Yeast, Bud Emergence, and Kingdom

BirdschurchI am having a quiet morning, studying, reading the Bible and doing some preparation for my Resource teaching tomorrow which will take place at the Custard Factory in Birmingham. Alfred Bird not only invented an egg-free custard powder that gave the building its name, but he also patented baking powder – a dry chemical leavening agent that causes dough to rise. Before baking powder, yeast was the only leavening agent.

Jesus warned his disciples to beware of the leaven of the Pharisees (MT 16) which is hypocrisy – the artificial inflation of self-image that happens with an overdose of knowledge that is not grounded in upright living. Knowledge puffs up (like yeast in dough) but love edifies.

But Jesus also said the Kingdom of Heaven is like yeast that a women took and mixed into a large amount of flour until it worked all through the dough. (Mt 13)

In the context of the other kingdom parables (seed and mustard seed), I see the Kingdom as being like yeast because it permeates the entire world, involves small actions, invisible behaviour that is not outwardly impressive, and it does not stop until all areas are saturated.

Carl George once said that the church grows like yeast but not coral. The strategy of coral is addition. Coral grows upwardly with the new cells taking their place at the tip of the stalk. But the bottom of the stalk, where the oldest cells originally gathered, is often dead and powerless, despite controlling the rest of the stalk. The deadness of the base prevents future growth of the coral.

Yeast, on the other hand, grows through division, or “bud emergence”.

Bud emergence is a really huge subject and i dont expect to plummet its depths today .. .

“Dont know much about biology . . .”

But I will try to get some basic insights. I found some good movies of bud emergence in 5 different stages that i might use.

Here is some more related stuff on bud emergence that i will come back to later . .


image from “10 Yeast Growth and Cell Cycle”

“Cell cycle transitions are subject to regulation by both external signals and internal checkpoints that monitor satisfactory progression of key cell cycle events. In budding yeast, the morphogenesis checkpoint arrests the cell cycle in response to perturbations that affect the actin cytoskeleton and bud formation.” A Monitor for Bud Emergence in the Yeast Morphogenesis Checkpoint

Also, Google showed me that Neil Madgwick (microbiologist) wrote a little article called Slime, Moulds and Yeast on Next Wave.

Anyway, lets grow like yeast and not like coral!


Andrew Jones launched his first internet space in 1997 and has been teaching on related issues for the past 20 years. He travels all the time but lives between Wellington, San Francisco and a hobbit home in Prague.


  • Graham Doel says:

    I would be inclined to think that the church is supposed to grow like yeast, but it actually grows like coral.
    New things come about when people realise the old is dying. It is the death of the old that promotes the growth of the new.

  • matybigfro says:

    Sounds like the resource day’s gonna be good.
    I’m gutted cos i can’t make it
    was wondering if you’ll be posting some stuff from it afterwards

  • Hopefully between you and Jonny and some other bloggers there will be some great notes and insights. Looking forward to reading about it later. Enjoy London and Happy Canada Day!

  • jeremy bouma says:

    I also think of yeast in relation to power…yeast is very normal, simple, insignificant, and invisible. Yet the power unleashed in this tiny element is amazing! Consider the power of the kingdom of heaven: love. Love is very normal, ordinary, seemingly insignificant…yet the power unleashed in a community when the Church loves like Jesus is mystifying!
    I am a missionary of sorts on Capitol Hill in Washington DC, and disciple a guy using Christ’s parables. We came across this particular one two days after the infamous “Justice Sunday: Filibusters Are Against People Of Faith.” I related this parable to all of the ways American Christians try and change the Capitol Hill community (ie through loud protests, public relation conferences, petitions, etc…), in contrast to the kingdom-vision presented by Jesus: loving people as ourself. It was a great correlation, one I wish other American Christians in general, and Christians on Capitol Hill in particular, would grasp.
    be His,

  • Ben says:

    thanks so much for your input on the day. I found the yeast and kingdom discussion particularly pertinent.
    the group I belong to is going through that multiplication thing right now and its exciting but a little scary. So to hear about it from your fresh perspective was a divine encouragement.

  • Hi Andrew
    Thanks for all the stuff you said on Saturday, a good deal of it was really encouraging. Got me thinking about the youth work I’m engaged in Sheffield, the way we/I do ministry etc.
    It was also good to hear the conversation about the role of new media in the emerging church scene. I know I’ve had my doubts about how much its just boys + their toys. I still have questions about how exclusive it may be, but these questions are perhaps better directed at the emerging culture as a whole. Not everybody has access to this range of new media, not everybody is fortunate enough to be able to blog as and when they like. How are these people to gonna voice their opinions in the emerging culture???
    Anyway, thanks for Saturday.

