Many of us are concerned about the culture that we perceive around us, especially how it has grown confrontational, quick to judge and label, amped up by social media ire and posturing. I am sad to say that in the last fifteen years or more I have watched our culture become more divided, hostile, and toxic to true honest conversation between people of differing views -- even Christians of differing views. How did we get so reactionary, that we often test others for their allegiance to our own small list of top priorities?
Once again, as the book Claiming the Corner emphasizes, Jesus' teachings are so much more life-giving, healing, productive, and impactful. The parable of the yeast reminds us that the church has been placed into the world to function like yeast, to change the culture slowly and over time. Who does not come running at the smell of warm, baked bread, fresh from the oven? That is the aroma that the people of Jesus' movement (the Church) should be putting out into the world. And yet, more than ever, we see people running from churches who have allowed themselves to become a source of division rather than healing.
Here is a short section from chapter 4 of Claiming the Corner - due out by the end of this month!
"As Christians, we are called to be part of the slow but rising cultural influence of the Kingdom of God. This can happen in micro-cultures: families, friendship groups, and your church, as well as macro-cultures: your neighborhood and beyond. Individually, we can have much more immediate cultural influence in smaller places, but the effect of a congregation, a community of people acting intentionally and resiliently can, over time, make a significant and lasting change in a neighborhood and even a city. Over time, concerted effort driven by easily demonstrated values, can introduce a new culture that those outside the church will recognize as positive and mutually beneficial. This is great ‘P.R.’ for the Kingdom of God, and it is the power of the image Jesus used in this parable.
"Yeast is itself a ‘culture’. What determines culture on a macro-scale, is just the pressure and impact of a consensus of cultures at the micro-level. Often, as in the case of yeast, it simply depends upon what is growing consistently over time. When yeast is introduced to a batter where the appropriate nutrients are available, the culture will immediately and relentlessly do its thing."
1. Yeast is a change agent, causing the dough to express itself differently. How can you imagine your congregation changing the conversation in the community right outside its door?
2. Yeast requires the right conditions in order to do its thing. What conditions are preventing the work of the yeast?
3. Sometimes Christians are called to be the consumable: rather than being the yeast, we the sugar and oxygen that fuel the reaction. Where are you willing to play the sacrificial role of being a 'consumable' so that others might find new life?