Home > Uncategorized > Thoughts on mission today, 9/16/2016

Thoughts on mission today, 9/16/2016

So, I’m sitting in the back room of my favorite place to write and think, Poet’s Coffee, and the question from Malphurs’ Advanced Strategic Planning is, “What business are you in?”  And I got to thinking about that question with regard to my coffee shop.  It’s a coffee shop.  They’re in the coffee business, right?  Except they aren’t, not really.  Yes they sell coffee and they make sandwiches at lunch time.  But they have free wi-fi and quiet places to study and work.  They also sell tea and some other sickly sweet beverages completely unlike coffee.  And that’s when it hit me.  They really aren’t in the coffee business.  They’re really not in the business of providing people the best cup of coffee in town so much as they are in the business of providing a third place, not home, not work, not school, where people can meet with others, or sit alone thinking and working, while sipping a great cup of pretty good coffee.  If you’re interested, the house blend is a medium roast, nuttier than most, with floral notes.  I like mine black.
Now Starbucks does this to a certain extent, but it’s not that comfortable there and there are no meeting rooms.  They have a really good cup of coffee, but they are far noisier than Poet’s.  And again, most people are not drinking coffee black at Starbuck’s either.
How is the typical American church much different from my local coffee shop?  What do you think the chances are that even half of the people are coming to church because the truth of the Gospel is proclaimed in its purity?  They come for a variety of other reasons, mostly because they know the people and they’ve been coming there for a long time or they have some connection to the brand (aka denomination) of the church but the vast majority don’t even look for the Gospel in it’s truth an purity, they like their messages to be gospel-inspired.  Maybe some would complain if the message got watered down.  Still others might complain if I encouraged more drinking of the straight, pure Gospel.  But most people treat the Gospel like it’s coffee.  Perhaps once it was foreign, exotic, and a rare few appreciated it but now it’s everywhere and pretty much everyplace.  So what’s the big deal about the truth and purity of the coffee, ahem, I mean the Gospel?
Well imagine if the only beneficial reason to drink coffee was a certain health benefit.  Yes, it tastes good, although it is an acquired taste.  It does warm you up on a cold day.  It does fuel passion and creativity (as evidenced in this blog post).  But imagine that if you drank coffee in it’s purest form, it helped you live longer, and not just longer but forever; it helped you defeat death itself.  But if you drank it at too great a dilution or drank it with so much junk in it the tremendous life-giving benefits were wiped out.  Instead of drinking the pure, clear coffee you drank a coffee-inspired beverage.
And this is where the extended metaphor comes home for me.  If I was a coffee shop owner, I’d be attempting to sell the best, purest form of coffee.  I’d be like one of those barristas in Brooklyn I’ve read about that have not just studied how to make coffee but have learned to delightfully express the essence of the hand-roasted bean into liquid form images.duckduckgo.com.jpgfor the benefit of the drinker.  I wouldn’t be worried about the decor or the seating or the lighting or the signs or the parking or the font on the menu.  I’d be concentrating on crafting the purest expression of the coffee bean, roasting the original bean by hand just like I was taught at seminary, ahem, I mean at barrista school.  And I’d go broke.  I’d go broke because most people just don’t care that much about coffee, or the Gospel.
The supermarket version is good enough for them.  Flavor?  Who cares about nuttiness and floral notes?  Stopping for a great cup?  If it’s convenient and I can meet my friends there, sure.  A special trip?  Not likely.  And I think that’s where we are.  Any unique claims about the benefits of the pure Gospel make me sound like I’m some Brooklynite hipster going on about the temperature of the water to brew coffee.  Most people want to dump the cheapest grounds into the basket and have Mr. Coffee do his thing.  Not to mention, lots of people don’t really like coffee and prefer something else instead like something from the East, a chai perhaps?  This metaphor really has some legs.
The claims of the Gospel today are less credible in the minds of Americans, even church-going Americans, than the health claims for coffee that conflict with the data that coffee is actually not good for you.  And so people today treat these claims for each similarly.  Sure, the pastor is going to on about the truth and purity of the Gospel, but he’s a “Gospel guy.”  But everybody knows too much of something isn’t good for you.  Just look at him.  He’s lost his mind and started to equate the Gospel with something like coffee.  A little less coffee might be good for him, and perhaps, a little less Gospel too.
No more metaphor.  What business is your church in?  Is it the Gospel business or is it something else?
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Categories: Uncategorized
  1. Melanie Mateyka
    September 16, 2016 at 9:31 am

    Interesting read. Also, enjoyed bible study last week.

  2. Sue Meyer
    September 16, 2016 at 11:17 am

    OK, now I wish I was at Poet’s Coffee so I could be clever and creative… but it is a great question. The thing about the Gospel, though, is that it has the Power of God behind it. (Power of the Gospel…) I always have the thought in the back of my mind, that to trust that speaking the pure Gospel is all that is needed, and God can ‘worry’ about the rest .
    But then I go around worrying about color and bulletin boards and communication, etc. etc. etc. Being human is such an inconvenience!
    Sue

    • September 16, 2016 at 4:45 pm

      Sue, of course, you’re right. The metaphor breaks at that point. It’s really not about us or even what we bring to it, except when it is.

  3. Brandon Martin
    September 16, 2016 at 12:37 pm

    I drink my coffee strong and black. Does this make me a better pastor?

    • September 16, 2016 at 4:44 pm

      Yes, Brandon. It does! Thanks for reading.

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