Churches, its not about the container


Last week I helped lead a Fresh Expressions Vision Day in South Bend, IN. I shared one of my favorite analogies: the Costco milk container. 

Several months ago, we bought milk at Costco.

Big mistake.

If you’ve bought milk at Costco before, you know exactly what I’m talking about.

The jugs had a cool new design to them, shaped more like a square-ish cylinder than a standard milk jug shape. After we finished the milk jug, we promised never to buy milk from Costco again. Why? Because 75% of the milk from the container landed on the kitchen counter — and not in the glass or in the cereal bowl like its supposed to. It’s the only time I’ve ever called a consumer product hotline and complained.

Walmart/Costco will give you its reasons for the change: innovative design, lower production costs and more efficiency for stacking, faster shipping and storing in their stores to keep the milk fresher – and yet they seem to have forgotten the main purpose of a milk container: to hold and eventually dispense the milk easily from the container to the cereal bowl.

Design fail.

Costco chose style, efficiency and saving money over function and purpose – and thus, defeated the purpose and missed the point of milk containers. Much like many of our churches in North America. We elaborately decorate our containers to make them look impressive. We build bigger milk containers. But we fail to dispense the kingdom of God and the work of the Spirit from inside the container to the place it is supposed to be outside of the container. When we focus almost all of our energies on making the container look good instead of getting the milk to pour of well, we miss the point of this thing called church.

Mission fail.

It reminds me of Matthew 9 when Jesus talked about new wine and new wineskins:

“No one sews a patch of unshrunk cloth on an old garment, for the patch will pull away from the garment, making the tear worse. Neither do people pour new wine into old wineskins. If they do, the skins will burst; the wine will run out and the wineskins will be ruined. No, they pour new wine into new wineskins, and both are preserved.”

It’s not about the container that matters most to Jesus.

It’s about the milk.