What Hipster Coffee Shops & Young Churches Have in Common

by Jefferson Bethke

IMG_8402I’m a big fan of coffee. Like a I-drink-it-black-every-morning-from-my-personal-aeropress type of fan (if you don’t know what that is, and you like coffee, def worth googling).

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.

-Jefferson Bethke, http://jeffbethke.com/what-hipster-coffee-shops-young-churches-have-in-common

(thumbnail via Cubby Graham)

Not Possible: a Racist Christian

“I show [my wife] I love her by also loving what she creates. So it is with God. We can’t say we love him if we don’t also love what he has created. This applies to people of different races, cultures, and countries. Since everyone is made in the image of God, everyone has worth and everyone has dignity. You want to radically change how you see others? See them as fellow image bearers—broken just like you, but image bearers nonetheless.

We love God by loving his people.”

-Jefferson Bethke, Jesus > Religion (Thomas Nelson, 2013), 158

Art and Creativity

“For the creation was subjected to futility, not willingly, but because of him who subjected it, in hope that the creation itself will be set free from its bondage to corruption and obtain the freedom of the glory of the children of God. For we know that the whole creation has been groaning together in the pains of childbirth until now.” (Romans 8:20-22, ESV)

“God actually cares about the earth, but we just seem to think it’s going to burn.
God actually cares about creating good art, but we seem to think it’s reserved for salvation messages.
God actually cares about mundane jobs, when we seem to think only “Christian ministry” will make him happy.”

“Our lives on earth aren’t just placeholders until we go to heaven. We are to create, cultivate, and redeem while we’re here.”

“The fact that we can create is a sign we were created in [God’s] image. No other creatures have this ability to create.”

“Too often, instead of acting like mirrors pointing back to Jesus, we try to act like billboards, advertising ourselves.”

“Trying to get glory for things we have done is like the moon shouting, “Look how awesome I am,” when the only reason the moon is shining in the first place is because of this sun. The brightness of the moon is borrowed brightness.”

-Jefferson Bethke, Jesus > Religion (Thomas Nelson, 2013), 156-158
http://www.amazon.com/Jesus-Religion-Better-Trying-Harder/dp/1400205395

Jesus > Religion

What if I told you Jesus came to abolish religion
What if I told you voting Republican really wasn’t His mission?
What if I told you republican doesn’t automatically mean Christian
And just because you call some people blind doesn’t automatically give you vision

I mean if religion is so great, why has it started so many wars
Why does it build huge churches, but fails to feed the poor
Tells single moms God doesn’t love them if they’ve ever had a divorce
But in the Old Testament, God actually calls religious people whores

Religion might preach grace, but another thing they practice
Tend to ridicule God’s people, they did it to John The Baptist
They can’t fix their problems, and so they just mask it
Not realizing religion’s like spraying perfume on a casket
See the problem with religion, is it never gets to the core
It’s just behavior modification, like a long list of chores
Like let’s dress up the outside make it look nice and neat
But it’s funny that’s what they use to do to mummies while the corpse rots underneath

Now I ain’t judging, I’m just saying quit putting on a fake look
Cause there’s a problem if people only know you’re a Christian by your Facebook
I mean in every other aspect of life, you know that logic’s unworthy
It’s like saying you play for the Lakers just because you bought a jersey
You see this was me too, but no one seemed to be on to me
Acting like a church kid, while addicted to pornography
See on Sunday I’d go to church, but Saturday getting faded
Acting if I was simply created just to have sex and get wasted
See I spent my whole life building this facade of neatness
But now that I know Jesus, I boast in my weakness

Because if grace is water, then the church should be an ocean
It’s not a museum for good people, it’s a hospital for the broken
Which means I don’t have to hide my failure, I don’t have to hide my sin
Because it doesn’t depend on me it depends on him
See because when I was God’s enemy and certainly not a fan
He looked down and said I want, that, man
Which is why Jesus hated religion, and for it he called them fools
Don’t you see so much better than just following some rules
Now let me clarify, I love the church, I love the Bible, and yes I believe in sin
But if Jesus came to your church would they actually let him in
See remember he was called a glutton, and a drunkard by religious men
But the son of God never supports self righteousness not now, not then

Now back to the point, one thing is vital to mention
How Jesus and religion are on opposite spectrums
See one’s the work of God, but one’s a man made invention
See one is the cure, but the other’s the infection
See because religion says do, Jesus says done
Religion says slave, Jesus says son
Religion puts you in bondage, while Jesus sets you free
Religion makes you blind, but Jesus makes you see
And that’s why religion and Jesus are two different clans

Religion is man searching for God, Christianity is God searching for man
Which is why salvation is freely mine, and forgiveness is my own
Not based on my merits but Jesus’s obedience alone
Because he took the crown of thorns, and the blood dripped down his face
He took what we all deserved, I guess that’s why you call it grace
And while being murdered he yelled
“Father forgive them they know not what they do.”
Because when he was dangling on that cross, he was thinking of you
And he absorbed all of your sin, and buried it in the tomb
Which is why I’m kneeling at the cross, saying come on there’s room
So for religion, no I hate it, in fact I literally resent it
Because when Jesus said it is finished, I believe he meant it

“And to the one who does not work but believes in him who justifies the ungodly, his faith is counted as righteousness” -Romans 4:5

-Jefferson Bethke, http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1IAhDGYlpqY
http://poetry.rapgenius.com/Jefferson-bethke-why-i-hate-religion-but-love-jesus-spoken-word-annotated