-I'll have a Grande Decaf, please-

As I’m writing this, I am sitting in a Starbucks Coffee Shop here in New Orleans. It’s amazing how packed it is. It is 3:00 on a Thursday afternoon . . . do these people not have jobs?? They are all probably looking at me thinking the same thing. I’m sitting here drinking a $3.65 cup of coffee, and to be honest, it really doesn’t taste that much different than the cup that I make at home. So what makes people want to come in here? Everyone here is drinking coffee, so we automatically have something in common. Also everyone here is sitting at a table talking with someone; no lone drinkers in the entire shop. There wasn’t an empty table when I walked in, so I asked a girl working on her computer if I could have a seat at her table. As people walk in, the baristas (coffee house language for people who mix the coffee drinks) welcome many of the guests by name and start their order as the smiling customers approach the counter with an almost lackadaisical “I’ll have the usual.” As a minister, future pastor, and even a local church member, I want to figure out what makes this place and atmosphere so different than. . . well. . . the church?

People have written articles about this before, but let me share a few thoughts about it. Why is Starbucks growing by leaps and bounds both in opening new locations and stock prices, but 70% of the churches in America are plateaued or declining? Is it the product? In my opinion, the grace, love, and mercy of Jesus Christ is a lot more alluring than a caramel latte. Is it because coffee is getting more and more popular these days? According to Greer Research, atheism is at an all time low in the 21st century because more and more people in the world are searching for spiritualism and religion than ever before.

Two cups of decaf and some conversation later, I think I have the solution: atmosphere. When people walk in that door, regardless of age, color, creed, ethnicity, or social status, they are welcomed and asked how they can be served. Do we do that every time someone walks in our church doors? The camaraderie in a coffee shop atmosphere is contagious, but do guests ever feel isolated or ignored in church today? If church members - starting with myself - would reflect the love of Christ to the world like these baristas reflect the love of coffee and fellowship, we would have a serious spiritual awakening on our hands. There is no doubt that this coffee craze will one day slow down, but as long as we are sharing the truth and love of Christ, then the Gospel will never stop changing lives.

-Spending time in the Word-

“I have no objections to churches so long as they do not interfere with God’s work.” -Brooks Atkinson

1. In Romans 12:9-21, Paul talks to the church about a very important aspect of being a body of believers: love.

2. In 2 Corinthians 8:1-15, Paul encourages the church to be generous in their giving and in their Christian attitude.

-Hiding the Word in your heart-

1. I Corinthians 14:26-“When you come together, everyone has a hymn, or a word of instruction, a revelation, a tongue, or an interpretation. All of these must be done for the strengthening of the church.”

2. Ezekiel 36:23- “Then the nations will know that I am the Lord, declares the sovereign Lord, when I show myself holy through you before their eyes.” (emphasis mine)

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