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  • Writer's pictureKeith Haney

The Church Should be More Like Gumbo Versus Tomato Soup

I grew up in the great state of Louisiana. It was a very diverse community of people and cultures. When I think about the church on Sunday mornings, it looks more like Tomato soup. Now don’t get me wrong on cold winter day there nothing better than a good bowl of Tomato Soup and a Grilled Cheese sandwich. But imagine if the church looking more like Gumbo. Gumbo for those poor deprived souls who have never tasted it is amazing. Gumbo (French: Gombo) is a stew popular in the U.S. state of Louisiana and is the official state cuisine.

This description of Gumbo from Stanley Dry is spot-on:

“Gumbo is often cited as an example of the melting-pot nature of Louisiana cooking, but trying to sort out the origins and evolution of the dish is highly speculative. The name derives from a West African word for okra, suggesting that gumbo was originally made with okra. The use of filé (dried and ground sassafras leaves) was a contribution of the Choctaws and, possibly, other local tribes. Roux has its origin in French cuisine, although the roux used in gumbos is much darker than its Gallic cousins.”

On Pentecost, we got a glimpse of a Gumbo church. Here is the event recorded by Luke in the Book of Acts.

5Devout Jewish men from every nation were living in Jerusalem. 6They gathered when they heard the wind. Each person was startled to recognize his own dialect when the disciples spoke.

7Stunned and amazed, the people in the crowd said, “All of these men who are speaking are Galileans. 8Why do we hear them speaking in our native dialects? 9We’re Parthians, Medes, and Elamites. We’re people from Mesopotamia, Judea, Cappadocia, Pontus, the province of Asia, 10 Phrygia, Pamphylia, Egypt, and the country near Cyrene in Libya. We’re Jewish people, converts to Judaism, and visitors from Rome, 11 Crete, and Arabia. We hear these men in our own languages as they tell about the miracles that God has done.” [1] Acts 2:5-11.

Key Lessons from Pentecost:

  1. The Apostles Experienced an Outpouring of the Holy Spirit.

Jesus promised His apostles that He would not leave them alone but they had no idea what the gift of the Holy Spirit would mean. The Holy Spirit empowered and prepared them for the awesome mission journey they were about to embark on. Apostles learned that without the Spirit’s power they would never have attempted to carry out the work Jesus left behind. And without the Spirit’s power, none of us can ever accomplish the mission of God.

On Pentecost, the church burst onto the scene creating a disruptive force the world has not seen since.

2. The Church was Released by It.

"Power can be used in at least two ways: it can be unleashed, or it can be harnessed. The energy in ten gallons of gasoline, for instance, can be released explosively by dropping a lighted match into the can. Or it can be channeled through the engine of a Datsun in a controlled burn and used to transport a person 350 miles. Explosions are spectacular, but controlled burns have a lasting effect, staying power. The Holy Spirit works both ways.

At Pentecost, he exploded on the scene; His presence was like “tongues of fire” (Acts 2:3). Thousands were affected by one burst of God’s power. But He also works through the church--the institution God began to tap the Holy Spirit’s power for the long haul. Through worship, fellowship, and service, Christians are provided with staying power." -Source Unknown.

The Holy Spirit has prepared the church to be an explosive force in the world through the sharing of the Word of God with the masses. On Pentecost, the visible tongues of fire seen on one occasion are now replaced by the burning message of the gospel. This message brings hope and healing to a sinful and dying world.

3. The World was Amazed by It.

12All of these devout men were stunned and puzzled. They asked each other, “What can this mean?” 13Others said jokingly, “They’re drunk on sweet wine.” [2] Acts 2:12-13

The Spirit amazed people in the beginning and that is the key. The Holy Spirit brought the sense of awe and amazement, not the Apostles. This illustration is a reminder of why God operates the way He does.

“If God called his Holy Spirit out of the world, about 95 percent of what we are doing would go on and we would brag about it.”

This blunt statement about church programs by Dr. Carl Bates of Amarillo, Texas, was coupled with an equally blunt question to ministers at the annual Baptist Statewide Conference on Evangelism in Columbia, S. C.: “What are you doing that you can’t get done unless the power of God falls on your ministry?” [3]

Pentecost gave us a glimpse of the Gumbo church, with people of all nations gathered together to hear the word of God. I miss seeing that on a regular basis. Today the church lacks that diversity on Sunday morning. The church is great the way it is, but imagine it seasoned with the spice of diversity.

[1] GOD’S WORD Translation. (1995). (Ac 2:5–11). Grand Rapids: Baker Publishing Group.

[2] GOD’S WORD Translation. (1995). (Ac 2:12–13). Grand Rapids: Baker Publishing Group.

[3] Tan, P. L. (1996). Encyclopedia of 7700 Illustrations: Signs of the Times (p. 1126). Garland, TX: Bible Communications, Inc.

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