12 kinds of orange juice

I went to buy bought orange juice the other day. Do you know how many different kinds of orange juice there are at Kroger? With pulp, no pulp, extra pulp, light pulp, grove style, with Calcium, low acid, kids+ … It used to be that orange juice was orange juice, and there were few options other than fresh squeezed or frozen concentrate. MinuteMaid and Tropicana, however, know that not all people want the same thing or need the same things from their orange juice, and some even drink orange juice at times in the day other than breakfast. If they create more options, then they sell more juice. Can you have too many kinds of orange juice? Sometimes, to a food purist like me, it seems so … but the truth is that we don’t approach food the same way as we used to.

Different kinds of orange juice reach different kinds of people. The same is true about
churches. Different styles of churches reach different kinds of people. There was a day when you’d go into a Presbyterian Church anywhere in the USA and you’d likely find people dressed similarly, singing hymns from the same hymnal, hearing a preacher using the same lectionary texts, announcing the same Sunday school classes and VBS programs. Just like we didn’t expect differences in our orange juice, we didn’t expect differences in church.

But in a time when there are twelve different styles of MinuteMaid orange juice, it’s time for variety and choice in worship communities. This is why New Church Development is so important for today’s church. In our presbytery, alone, we are now working on eighteen different new church projects … and each of them has their own “variety” of Presbyterian Church. We have multi-ethnic suburban, cell-based in the center of Houston, specifically formulated for those recovering from addiction, designed for second-generation Asian-Americans, for immigrants from Nigeria and other parts of Africa, the Philippines, Mexico, Vietnam, Brazil, and Korea. More congregations allow us to offer more choices … they are all Christian and Presbyterian, just like the juice choices are all orange and MinuteMaid. But they reach many many more people.

We need to be doing new church development in our presbytery in order for our church to reach our changing and diverse community in new ways. Yet some Presbyterians don’t want to support these new “flavors” of Presbyterian because they still want everyone to drink the same orange juice. Some think that the traditional combination of juice and pulp with no added vitamins or minerals IS what defines us as Presbyterian. They think the new churches will be in competition with the established churches. And they think that creating new styles and flavors of Presbyterian will mean that less and less people will prefer the good, pure, traditional Tropicana. And in some ways, they’re right. It’s hard to find a carton of just plain, old-fashioned OJ, but, on the other hand, more and more people are drinking orange juice.

We need new churches and existing churches to redefine Presbyterian so we’re not just one style or preference, but that we are Christian and Presbyterian at the core, but available in many different varieties. We need to identify how each congregation is uniquely called to reach a certain kind of Christ-seeker. It doesn’t matter if two churches are just down the road from each other, or even in the same building, if they are uniquely blended and styled to be proclaimers of the Gospel to reach a different set of people.

There are ways your congregation can support and learn from new church development. Brian McLaren says that new churches are innovators and established churches are imitators. We need to support our new churches to be the R&D department … to experiment with new kinds of ministries and different approaches to worship, mission, and evangelism. By supporting these churches that are trying new things, the whole presbytery benefits.

The eighteen new church projects currently going on in our presbytery need your support and partnership in their ministries. If you or your church would like to help support this innovative work, please contact me and I will let you know of how you can be of the greatest help.

originally published by the Presbytery of New Covenant in the January 2007 issue of Connections