The Leading Point

Cooking Lessons

You can learn a lot from this bizarre food lover spreading another kind of gospel.

My wife and I have a new favorite TV show. Having overcome our What Not to Wear obsession, we're now fixated on a lesser-known Travel Channel gem called Bizarre Foods With Andrew Zimmern. The premise is simple: Zimmern, a food critic/chef, travels the world chowing down on, well, just about anything. Raw mangrove worms. Fried scorpions. Lamb eyeballs. A snake's still-beating heart. Whatever the locals eat, Mr. Stomach o' Steel gulps down—and usually enjoys. (And no, not everything tastes like chicken.)

Zimmern calls it a "culinary adventure." He believes the heart of every culture is in its food; to truly experience a culture requires eating what the natives eat, where they eat it. That often means foregoing gourmet restaurants for street vendors or local families. It's there, in the company of the unassuming and everyday, where he finds his greatest meals.

If you haven't already gathered, the evangelistic parallels and pastoral nuggets practically fall off the plates and into your lap with every episode. A model for leadership, the likeable Zimmern has a gift for spreading his gospel. How?

1. He leads by example. Zimmern doesn't wait for someone else to gag on the poached calf brains; he sets the standard by being the first to dig in. His passion for unusual flavors is unmatched—and infectious. I'm not a fan of cooking shows, yet Zimmern's zeal for food has rubbed off to the point that my birthday this year involved a progressive dinner filled with "exotic" foods.

Do you have that kind of impact on your church? Is your passion for sharing the gospel so contagious that others can't help but catch the bug? You can't expect to see your church transforming the community unless your people have bought into the vision.

2. He dives right in. Zimmern doesn't try seemingly inedible dishes because he's always hungry, but because he's eager to experience the culture. He wants to know people through the intimacy of their cooking. How excited are you about truly knowing those you lead? I'm not talking about aloof pulpit interaction; I mean delving into thick-and-thin relationships that go beyond church culture. That's taxing. It requires sacrifice and, more often than not, results in stained clothes, ruined tablecloths and lots of dirty dishes. It's easier to keep an arm's length from real-life problems—and your garments clean. Yet Jesus was as hands-on as they come, and His example proves that for real lives to be transformed, real people need to get real.

3. He's willing to try anything. Something's wrong when you can shove a squirming coconut grub down your throat and nonchalantly describe its innards as "tart" and "earthy." Yet Bizarre Foods would be just another food show were it not for its host's willingness to experiment with both the good and the bad.How apt are you to tinker with your ministry methods? Are you willing to fail a few times before finding God's perfect recipe?

Zimmern has me hooked, not only as a fan but also as a follower. After watching every episode, my wife and I actually want to—gulp—try some of these "as seen on TV" dinners. And that's less because of the strange foods than it is the leader who's trying them. Now pass the grasshopper pizza, please.

Marcus Yoars is the editor of Ministry Today.

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