Once there was a baker who ran his family’s bread shop. After years of providing bread to his community, sales declined. Some faithful customers passed away, and only a few young customers replaced them.
The baker decided the bread he was selling was too old-fashioned, so he switched to cupcakes. After studying the market and creating an imaginary target customer he dubbed Cupcake Catie, he created many cupcake flavors. Chocolate. Salted Carmel. Vanilla. Peanut Butter. Red Velvet. Carrot. He updated his shop, played a radio station with the latest top 40 hits, and had pink t-shirts printed with a new logo.
The first few months brought record sales as new customers tried the cupcakes, but after the initial spike, business plummeted. The baker’s former bread customers had vanished. One day he saw a new customer, a typical Cupcake Catie, leave the bakery down the street. He bolted from his shop and chased her.
“Miss? Excuse me. I have a question,” he said as he wiped sweat from his brow.
The young woman turned and raised her eyebrows. “What is it?”
“You came to my bakery one time. Why didn’t you come back? Lots of people aren’t coming back. I need to know so I can fix it.”
Her eyes flicked to his snug pink t-shirt. Understanding lit her face. “You changed from bread to cupcakes, right?”
She shrugged. “That’s your problem. People depended on you for bread. Lots of other bakeries make cupcakes. They do it better and aren’t trying to be cool.”
The baker cringed.
She put a hand on his shoulder. “Don’t be offended. No one could make bread like you.”
“Then why did you never buy my bread?”
“I don’t know. I just didn’t. But I liked knowing your bread was there. In case I needed it someday.” She studied her crimson toenails.
The baker’s chest tightened.
“Don’t be discouraged. Start selling bread again. It’s who you are.” She grinned. “I promise I’ll come check it out if you do.”
“Thank you for your honesty,” the baker said and trudged back to his shop.
He took the young woman’s advice, made his old bread, and introduced new breads. His former customers returned, and the young woman arrived as she had promised and became a loyal customer. Often, new customers visited after hearing word of the baker’s wonderful bread. Though he never achieved record sales, he offered bread to his community for many more years.
Churches that change their message to try to gain members are like the baker who changed his product to attempt to win more customers.
Then Jesus declared, “I am the bread of life. He who comes to me will never go hungry, and he who believes in me will never be thirsty.”