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Friday, November 19, 2004

Why not have church at Starbucks?

In the comments on Church: The rules have changed, my friend Eric asks:

Why not have church in Starbucks? If good coffee and overstuffed furniture get them in, AND we give them real "T"ruth... isn't that the best of both worlds? or are straight backed wood pews more godly...? I say that's the same fault on the other side.

My response would probably take 40 separate Haloscan comments, so I decided to just post it: Here goes...

Eric's argument makes the assumption that more people would be attending church if it just had good coffee and cooler furniture. Funny, most of the people I've met don't go to church because they think it's wrong, not uncool.

In a conversation I had the other day with a non-believing friend at work, he mentioned how fed up he was with so-called Christians trying to force their beliefs on him. He's sick of being told he's only going to get to heaven if he does x, y, and z. He doesn't know if heaven even exists, and if it does, he's certain that he's not going to get there by hating his homosexual friends.

The problem he has with church is not with its furniture, its music, or its snacks. He can't stand the church's doctrine -- or at least what he's heard of it.

Of course he's going to hate the church for its doctrine. His entire church experience (I know from other conversations) have done nothing but saddle him with the Law. When I shared the Gospel with him -- that Christ Jesus justifies the wicked through his death, burial, and resurrection, and that no one can work their way into heaven -- he was amazed. For the first time in His life, he heard the "T"ruth.

And it didn't happen in a warehouse church, while grooving out to electro-dub-synth-worship-pop and watching MTV Jesus style.

This guy, the most postmodern friend I have, would never get close to a warehouse church. He loves the outdoors, being away from urban culture, drinking a few beers, and roughing it. Where does that leave the emerging church?

I'm all for meeting at Starbucks (or better yet, the pub) for some theological discussion. Why not? Starbucks makes great coffee, and I know quite a few places to get a good pint. In fact, I'd much rather get my coffee at Starbucks and my Guinness at the pub than outfit my church with an espresso maker and tap. Something tells me that Rick Warren's Saddleback StoutTM (40 Days of BeerTM!) is going to Saddleback suckTM.

Why modify the church to look more like secular culture when the culture does the best job of looking like itself? Why don't we Christians get off our butts and into culture, and share the Gospel there? I know why most days I don't: I'm a sinner. But I guess I could also blame it on my church's pews.

You ask "Why not have church in Starbucks?" Well, namely because Starbucks probably wouldn't appreciate it. If my friend from work becomes a Christian, we could meet at 'bucks and devote ourselves to apostolic teaching, fellowship, breaking of bread and prayer, but at some point between the second hymn and Old Testament scripture reading, the manager might get a little upset.

Why not have church at church, and coffee at Starbucks? And if I get a chance to tell someone the Gospel while standing in line for a cappuccino, let's pray I'm not too much of a pansy to do it.