Are We Peddling Piety or Offering Significance?

What can the church learn from a downtown grocery store in Syracuse?  A lot.

Developers Mark Congel and Daniel Queri in Syracuse are bucking an urban trend by opening a downtown grocery store (listen to story on NPR). The essential ingredient is not beans, bread or bananas, but rather the story of a legendary upstate New York grocer. According to legend, grocer C. L. Evers immigrated to this country with dreams and visions of being a local grocer. Today, the silhouetted image of C. L. Evers – along with his story – is the centerpiece of this new enterprise.

"Storytelling is critical," Queri says. "In order to build a concept around a story [you have to] establish your story and then incorporate all the brilliance of store planning and fixture development and all the technical components that run parallel with the creative. [Then] it delivers you a much larger, much broader and far more significant concept."

He’s talking about a grocery store. This grocery store is rooted in a story, a bigger picture, an entrepreneurial hope that recalls the past and looks to the future. To capture the attention, imagination, and dollars of consumers, this store needs to be more than just a store. It needs to be a place of meaning.

But change a few words and we could be talking about the church.

Our churches are called to be more than just places that offers the spiritual commodities of worship, Bible study, fellowship, and Sunday School. Our churches need to be wrapped up in a bigger picture, a larger story – one that is rooted in a timeless faith that stretches from creation to the cross to the coming kingdom. Absent this great story – a story which grips our imagination, nurtures our faith, and lays claim to our lives – our churches are little more than corner stores peddling piety. God’s story takes our pious products and, in the words of our developer, delivers us a much larger, much broader and far more significant concept.

Significance?  I’d buy that.

About Chris Duckworth

Spouse. Parent. Lutheran Pastor. National Guardsman. Political Junkie. Baseball Fan.
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