A McDonald’s franchise was coming to Rome in 1986, adjacent to the Spanish Steps in Piazza di Spagna. Italian journalist Carlo Petrini was outraged so he helped organize a demonstration. Instead of waving signs they brought a big bowl of penne pasta, dished it out to the crowd, and ate together at the Spanish Steps. Their rallying cry was “We don’t want fast food. We want slow food!”
They lost that battle but they may have won the war. From there the Slow Food Movement began. In their manifesto they proclaim: “We are enslaved by speed and have all succumbed to the same insidious virus: Fast Life, which disrupts our habits, pervades the privacy of our homes and forces us to eat Fast Foods… A firm defense of quiet material pleasure is the only way to oppose the universal folly of Fast Life…” The concept of conviviality is the heart of the Slow Food movement: taking pleasure in the processes of cooking, eating, and sharing meals with others.
There’s something that happens when people slow down, gather around a table, and spend an evening together. It’s something that’s missing from our fast food way of life. Our modern day way of eating has created the franchise where our expectations are that a Big Mac in Rome will taste the same as one in Reno.
Even churches have joined in. The evangelical world has followed the franchise model: grow, expand and then build another place that looks just like the original. Even the preacher is the same, streamed live in each venue. In one article discussing this approach one church leader said, “We do the same things [the] same way you would do at Starbucks or a McDonald’s or a brand name that works.”
We have to wonder if this is what Jesus had in mind when he spoke the words of what we call The Great Commission: “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”
Jesus did not point us to the successful businesses of the world to emulate. He gave us himself. He is with us. How he is with us is his plan for how we are to make disciples. If anything is to be franchised, this is it.
Jesus had a routine of talk, task, and table time with his disciples. In his talk he gave his disciples teaching on how to live in the kingdom of God. Then he would send them out to practice or perform tasks.
But he didn’t stop there. He would spend table time with his disciples to debrief what had happened when they practiced the life of the kingdom. Sometimes they did not do too well. One time they were unable to heal a father’s son. Another time they had no clue how to feed a crowd of five thousand.
Then other times things went well. When the seventy returned to Jesus they were overjoyed because “even the demons are subject to us in your name!” Jesus spent a lot of his time around tables eating with his friends and discussing life. And that is part of disciple making. His culture knew how to slow down and relate to one another. It happened around slow food and tables.
The church should serve up something nutritious. Its menu should include Jesus talk, Jesus tasks, and a lot of slow table time with him and his friends.
His pattern is the only thing worth franchising.
Question: How can the idea of “slow food” change the way you serve the world around you?