popcorn leadership :: outreach orville redenbacher style

December 2, 2009


“Yes!  Popcorn!  THAT is it – right there.”

There’s a moment that I love – I live for it.  It’s common in ministry life when God is moving.  It’s the moment when you are planning, praying, brainstorming, visioneering, dreaming with another God-servant, and the lightbulb goes on.  God moves.  The Spirit whispers and something that has been hazy is now crystal clear.  Yesterday we had that moment as I sat across the coffee shop table from my Senior Pastor.


At Living Hope Church we are becoming.  I suppose every church family on the planet is, as well.  None of us have “arrived,” and there is an unending list of ministry tweaking to do as God works in our leaders to shape our local faith community.  Some days are dry, hard work.  But it is a rush to experience God making an idea clear when you are struggling with a ministry roadblock or closed door.

Our struggle dejour was about a new perspective on the way our church should function in our community.  We have embraced a “Simple Church” mindset… Focus on an end-game picture of maturity in Christ, and create environments that help promote movement toward that biblical picture.  In other words, we are trying to figure out what ministry energy will be most effective in promoting actual growth toward Christ-likeness.  If the environment/activity/ministry doesn’t help people grow (we call it “changed lives”), we don’t do it.

In trying to clarify what it means to be “simple” in this regard (think “clear, focused, intentional”), we have been concerned that people sometimes misunderstand what we mean.  Some have thought that by “simple” we just mean, “we don’t do much stuff.”  That’s not the point at all.  And that’s where the popcorn picture came into play.

As Executive Pastor I have been a strong voice over the years of “protecting our calendar.”  I have seen other churches struggle under the weight of a menu-style model of ministry… each new ministry or program trying to meet a specific felt need in the community.  In popcorn terms, it would be like taking a poll in your community and finding out that several people are dying for some caramel corn, while other groups are clamoring for cheese popcorn, kettle corn, butter, or Orville Redenbacher’s Tender White (our family favorite).  So, said local church decides that they better get crackin’ and start up some ministries to provide each kind of popcorn.  Otherwise, someone’s felt need may go unmet, and we lose a chance to minister to that group of people. 

Only, most local churches are not equipped to handle every popcorn preference in the neighborhood.  But they are driven by the felt needs around them – to be all to all.  So ministries are started, slots are filled, and cheese popcorn people end up trying to create caramel corn because there just wasn’t a caramel corn person available to do the job.  And the job must get done!  Or…  or… something bad.  Further, once a ministry or program is started, there is often a reluctance to ever STOP it… whether it is effective or not.

Living Hope wants to meet the needs of our neighbors.  We long to be Christ’s hands and feet to hurting people, needy people, and even comfortable people who don’t realize their perilous spiritual condition without Jesus.  We pray to have the deepest impact possible on our community.  But we don’t serve every type of popcorn under the sun.  We wait for people in our church to pop.  And then we see what we’ve got.  And THEN we offer what we have.

One of our Stewardship Team members has popped.  Lucus is a corporate accountant by day.  But he has heard God’s voice, and he knows with a fire in his belly what he wants to do with his life.  He wants to help people manage their personal finances in a God-honoring way – in a healthy way.  And talking to Lucus about money makes me feel like ANYTHING is possible.  He’s a tall pitcher of encouragement and biblical wisdom in this area, and he’s longing to serve God and serve people with his knowledge and experience.  Lucus has popped.  Let’s call him… cheese corn.

Now… Living Hope has been given a gift.  God saw fit to include Lucus in our church family.  We now have a viable “cheese corn” ministry, because God has lit the fire of a cheese corn leader, who can gather other cheese corn people around him, and serve cheese corn to all kinds of people in our neighborhood in need of financial guidance.  And just maybe, when God opens a door for Lucus, he can invite one of those cheesy neighbors to attend a weekend gathering or LifeGroup at Living Hope.  And just maybe, some of those cheesy friends of Lucus may find God.  And just maybe, some day down the road THEY will pop.  And then we can start that caramel corn ministry we’ve been dreaming of and praying for.

Popcorn leadership.  Providing the popped goodness God has blessed us with to our surrounding community – when He chooses to do the work.  We can teach and preach and lead worship and organize small groups… we can provide the heat.  But God always does the popping.  Being “simple” means figuring out how to empower the already popped, while not burdening the unpopped kernels in the hopper with ministry responsibilities God has not equipped us to take on.

Yesterday was a good day.  A lightbulb day.  A popcorn day.  I’m excited to see how God fleshes this out in our church family.

Does this resonate with you?  Is your church serving up the already popped, or forcing kernels to fill slots on the menu?  And what’s your favorite kind of popcorn?


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“popcorn leadership :: outreach orville redenbacher style” by Joshua Skogerboe is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 United States License.

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Psalm 24:7 & Luke 10:42 >> Like David, and Mary, I'm in pursuit of my one thing. I'm the Pastor at St. Olaf Lutheran Church in Montgomery, IL. Pastor, teacher, writer, communicator, designer, and drummer. I definitely got the better deal in my marriage to Amy. And I couldn't be any more proud of my five amazing boys. Deeply grateful.

4 responses to popcorn leadership :: outreach orville redenbacher style

  1. Nice! I like being cheese corn and I do have many cheesy friends!!!

  2. Dad, I need to get you up to date. Our family is NOT an Orville Redenbacher’s Tender White family.No way, no how. Maybe you are, maybe mom is, but not our family. So, watch yourself. 😀 And we’re calling Lucus cheese corn now? Cheese corn? Sorry Dad. I’m going to stick with Lucus. 🙂

    • Son, your job is to back me up. And to maintain the illusion that I am the head of the household. Therefore, since Orville Redenbacher’s Tender White is MY favorite popcorn, it is also YOUR favorite popcorn. You got that? That’s what I thought…

      (This is where I’d give you the double guns point with both hands, wink, and make that clicking sound with my teeth so you know I’m kidding. Imagine that happening right now.)

      Love you, kid. 🙂