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  • Writer's pictureTrace Pirtle

Baskin-Robins and the Church

You might think I have "brain freeze" to make this connection, but read on for some interesting parallels. Baskin-Robins Ice Cream Shops and the contemporary Christian church share many similarities in their expansion from the early 1940s until today. I wonder how much the Baskin-Robins business model influenced our church leaders. FYI...I'm only half joking with this post.



Initial Thoughts


I've been lovingly accused of "overthinking" things, and this post is no exception. If overthinking is a sin, then I am guilty and will repent. But not yet. The Holy Spirit approves of this message.


So I've been thinking...


I've been thinking a lot about the past recently, and I'm not particularly drawn to nostalgia. I don't naturally default to "life was better back in the day." However, I find myself fact-checking nearly everything because I no longer trust what I am sensing in the world or, unfortunately, the church. Much of what I'm experiencing makes no sense. My mind travels back in time with the silent question, "was it like this back then?" No. It wasn't. At least it wasn't for me.


My Grandmother's 1942 Holy Bible


While going through some old boxes, I found my grandmother's Bible. It is the International Series, Self-Pronouncing, King James Version. It was presented to my grandmother on April 27, 1942. Although there is no sign of prolonged use, I wonder if it brought her comfort. Her oldest son, my uncle, was fighting overseas in World War II.


As I opened the pages, I was struck by the Bible's consistency. It was appreciably the same as the one(s) I use today. Although America was immersed in World War II, the Bible remained the same. It wasn't changed to suit the needs of society. As a result, I felt a deep sense of peace and stability. The kind of stability that only comes from God and His eternal Word.


"Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever." Hebrews 13:8


In fact, according to Michael Haykin, professor of church history and biblical spirituality at Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, until the 1950s, the King James Bible was "the Bible." So in the 1940s, one could expect consistency from one Christian church to the next because the same text was used from pulpit to pulpit.


One Bible and Three Ice Cream Flavors: Something Has to Change


Holding on to my grandmother's Bible nostalgia, I thought about my childhood in the late 1950s-early 1960s. I remember the first Baskin-Robins Ice Cream shop that opened in my hometown. They had 31 flavors, one for each day of the month. Life was good!


So I went to the Baskin-Robins website to learn more about their history. Burt Baskin and Irv Robbins were both ice cream fanatics. However, they grew tired of the same old chocolate, vanilla, and strawberry options available in 1945. So they decided to "go big" and offer 31 flavors! Nearly 75 years later, they have over 1400 flavors and 2400+ locations. People love choices to meet their ever-changing tastes.


Time for some wild speculation...


Since Bert and Irv wanted their ice cream shops to be the "go-to" meeting place for families, and they have 10 times the variety of the other ice cream shops, church leaders may have noticed.


For example, Pastor Bob and Associate Pastor Frank may have met for some ice cream at the new Baskin-Robins near their church. As they discussed the same old chocolate, vanilla, and strawberry sermons, preached from the same old Holy Bible, they may have had an epiphany. "Ya know, Frank, if we added a little more 'flavor' to our sermons, we might draw in a lot more folks to our Sunday service." And sure enough, they did. All it took was adding some more sweetness here and taking away some bitterness there. Suddenly the same old Bible becomes more palatable. Hummm.


Yes, I'm taking some liberties with my wild speculation, but change happens this way. In the ice cream example, the masses were content with three ice cream flavors until they were offered 31 flavors! Suddenly, more options are better than fewer, and if it's good for ice cream, it must be good for Christianity.


I don't know if Pastors Bob and Frank had such a conversation back in 1945. But I do know what God says about changing His Word. So here are two examples, one from the Old Testament and one from the New Testament, to remind us.


"Do not add to what I command you and do not subtract from it, but keep the commands of the Lord your God that I give you." Deuteronomy 4:2


"I warn everyone who hears the words of the prophecy of this scroll: If anyone adds anything to them, God will add to that person the plagues described in this scroll. And if anyone takes away from this scroll of prophecy, God will take away from that person any share in the tree of life and in the Holy City, which are described in this scroll." Revelation 22:18-19


Just those two verses alone suggest that God is serious about His Word. Any violation of His copyright has severe consequences. But despite God's mandate to keep His Word intact, the sheep and their shepherds would not remain obedient.


From the 1950s - Today: The Bible and Church of Many Flavors


Since the 1950s and the expansion of Baskin-Robins ice cream flavors, we have seen a similar explosion of Bible versions and their interpretations. As a result, we may have more Biblical variability within Christendom than Baskin-Robins has ice cream.


As the church collective, we seem to have gotten comfortable allowing the whims of society to dictate what is taught/preached in God's House. Sound doctrine sounds too harsh and turns off the "it's all about me" rainbow followers. Does this sound familiar? Yep, the 1960s redux.


The one flavor Holy Bible has been replaced with multiple versions and interpretations depending on one's sensibilities. Only hard-core fanatics subscribe to the King James Bible. I want to be one of them. But the version itself is less important than what is added or removed from the Bible we study. If one version reads "Thee" and another reads "You," God's Word has not been changed. The spirit and intent remain the same. However, suppose we selectively redact God's 66 Books to the crib notes acceptable to our "customers." In that case, we become simple peddlers of ice cream rather than disciples who share The Gospel.


Concluding Thoughts


In 1945, Baskin-Robins disrupted the ice cream industry by giving customers something they didn't know they wanted or wanted and couldn't have; more flavors. People were no longer restricted to chocolate, vanilla, and strawberry ice cream. It was a brilliant business model, and they reaped the benefits of their ingenuity.


At the same time, Christians were taught God's Word through the King James Bible. It was considered "The Bible," and no one disputed it. But since the 1950s, the Bible has undergone many transformations. Most of the modifications are more style than function. That is, God's Word remains intact. Unfortunately, today we live in a culture that demands a Biblical change that alters God's infallible Word. We live in a society that disregards God's stern warning about adding or subtracting from His Word. This blatant defiance from the pulpit and the pews will not go unnoticed. We, the people, will reap the whirlwind of God's wrath if we do not repent of our sins.


So here are my suggestions:


  1. Stay aligned with God's Word, all 66 Books of the Holy Bible, as it is. Be good with the variety of flavors of each writer in the Old and New Testament. Disregard any additions or deletions to Scripture, no matter who recommends them. Read the Bible first, then find a church second.

  2. Find a Baskin and Robins Ice Cream Shop near you. Get a little crazy with your concoction. Counting calories is optional but recommended because of recommendation #3.

  3. Wild ice cream parties necessitate equally wild workouts. Never eat more ice cream than you are willing to work off!

  4. Enjoy all your freedoms (within limits) and the responsibility that comes with them.

May God bless you and always keep you aligned with His compass! In Jesus' name. AMEN!


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About Me

Image of Dr. Trace Pirtle sitting on park bench identified as Jesus.

Greetings, I'm Trace!
I'm a retired counselor education professor who spent 35 years in the "helping professions." I'm a veteran and an "all-in" believer working full-time for our Lord Jesus Christ. I've included my personal testimony if you are interested. 
May God bless you beyond your wildest dreams!

In His Service,

Trace Pirtle

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