I thought of something this weekend that was somewhere in the far reaches of my brain matter. Here goes...
Back about 45 years ago McDonalds made their french fries from fresh Idaho potatoes. It was a five-step process starting with (1) putting these very large potatoes into an automatic potato peeler. The art was knowing the right moment to dump them out of the peeler into the sink. You wanted to lose the least amount of potato while taking off about 98% if the peel. The process continued with (2) the potatoes now being gigged and placed in a cutter one at a time. The better potato processor could do this with very good speed. (3) After one had a half a sink of cut potatoes, they were washed to remove as much starch as possible. You would use the full-length of your arms to turn the potatoes over and over again. (4) The potatoes were then blanched four baskets at a time, which was like a pre-cook process. (5) The potatoes were placed in the shortening for the final frying as needed.
The process that I've just outlined usually took an employee about three hours to get enough ready for half the day. The other half was done in the afternoon for the rest of the day. There was nothing easy and instant about the process. If any step in the process was not done right, the quality of the final product was diminished. It was work, but the end product was very good.
Why did McDonalds stop producing the french fries made from fresh potatoes? Part of the reason was to cut down on the man-hours that it took to produce that product. It also took space to store the potatoes. It broke down the shortening faster, so higher costs there as well. The list could probably go on and on. The change took place when they thought they had produced a frozen product that was almost as good as the fresh and created savings in other ways.
Have you ever thought that we like our spiritual lives the same way? We desire to instantly grow spiritually. We don't obviously and consciously make that decision, but we want our spiritual lives to be like the fully-processed frozen potatoes. Let me explain.
Wouldn't it be wonderful if we could grow in Bible knowledge without being in a Bible study class, or studying on our own? Wouldn't it be simple if we never needed to take a course on prayer, or witnessing, or stewardship, or any other spiritual discipline. Wouldn't it be nice to mature in our faith by osmosis? People often do not want their spiritual lives getting in the way of their life in the world. They separate both spheres and look at it as individual parts of the whole.
Someone says, "They are offering a course on prayer at our church on Monday evenings. I could really use it, but Monday night is family night and I've got to honor that." The problem is that Tuesday night is the ESPN Basketball doubleheader; Wednesday is the day our extended family goes out to eat; Thursday is the night I take care of the kids so my wife can play bingo; Friday night is Kids Night Out for our family; Saturday night I usually go with the guys to some kind of ballgame; and Sunday...well, you know, it is suppose to be a day of rest."
Too many people do not care if they grow or not. Others want their growth to come easily, without work, or even instantly. It really is a process, a life-long process that we call discipleship. It is meant for every Christian and it is the way we grow spiritually.
We have instituted a process in our church family that is akin to processing fresh potatoes. One begins by exploring the Christian faith. Our primary vehicle will be Alpha. Then there is the acquisition phase. Our primary vehicle is the Abundant Life University, where we offer a multitude of courses twice a year. In 2009 we will add the emanation phase, which is intended for those who want to practice life together with other believers. It is putting what we learn into practice. In late 2009 we will add the infusion phase which is intended for the person who wants an extended ministry to others. Bypass one of the dimensions and the quality of the maturing process is diminished and the cost is higher than any batch of potatoes!