giving freely all you have been given. Pull from the air, so to speak, those wild yeast spores, and let them do their thing as you preach the Word of God without apology.

    That kind of kingdom yeast will perfume the air and feed the masses, and return to serve you when you least expect it.


  2. Kingdom Yeast idea: the art of meaningful, sincere and yet simple one-on-one connections that bring life to the talk of community, that encourage people out of the shadows and out of wallflower mode into real intimacy with the Body.

  3. @finding the motherlode never knew that about artisanal baking! amazing metaphor.@Jus'wondering. Great comments bro - that requires skill.
    gracias both.

  4. One 'invisible' culture that is ongoing and must spread out through the entire church is sincere unity in the Spirit. Like I've heard you mention the fact that people are coming to this growing community from so many church backgrounds and experiences, unity in the faith and mission is vital. Anyone who has an input (LG leaders,elders,ministry team leaders, saints) should also understand the deeper responsibility to remind the ones listening of our message and mission coming from the front.

  5. As the body “builds itself up in love”; I see a 'yeast culture' the right mixture of truth & love.
    The competing pleasure, the enemy called self or individualism is not once for all mortified and often incited by the world & Satan as well; therefore continually in need to be field with the Spirit and a renewed mind to think rightly and feel deeply about the Savior and His body.

  6. @Erik. absolutely bro.
    @Vic - love that - to think rightly and feel deeply about Jesus. Can I borrow it?!

  7. Oh, most likely it is not mine but to God be the glory! Yes!:)