As I write this I am sitting in Starbucks waiting for someone. It is a Friday and the place is moderately busy. People sitting, drinking “expensive” but good coffee (I am having an apple cider with caramel and whip cream, in case you were wondering), chatting and sharing with one another. Sharing “life” as they see it and are experiencing it. Sharing their thoughts and their feelings. It is real and, at times, it is raw. Feelings and real life often are. But here in this sanctuary apparently it is safe to share the intimacies of the heart. Maybe it is the coffee – it certainly is helped by the atmosphere that has been created by those who founded and run Starbucks. Everything is intentional. That’s why people, including me, will pay twice the price for a cup of coffee than other places and three times what it is really worth.
As I look around – a man is sharing his thoughts with his journal as he thinks, writes, and cries a little. Not a good day? Maybe some good memories! A young couple are sitting close to each other sharing some intimate thoughts, or so it seems. A man in his thirties has earphones on and is Skyping with someone – obviously enjoying the conversation. Several students are doing their homework on-line taking advantage of the free Starbucks internet – seriously focused and thinking so hard you can almost hear the wheels turning. Two sisters sit next to where I am are talking about families and their parents. Others are sharing and laughing; some are sipping and reading (Starbucks is located in a large bookstore). It is a place for celebrating and sharing life.
Then there is the institutional church. Where you sit and look at the back of another person’s head. Where a few enter into worship but most simply stand and tolerate the lengthy singing or the hymn that they were told to turn to in the hymn book. Are they entering into worship? Is worship a shared experience? Then it is time for the “talking head” routine of a sermon where the many listen to the expert explain the ins and outs of a particular Scripture passage they are interested in or that they “felt” The Lord telling them to speak on. Most times totally irrelevant to where anyone in the “audience” really lives life at that present moment. No sharing, no discussion, no questions asked. Simply the expert or the professional (clergy) sharing their knowledge and expertise with the amateurs (laity). People may leave well informed, or not. But, most likely, they don’t leave transformed or even inspired. When the local church has a fellowship time – it certainly does not look or sound like what one can experience at Starbucks. But then you intentionally go to Starbucks to listen and to talk and share – you don’t normally come to church to listen to others or to share … and people certainly don’t share “life” with others at fellowship time. Why would you – most times you know the person can’t be trusted not to repeat what you share with them with others (we call that gossip).
So, in some places, more people go to Starbucks on a given Sunday than go to a local church. And, as I experience the atmosphere and the “life” around me today as I sit in a Starbucks I know why that is the case. However, I believe in the Church and so know that the Church can and must change so that people will see it as a wonderful and safe place to come and share. A place where they can be themselves and where everyone is real and “religious plasticity” and the “Christian game playing” has been banned.
I am not looking for such a church – I am planting them!!!!