  • By way of introduction: I am _not_ a Calvinist, and I am no stranger to living among non-Westerners. Once, when living in Japan, I made up and performed a dramatic monologue for an audience of Japanese Christians; in it, I portrayed the legendary Japanese warrior Benkei, disciple and friend of the also-legendary Lord Yoshitsune. The point of the little drama was to encourage my Japanese friends to find useful spiritual illustrations within their own culture–as the famous loyalty of Benkei to his master parallels the loyalty which Christians owe to Jesus. I am not without multicultural credentials.
    Nonetheless…before we start finding it too easy to undervalue and even dismiss “Western thinking,” a chicken-and-egg question arises about some of what we _call_ Western thinking. I refer to the idea of objective, reliable, binding truth being independent of our emotions and preferences. There are those who say that an insistence on definite facts is the same thing as cultural bigotry, because “That’s just Western thinking.” But did the belief in facts arise from Western culture, or did Western culture progress as far as it did because it accepted a belief in facts?
    If you’re stranded in the middle of a desert, and there’s only one waterhole close enough to do you any good, that waterhole’s location IS A CONCRETE FACT–no matter WHAT your cultural background is. Be you Buddhist, Wiccan, Zoroastrian or whatever, your life still depends on going in the right direction and reaching the water. No amount of “oneness with the sand” will save you from dehydration; you need to go where
    the water is. And people everywhere in the world have been able to understand practical realities like that since long before anyone talked about “Eastern” or “Western” thinking. Thus it surely is not inconceivable that unseen, intangible things may also have particular, specific attributes, so that one statement about them IS true while another is not? Or is it only in “Western thinking” that 2 plus 2 equals 4?
    So, although I believe in lots and lots of imagination and flexibility in promoting the gospel of Jesus Christ, the actual fact-content of that gospel is just that, FACT–and is not to be dismissed as supposedly culture-bound. It’s not “Western thinking” to say that Jesus walked physically out of His tomb on two physical feet–it’s a statement of objective truth. I am not saying that anyone here denies that; but I know that there ARE people who DO deny it, and such people often cloak their denial in colorful talk about multicultural understanding. It is a thing to avoid–throwing out the Savior with the bathwater.

  • andrew says:

    thanks for that Joseph
    i dont think anyone in this thread is casting doubt on the historical fact of Jesus or his resurrection.
    but we are talking about what Jesus said about yeast – an illustration that is not western or non-western but makes sense everywhere – even in Japan, i guess.
    great to hear of a calvinist listening to Japanese culture. Keep it up!!!
    i was in japan a few years ago and used manga images in my teaching about the gospel.

    Thanks for the affirmation on my cross-cultural
    activity, but look again at my opening: I am NOT
    a Calvinist. I just never could buy that God, Who
    says He is not willing that any should perish,
    would externally FORCE some souls to remain lost
    and unrepentant, and them BLAME THEM for it!
    There will, sadly, be more than enough souls who
    choose by THEIR will to hate the light, and who
    will end up eternally condemned by their own
    fault, without God MAKING them stay stubborn.
    Pharaoh’s hardened heart is often pointed to by
    the micro-predestinationist; but Pharaoh FIRST
    hardened his OWN heart by voluntary choice, and
    only after this did God cement him into hardness.
    In case you haven’t noticed, I do believe in free
    will. I also realize that harmful errors come
    from more than one direction. Martin Luther said
    that human reasoning is like a drunken man on a
    horse: he falls off one side, you help him back
    up, and then he falls off the other side.

  • andrew says:

    joseph – i am sorry – i must have read it too fast and thought you were saying you were a calvinist – sorry about that – no offence intended – i must have had too much coffee that day

  • That’s okay. Though I’ll never be a Calvinist,
    they do in fact deserve some credit for helping
    to develop representative government. One writer
    who was against ANY kind of Christian claimed
    that Calvinists would never want the common
    people to be free because of the sinfulness and
    unworthiness of the common people. This writer,
    however, was dead wrong–because Calvinists
    realized that a KING was as much a depraved
    sinner as anyone else. Calvinists DID support
    the movement toward democracy, precisely because
    the universality of sin leaves NO mortal soul
    in this world virtuous enough to deserve
    absolute power over the rest of us. They
    rightly reckoned that a political system with
    checks and balances would prevent any single
    sinner from gaining all the earthly power and
    oppressing everyone else.

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