How Churches and Grocery Stores Should Be Alike

I have plenty of reasons not to love my neighborhood grocery store: it’s not as cheap as Wal-Mart or Aldi; the fruit’s not as fresh as that big fruit market; it’s not trendy or hip at all like Trader Joe’s or Whole Foods; there’s no little cafe; there’s not an over-abundance of organic or grass-fed or free-range or hyper-local; and, when I was little, my father worked for its parent company and got laid off. So I should maybe be bitter or judgmental or snobby or a better steward or something. And yet, I can’t.

I love that store – “the Jewel,” as we call our Jewel Food and Drug store. Amid the mocking from friends who can’t believe I still shop there and in this increasingly competitive world of supermarkets clamoring to meet our every wish and to beat each other’s prices, I cheer for it. Go Jewel!

Truth be told, of course, it’s not exactly the Jewel itself I’m cheering. And I get why my friends prefer other stores – based on price, on quality, on variety, on ethical concerns. I understand why other stores have successfully chipped away at the mighty market share the Jewel once enjoyed. As grocery-store analyst David Livingston has said, when chains like the Jewel sought to become more efficient, they “lost sight of what their customers wanted from them.” And when my friends wanted cheaper or organic or larger variety, the Jewel failed them.

Beyond that, Livingston said stores like the Jewel lost customers because, in seeking efficiencies above all, they got rid of the “human experience” element of grocery shopping. “[The supermarket chains] piled it high and sold it cheap,” Livingston told the Chicago Tribune, “…got rid of all the humanity. It’s food. It’s primal. Yes, we need it to live, but we love it.”

“Folks from all walks of life, from all backgrounds, coming to a place based on a deeply primal need: to seek the sustenance of grace, the Bread of Life”

 

Livingston makes an interesting point. But I respectfully disagree with his definition of “human experience.” I don’t know anything about supermarket efficiencies, but I do know about the “humanity” of which Livingston speaks. And to that end, it’s because of its humanity that the Jewel has kept me as a loyal customer through the years. This neighborhood store is nothing short of a human experience – the human experience in many ways.

It’s the place where I bump into and catch up with neighbors and kids and teachers from school. It’s the place where I chat with cashiers and bakers and deli ladies and baggers who have worked there for the decades that I’ve shopped there. It’s the place where the produce guy smiles every time he sees my youngest child’s chocolate-smeared face from the donut I let him eat (and pay for via an empty bag later).

It’s probably the most racially and economically and religiously diverse place in town. And yet, it’s a place where we all come based on a need steeped in our shared, created humanity: a primal need to eat and a creative need to make what we eat interesting. I love that we meet this primal need together, locally.

In many ways, I believe every trip to the local grocery store is what every trip to local church should be. Folks from all walks of life, from all backgrounds, carrying all sorts of stress and burdens with them, coming to a place based on a deeply primal need: to seek the sustenance of grace, the Bread of Life, and to meet a creative need to make our worship interesting. Like the supermarket, sometimes the “cost” of attending a certain church is a bit higher than we’d like, sometimes the “fruit” isn’t quite as fresh or the ambience quite as trendy. Too often we’re tempted to shop around, to find something better, something more likely to meet our every last whim.

But when we look at churches or grocery stores or whatever as part of our human experience – as part of collectively meeting our primal needs – somehow those tiny whims and fancy trends seem much less important. Certainly less important than neighbors gathering with neighbors, serving, seeking, meeting those needs – creatively and collectively.

This article originally appeared on ThinkChristian.net.

 

Download PDF

Tags: , ,

| What is MyVisionRoom? > | Back to Environments >

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Caryn Rivadeneria

See more articles by >

COMMENTS

What say you? Leave a comment!

Recent Comments
I love Ed's writings and heart. I am frustrated by these articles, however. Much of the missiological basis of the Church Growth Movement are not mentioned, and the origination of the formulas are not substantiated. Also, the Movement via Wagner, started mentioning the importance of health over 3o years ago. I wish these articles were better researched and less sweeping in their generalizations. Things like E1, E2, E3 evangelism, group multiplication, relational networks, faith, health, and the care to measure the right things are largely missing here. Perhaps Ed has earned the right to generalize, but I still was disappointed. But keep researching Ed! Ed and Thom have continued on in the spirit of the movement by doing quality research, and for that I am deeply grateful.
 
— Gary Westra
 
This discussion will continue, for sure. I am tasked with the online worship ministry do our church at FBC Trussville and it is proving to be an important piece of the overall ministry. As in most things In life and technology, balance is in order. Many of our older adults prefer the "live" service online rather than a week or even day-later DVD or downloaded service. They tell me it is important for them to be a part while the service occurs. This is key because if a person simply wanted the message or music or to see the pastor because they "like" him, then it would not need to be live. There is a sense with our people that they need to experience the worship with their church family in real time. Theologically, folks will have issues. This is a disruptive technology for church. But I would hope that before we toss it all away we would approach it with wisdom and humility. Personally, I would like to see the Church grow through small, cost-effective ways like this and not just brick-and-mortar.
 
— Robby
 
It seems this was written awhile ago but I would like to respond. Mr. Surratt makes great points. Points that should be taken seriously by all churches. I just do not think these points are the main reason people are not coming back to churches. Who knows the exact reason why anyone does not come back unless they tell you, but I can say with certainty the reasons I do not return are usually the same. 1. Love, tolerance, and acceptance. (unbelievers, baby Christians) Church members seem to want their guests or potential members to behave a certain way. They want them to conform to the system that is already in place. In some ways this is understandable. In other ways, it is isolating to the guest. They want to feel loved and accepted the way they are. They want to be told everything is ok no matter their past. They want to be given time to work out their immediate more pressing issues without having to worry about what to wear and how to talk (church speak). 2. Love, tolerance, and acceptance (believers, unchurched) Many times, these people are looking for what fits their already preconceived ideas of what "good churches" are. These preconceived notions are difficult to overcome and some of them were addressed in Mr. Surratt's article. But I can tell you that a truly loving, a truly tolerant, and a truly accepting church can overcome most of these things. You may never be able to overcome a taste in music, or a theological difference, but most everything else can be healed with Love. 3. People can see the business aspect of the church. I see it almost immediately when I walk into certain churches for the first time. I think people understand that a church has many aspects of itself that are business oriented. I just believe they dont want to experience these aspects when they visit. How many churches are so focused on growth, in numbers of bodies, that they forget the growth of the heart? The American church is now fully Americanized. Its a show and a numbers game. People come to church, especially new comers, CRAVING to fill a void in their life. If you are offering the same thing they can get in the real world, how are you any different? There are plenty of other reasons people do not return and many may not be avoidable. However, the church as a whole needs to reevaluate the arena in which they are playing. The simplicity of the Gospel is good enough to fulfill the hearts of the unbelievers and restore the prodigal's to a relationship with Christ. Love thy neighbor as thyself and love thy God with all your heart.
 
— Shay Wallace
 

Clarity Process

Three effective ways to start moving toward clarity right now.