Church can be like a Chili Cook-off

This past Sunday at our mission meeting we studied the concept of a structurally simple church. Basically, A simple church has the end goal in mind and has sequential steps in place to make that end goal happen. In a church the goals can vary, but essentially they include a member who worships God, is growing in faith and fellowship with other believers and is living their faith through witness and service. That is a lot to cover! Since we also had a chili cook-off, I think it might be possible to illustrate the basic concept of a simple church by comparing it to a chili cook-off. Obviously, this is a stretch, but the goal of a chili cook-off is much simpler so it is easier to illustrate

To start, you must have your end goal in mind. For our cook-off, the goal was for everyone to enjoy a variety of chili and ultimately pick the best chili. The most important aspects of the cook-off are people enjoying themselves and, of course, chili.

Simple structure needs to be put in its place. Rarely is structure the most important part of an event. In this case, structure is not as important as either enjoyment or chili, but a simple structure was important because it helped everyone to have a good time and it helped us enjoy the chili. I will try to explain how below.

Clarity—without clarity, we would be in trouble. What if people did not know what the event was, what to bring, how to vote, or even where it was being held? It may sound rudimentary, but in our cook-off scenario, the invitation made the process clear. Every family was to bring chili to my house and a winner was going to be chosen at the event.

Movement-is the concept of sequential steps in a process that help people move toward the end goal. In a church, if your goal were to have people growing in their faith, it would be helpful if you had logical steps. For example, you may expect a member to move from a Bible Basics class, to a membership class, to a small group or Sunday Bible class and maybe ultimately help lead one of these classes. If new member does not know these steps or does them out of order, you are going to run into frustration.

I will not get into all the details, but to have a successful cook-off there is a certain beneficial order to the process: Cooking, bringing, set-up, tasting, voting, declaring.

Focus–the commitment to abandon those areas that fall outside the simple ministry process. In our case, there was no pumpkin carving, Luther seal coloring, or even requests to bring desserts. Why? Although these could have been fun, the end goal was clear and these other items would have simply confused the process. This is the most difficult part of a simple structure because everyone needs to be on the same page—seeing the same end goal.

If we as a group can put this much thought into the structure of a chili cook-off, is there any reason we would not put in exponentially more time and thought into the structure we use to make disciples through God’s Word? The answer to that question seems pretty simple.

Eternal Rock Brief History

2009–September–The WELS Board for Home Missions decides to fund the exploratory mission in Castle Rock, Colorado.  This decision is based on funding and the presence of an interested core group of families that live in and around Castle Rock.

2010–May–Pastor Jared Oldenburg, at the time serving the church he started in Covington, WA, accepts the call to serve as the church planter for the Castle Rock Mission.

2010–July–Pastor Oldenburg arrives with his family (wife, Aimee and three kids Isabella, Paytra & Owen).

2010–August–first mission meeting to discuss schedule and general goals for the mission.  It is determined that the group will meet every other week and read/study together the book Essential Church.  The first meeting had 20 adults.

2010-September–New name!  Eternal Rock Lutheran Church. The other finalists were Rock of Life and Christ Our Rock.  New website is launched at the same month as well as a serving Castle Rock task force.

2010–October–Serving Castle Rock task force starts the process of a “Community Needs Assessment” and makes plans to interview community officials and serve the community.

2011–January–Launch meeting at Castle Oaks Covenant Church.  Monthly meetings focused on Worship, Grow, Serve & Reach.

2011–July–First “preview service” at Castle Rock Middle School. These services are once a month in order to test equipment and facilities.  The window between services allow us time to make changes or order new/different equipment.

2011–September–First Service weekly worship service  at Castle Rock  Middle.  Forty-five people in attendance.

2011–October–First Grow Group semester starts.  Studies are based on the sermon from that Sunday. We have three Grow Groups.

2011–December–We have our first “Serve Sunday” on Christmas Eve morning (Sunday).  We made 1000 lunches for the homeless in Denver.


  • JAN-Rock Kids begins (Sunday School). Our children’s program that meets every Sunday (except the first Sunday we have family church) after the children’s message until 11:15am.
    • Monthly individual meetings/training with coordinators begins (leadership development)
    • “Go public” with more advertising
      • Mailing of 6000 postcards for the Sundays in Lent and another 6000 for Easter
      • Facebook advertising
      • Increased encouragement for members to invite friends.
  • JUNE-Organized canvasing with church members and MLC students
  • OCTOBER-Over 35 signed up for fall Grow Group Semester
    • Over 100 people attend Christmas Eve Worship
    • Welcome 10 new members
    • Started researching land and building options


  • February-Over 40 signed up for our 4 different Grow Groups
  • March–Our get to celebrate the Lord’s resurrection with our most attended service to date!

