A popular idea amongst Christians is that the only way to be a church is to band together with like minded people who believe similar things and like the same kind of worship. It seems like the obvious thing to do, doesn’t it? But what about Jesus’ teaching that our unity and love will be a witness to him? I’d like to offer the following parable as food for thought (excuse the pun):
There was a woman who liked to go on coach tours.
It so happened that all the coach tours in her country had vegetable soup for lunch. The very first coach company only ever had mixed vegetable soup, but there were some who didn’t like some of the vegetables so they left and formed new coaches of their own. There was the mushroom soup coach, the sweetcorn coach, the carrot coach, the potato coach and so on. This woman liked the leek coach. Year after year she went with the leek coach and was very happy.
Now some travellers came from the potato coach and joined the leek coach, and, in time, a little bit of potato was added to the leek soup. The woman was unhappy about this, but she put up with the change. Then other travellers from the sweetcorn coach appeared, and so sweetcorn came to be added to the soup.
For the woman, this was a step too far. Her coach was no longer a pure leek soup coach. She wanted less of the new vegetables, and more leek in her soup. Other travellers on the coach felt there wasn’t enough potato, whilst others felt that more sweetcorn was needed. Fierce arguments broke out among the travellers about what kind of soup they should have, and it seemed impossible that they could continue to share the same coach.
Then the coach company’s director came.
He said that from now on, the coach would be a mixed vegetable soup coach. Their soup would be made up of all the vegetables.
The woman thought this would be a disaster, “Vegetable soup is a compromise,” she thought, “It will be bland, boring, and have little flavour.” But this proved not to be the case. With so many different vegetables, the soup had a new and unexpected richness. What is more, because the recipe varied from one tour to the next, the soup was different every time. It was always a surprise to see the how the soup would taste, and this made the coach tour more exciting. So, although the woman occasionally missed her leek soup, she preferred the variety that mixed vegetable soup brought to the tour, and she was happy.
A church that is all one flavour will end up being a church full of Christians of only one flavour. Throwing all the vegetables into the same pot won't make a church (and its worship) bland. But we do have to make a choice. We have to choose to discern the richness and depth of flavour that variety brings, because I firmly believe that God is a mixed vegetable soup person.