One thing that has fascinated me lately is the absolute surge in high end experience coffee shops all across the nation (think hipster shops with coffee gadgets and whole bean roasting machines behind the counter). One thing though has also really bothered me lately about this surge.
To put it bluntly, some independent coffee shops I go to across the nation, for the most part, treat you like a complete idiot. And are incredibly rude.
How dare you ask for vanilla syrup in your latte. Oh you don’t know the difference between a drip filter or a press filter system? Let me enlighten you (insert condescending tone and look). What began as a love for coffee and it’s experience has transformed into complete arrogance and exclusivism.
Oh, and if you even mention Starbucks, then you can expect to be kicked out immediately. The look you get is as if anyone who drinks Starbucks is the least cultured, least informed, and obviously least cool person they know.
You might think I’m belaboring the point but there is literally a high end coffee shop in New York named ‘Everyman Espresso’ to combat this very thing the owner saw in other shops as well. A journalist said “if you’re tired of nerdy coffee shops that deliver great drinks but make you feel like a moron, then get yourself to the super-friendly Everyman Espresso.”
So it got me thinking. How’d the culture turn like this so sharply and quickly?
I came up with two main reasons.
1). They forgot they are primarily there to serve. Without the customer they wouldn’t be in business.
2) They forgot where they came from, or who set the ground work for them to be there in the first place.
You might be asking, Jeff what does this have to do with anything?
For me, when I started chewing on this (or should I say sipping since we’re talking coffee?) I started to see eerie parallels between these coffee shops and some churches.
Since a lot of my job is on the internet, and because I get to travel to different parts of the country a few times a month, I’ve guess you could say I’ve got a little bit of a bird’s eye view on different churches. Sadly, every once awhile I come across a church that seems to resemble these hipster coffee shops. They have all the latest gadgets. All the cool and well-dressed people seem to go there. They roll their eyes at “the old way of doing things.” If a church wants to sing from a hymnal or dress up on Sundays they cry legalism. Rather than serve, they act almost inconvenienced by those who walk in the door.
Because here’s the truth—if a church’s main virtue isn’t humility in line with the steps of Jesus, and suffering sacrificial love that puts others above self, then it will turn into something it wasn’t intended to be. It really doesn’t matter if you are a hip church or a more traditional church, the thing that makes it turn sideways is the spirit and posture of the people.
Like the coffee shop, we sometimes forget that one of the main missions Jesus gave us was to serve, just as He did to us. And in that, we can sometimes forget that no matter how innovative or powerful of a current move of God there is in our church or neighborhood we can never forsake those who came before us.
See the thing that really bothers me about the hipster coffee shops is when they make fun of Starbucks. They don’t realize they literally wouldn’t have a job or a coffee culture to build on without Starbucks. They should be incredibly indebted and grateful to the big green mermaid. Starbucks created the “third place” as Schultz likes to call it (not the home, not work, but the third place where community and interaction are binding). Before Starbucks, if you wanted coffee then you could go to aisle 11 at the grocery store and get it. But Coffee wasn’t an art, it wasn’t a culture, it wasn’t enjoyed like it is now without Starbucks.
Sadly, us in the church can be the same. We make fun of those who came before us, we call them traditional, we roll our eyes at the ways they do things, but realizing we are standing on their shoulders. The Christian family is a community of honor, thankfulness, and humility. Smiting the people who laid the very foundation for us to do what we do doesn’t encompass any of those three virtues.
So don’t be afraid to be new, don’t be afraid to innovate, and don’t be afraid to do things differently. But if you do, remember the banner we as Christians should always wave is the banner of service. And let us always speak gently and humbly with indebted thankfulness to those who came before.
(thumbnail via Cubby Graham)