Seriously, We Need a Name…lessons from a pro wrestler.

I got to know a retired pro wrestler working as a security guard at the private school where I drove Zamboni. Ken was pretty much huge. I attempted on numerous occasions to find out his wrestling ring name, but for some reason he never gave in. I am not sure if this part some secret fraternal code because he wore a mask or what. My best guess is that Ken wrestled as “Ken.” As a general rule, if a guy wrestles with his own name he is not going to win. They don’t even let him have a cool outfit (there is a relative statement). Regardless, in the world of wrestling, you need a name that is easy to say and has some meaning. The same is true for a church.
Most of the world shares the concept that a name should be easy to say to some degree or another. Casey Kasem’s given name is actually Kamal Kasem. It may just be my opinion, but I don’t think “Rigdon Dees III and the weekly top 40” has the same ring as “Rick Dees and the weekly top 40.” In radio, sound is king and meaning takes a backseat to how well a name will sound. This is the exception. Most businesses, products and even pro wrestlers recognize that a name should both convey meaning and be easy to say. Simply put, “The Rock” has more meaning and is easier to say than Dwayne Johnson.
In the world of naming churches it seems there has been some exceptions to the idea that a name should be both easy to say and convey some meaning. While Berachah, Gloria Dei and Fount of Life are loaded with meaning, I would hardly label them real tongue rollers. Anyone on the street can guess what a guy named “Hulk Hogan” will look like (minus the precut shirt) or what a drink called “Amp” is all about. Would we say the same for most churches? Emmanuel? Mount Zion? Bethesda? St. Andrews? Probably not so much.
The real challenge is not coming up with something original, but instead trying to find a balance. Our previous mission was named Light of Life Lutheran based on Jesus’ words in John 8:12, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.” We lived in a place that rained 300 days a year and the gospel brings both life and light. I think it had solid meaning, it was likable, not too trendy (this pitfall is often avoided by using something from the 2000 year old Bible), however Light of Life was a bit difficult to say, especially on the phone. Couple that with “Pastor Oldenburg” and I often wished for a DJ name after phoning in an order to Staples. However, if we were to do it again, I think we would still name the church Light of Life.
In the end a name is just a name and it is the person that matters. Former pro wrestler Dwayne Johnson wrestled as “The Rock,” started acting as “The Rock” then it became Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson, now in his last film he dropped the “The Rock” altogether. I guess when enough people know the person an easy to say- meaningful stage name is not necessary.
In the end it is just a name–and it is the person, or in the case of a church, the people that matter most. When you read “Mike” you think of a person, not a name. When you hear “Zion” or “Christ our Redeemer” or even “Salem,” I am guessing these are more people than places for you. You picture the people, their attitudes, their actions. I pray, that whatever our name, the world will see people–people who follow Jesus and live His Love.
Church Name Examples and Below Suggestions for the Castle Rock Mission
Great Meaning/Hard to say –Emmanuel, Berachah, Sola Scriptura, Missio Dei, Petra, Justification, Epiphany, Divinity-Divine Charity, Gloria Dei-Bethesda
Easy to say/not as much meaning outside of the church world–Mount Zion, Lamb of God, Prince of Peace, St. Andrews (or any saint), Mars Hill
Easy to Say and Meaning–The Rock, The Journey, Living Savior, King of Kings, Hope, New Life, Faith
Easy to Say/Not as much meaning–The City, The Village, The Core, Parker Community, Saddleback, Willow Creek

Castle Rock Mission name suggestions we have received:
Foundation, Word of Life, The Root, New Hope, Life Bridge, Landmark, The Well, Messiah, The Son, Christ, Son Rise, Front Range, The Kingdom of God, Missio Dei, King of Kings, The River, River of Life, Light of Day, Light of Life, Mountain View, Prince of Peace, Grace, Amazing Grace, Living Stone, Castle Rock Lutheran, Grace Point(e), Crosspoint, Crossroads, Cross Rock, Crosslink, Cross of Christ, Christ Our Rock, Redemption, Redeemer, Restoration…do you have other suggestions you want to add?