Hell’s Kitchen


Hells kitchen_1024x768<— Have you seen this show? It’s the latest offering in reality torture. It’s all about a group of would-be cooks who put their culinary skills to the test in an all out, abusive, grueling race to the top. The last cook standing wins.

Original huh?

I have never watched more than 2 or 3 minutes—2 or 3 minutes is enough for me. But the idea has recently fascinated me because of all of the parallels to ‘living the Christian life.’ I mean, think about it with me for a moment.

In the show their always seems to be at least one person who just wasn’t prepared for the level of abuse that they begin to experience—because of this, they crumble early and get grinded in the garbage disposal of criticism and finally, as the culinary hopefuls are skewered one by one, only the toughest remain.

Did you know that? How sad! Why in the world does this happen? In church?! I’ll tell you one thing. I am soooooo glad that Southbrook Church is not like this! Oh, sure, there have been a few who have tried to Shish kabob me, but they are much more the exception, not the rule around here. So this post is primarily for my pastor friends who are seeking a greater  understanding of this mysterious and wonderful calling…that sometimes stinks!

Only sometimes.

To gain insight, let’s take a look at The Parable of the Cook (not sure who wrote this, but it’s good)

The Parable of the Cook

Let’s pretend that you’re a cook who feeds the same people every week. You go to the store, pay for the ingredients, work hard cooking the meal, open the doors, and the usual patrons wander in. Many of them are actually out of shape, lazy as a dog, and picky as a two year old. Some things are too hot, some are too cold. Some simply go through the line and take what they want. Others complain about everything that’s on the menu that they don’t like. “Why do they even have squash? I hate squash.” Or, “How come they don’t have sweet potatoes? Every other decent restaurant in town has sweet potatoes.” Sometimes they’ll say, “We have the best fried chicken in town. It’s better than every other diner out there.”

You begin to notice that most of the patrons aren’t really that hungry. They just come to inspect the food. They load up anyway, though most of the food on the plates will go unconsumed. When they go through the line there is a donation box at the end to offset the cost of the food and perhaps to tip the cook. Most pay. Some even leave a tip, smile, and say thank you. It’s this appreciation that will often make the difference between whether or not the cook keeps cooking, for some days it can get discouraging to be a cook.

On a rare occasion, the usual customers will see a hungry person in the marketplace and tell him where he can go to get a good meal and become healthy again. Most of the time the hungry go unnoticed because they’re everywhere, and so are the diners. When a starving person wanders in, everyone gets excited. They share their meal and even save the newcomer a place at the table. It’s a happy time when you get to see someone enjoy a hot meal for the first time.

It happens one day that the critique of the food turns to criticism of the cook. What once was delicious is now boring. Eventually the criticism of the cook digs into criticism of his motives and character. “Why does he really cook?” some say. There are some who start talking about the donation box. “If he really cares about us, he’ll do it without needing to put that offensive donation box at the end of the line.” They begin to sit at various tables and tell people that we don’t need to give the cook any money for the food. They say, “Don’t tell the cook that he’s doing a good job because then he won’t try harder and will never become a better cook. By not encouraging him, we’re actually helping him.” They use every angle possible to convince people that the cook is greedy and only cares about the money in the donation box. “He’s just a hireling” they say. “He needs to be taught a lesson in how to cook for the sake of cooking alone. That’s true culinary perfection.”

The cook begins to go broke. He needs to pay the bills and so he gets another job, and another job, and another job, and eventually, he doesn’t have energy to cook anymore. He still does, but he’s just not as excited about it as he used to be. In weeks to come, people gather, go through the line, load up, and when they get to the end of the line, they not only don’t tip anymore, they don’t even pay for the food. That would be fine with the cook because sometimes they’re not able to and that’s ok. The cook is just glad they’re there, that they’re eating something, and that they’re sharing with others.

The problem is that they don’t even say thank you anymore. They just load up and walk away. They still criticize what they don’t like and compare the food to the other diners. They never take the time to tell the cook that the food is good, decent, hot, or fresh. After some months pass, the cook begins to wonder if these people aren’t trying to tell him something. The fact that they come and load up and most of it goes uneaten begins to make him think, “Perhaps they need, not just a new dish, but a new cook.” Secretly a few individual patrons encourage the cook and bless his family but it seems as though they have to hide their efforts from the rest of the patrons. The cook gets it. He realizes that there is an attitude that has taken over the restaurant that will never allow the patrons to express appreciation as a collective group. These patrons wish to take over the cooking for themselves. He announces that he’s hanging up his apron, but fear not, the diner will still stay open under new management. Some patrons organize a dinner and invite him and his family to attend a meal in his honor.

He attends. One last time, everybody loads up, walks away, eats, and goes home. And that’s it. The cook says, “I’m done with the restaurant business. I’m better off doing something else.” So he goes away, cooks for his family and a few genuinely hungry people he comes across, works in peace, and lives happily every after.

The end.

And so goes the parable of the pastor, oops, I mean, cook.

You see why it’s a bit like the show, Hell’s Kitchen?

Is this trend going to simply continue until good pastors are as scarce as South American yellow bellied sap suckers? Or is there a way to endure to the very end?

I’ll continue our scary look at the parallels tomorrow.