Of Mustard and Ketchup

The mustard and the ketchup
There is a taste in ketchup like no other. It can be made better or worse and the sales will match, but there is seldom a “different” ketchup, and when there is, it is of nominal consequence in sales compared to the tsunami that is the standard fare of the French fries and hotdog.
Mustard though is different. It can be boutique, and tinkered with, and make a name of its own and produce sales worthy of note. So you have Dijon and in the realm of Dijon you have Grey Poupon. Then there is the spicy Guldens’ or the garlic or any form of combinations that make up a whole section in the market.
But not ketchup, and the question is why? So lots of money is spent on trying to find out, and test, and research preferences. Here is what they have concluded. If you change the recipe in minor ways the taste turns to “strikingly noticeable”, that means that you notice a taste, and then grow weary of it, leading to a down turn in sales. Or you can use better products (tomatoes) and change the mouth feel and slice off a segment that prefers that texture and then sell to those three that want it... not a good market. Or you can degrade the quality and lower the price and devalue the market and irritate your clients, not a good strategy either. So where is the balance?
In the mouth you have 5 sensory triggers, Sweet, sour, bitter, salty, and umami. Every one know the first four and can name an item that gives you that sensation. It is the fourth that you understand but can’t describe well. It is the combination of mouth feel and the comfort found in good chicken soup and missing in weak chicken soup. It isn’t the chicken flavor or the garlic, but rather the thickening starchy heft of the noodles and the stringy parts of the boiled chicken and the herbs and the aroma and the combination that they bring to a days steeping and then reheating for the meal that you then say “wow”... and you know. That is what ketchup does. It hits the vinegar for the bitter, the syrup for the sweet, the herbs and spices for the sour and salt for the salt and combination for the umami. It is the type of paste that makes the mouth feel provided by the tomatoes, and you can tell the difference between ripened and non ripened when you put it on the fries... You don’t know it is a ripe tomato or not, you know it is not quite right, and that is the difference...
With Mustard it is different. You actually like the taste of yellow mustard in your potato salad and know when it is missing, but you would not make your chicken salad with it. But you would with Dijon. Because it is darker and has some wine in it and it is tangy in a different way. It works, with some grapes and apples and walnuts, in a taste that brings raves, but not with yellow mustard. If you like tobasco in your ketchup you will have to put it there, but when it comes to mustard, they will make it any way you like and sell a bunch of it. Because it is a condiment and can be an ingredient, it stands alone in your mouth and you are ok with that. To refine the point you can even describe the mustard in terms of flavors like spicy or warm, but you describe the ketchup in terms of quality like runny or thick. And so we now have the simile and now will use it.
The church presents the whole as the combination of the ketchup and the mustard. Some like a lot of one and not the other, some like the other and not the one. So it goes, but what does it mean? Well, the ketchup is noticeable by its quality, and the church is too. Some are runny and some are thick. Some are high quality and sell few, some are low quality or to significantly pointed in a single flavor and you soon grow weary of it. So to apply this: Thick is bound in tradition for the sake of tradition and others are so loose as to remove all forms of tradition and substance to the point of watery red stuff on your plate and you feel icky for some reason. And then you perchance happen in to a wedding or funeral or different church and taste the ketchup of the message and then say “Wow”, because you know that you know. So if the message is to runny it has no substance, and it is lacking the umami. If it is to stiff it is to much for the normal person and they will stay away because they don’t feel worthy of the quality. Shame is found in its midst.
So what is right? That is an incorrect question. You see, as a child you want a certain taste and you will now it when you get it. Or you will know it when it is missing if you have had it. So if you have been at a church for a while and the pastor leaves and a new one comes, you will know and then you will choose to stay and see if they can survive long enough to adapt, or to see if they can get you to adapt and grow... but you will know. Sometimes it is the handshake, and sometimes they will actually have to speak, and still you will know. It is then the question, “but what will I do?”, and that is where you start.
But for the issue of mustard? Well, mustard is the emotion to the ketchup’s intellect. Mustard is boutique and ketchup is pedestrian. So how does it work? Some like to control the songs, or the paint or the carpet. Some like to control the temp and some the attire. Some like to be low brow and some high brow, but most have an opinion and some like to speak out. So when “group culture” is alike, no problems. Most like the same politics, or hair style or music and the few that don’t are tolerated to a point of pain and then asked or cajoled into changing or leaving. When a church reaches a place that the umami is the right combination of blended peoples and stabile baseline and resilient preaching and missionary out reach and history and hope, others will notice. They will notice when they come to the funeral or the wedding or the shower or the pageant or the program or outreach that touches them, and they will know. They will know and they will now know they know and maybe for the first time... and they will say “wow”. They will not be able to tell you what in specifics, but there is the combination that is the time of steeping, and the sense of purpose and the baseline of heft, and mouth feel and the umami of the combination that is beyond words. And then they will tell others. And they will bring others and they will bring more and the group will grow.
The group grows on the umami and is enhanced by the mustard. To do otherwise is called an “event” church. This means that they came for the evangelist and stayed or not for the local pastor and congregations. They came for the pizza, or the movie, or the singer and left when the pizza was gone or the songs were done. It is an event that had a gathering, not the body of Christ that gathers for good. This is not necessarily bad ketchup, low quality perhaps, but rather it is spicy or sweet mustard and it will not sustain.
So what are we to do? How does the mustard fit in the meal? It is like this, your group needs to determine what is its purpose, and then drive the program flexibly through that mission. So if your umami is good, but some like more mustard, or a different type of mustard and they will come and go to try and see if they fit. So sometimes the music is flexible and they will take part of it and leave part of it. They will indulge the edges of the mustard so they can enjoy the ketchup.
So what about the growth? There comes a point where the mass of any group of mustard preferences will form a sub group that pushes a desire. If the management team is in front of this they will start a new Sunday school class to give them a place to enjoy their flavors, or a small group that is directed to their needs, or perhaps a second service to have a place to express their creative side. All of these are boutique mustards. And part of this is scary to the ones that only want ketchup. So they need someone to give their “ketchup world” a place to meet their fries.
You cannot use the model in parts. All of this is found in any single class or service. Some are wanting more, or only veggies, and so let them go find some version of ketchup some place else and they will perhaps be the only one that likes that ketchup. Don’t change your world to meet the one, especially when a boutique mustard would have done the job.
The mission then is this, understand the baseline that is the blend of the fortitude of the message, the love of the people, and service of the congregation to others. This is the ketchup. Allow a place for the yellow mustard and for the ones that need boutique give them a place and a time for that as well. It will give them a reason to keep the blend in place, a time to be creative, and a safe place to stay. The body will be better for it, and they will be glad to grow with you.


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