If I ever want Starbucks, I know one will always be close. There’s one in my grocery store. There’s one a few intersections away from my apartment. There are four within two square miles of my parents’ house! If anything in this country is easy to find, surely, Starbucks is IT, right?
And yet…did you know that churches outnumber Starbucks 25-1? And that’s only counting Protestant churches!
Greg Stier at Pastors.com ponders these statistics, asking,
So how can Starbucks saturate the physical cravings of decaffeinated Americans and the church cannot satisfy the spiritual thirst of Americans with the living water?
His answer? Maybe Christians need to take a few pages from the Starbucks handbook! According to Stier, there are 5 Things Starbucks Can Teach the Church About Effective Evangelism.
1. Train more “baristas” to serve!
“You have to go to church to get served the good news,” he writes – and it shouldn’t be left up to the head pastor to be the only one equipped to serve the people! Does your church give its congregants the tools they need to share the gospel with their friends, family, and co-workers? Do you take responsibility for spreading the good news, or do you just assume that’s your pastor’s job?
2. Only use the best “beans”
Just as Starbucks buys and roasts high quality coffee beans, so pastors and church must make every effort to preach the pure gospel of grace and faith. According to Stier,
Preach a faith alone in Christ alone message of hope and redemption through the finished work of Christ and the empty tomb. This too-good-to-be-true message is too good and true too. It is the kind of message sinners will line up for like customers in a busy Starbucks on a Monday morning.
3. Foster a culture of love in your “store”
The early church grew explosively – and the book of Acts tells us why. They fellowshipped, eat together, prayed together, sold their worldly goods to provide for one another, worshipped together – in short, “had all things in common.” Does that sound like the picture of Heaven on earth? No community exists without fierce, sacrificial love. If Starbucks trains its employees to get along and exude friendly cheer to their customers, shouldn’t the church be even MORE known for its loving atmosphere?
(Read Stier’s remaining two points by clicking here!)
[I]t wasn’t simply a matter of “correct, rebuke, and encourage” from the pulpit. Ours was a happy, friendly place. And yes, that sounds cheesy, as if we were working hard to mimic flight attendants on Southwest Airlines. No, I mean genuinely happy and genuinely friendly. Joyful.
He describes that one major factor in the church’s growth was this joy, and the intentionality of friendliness fostered by leadership.
I proceeded to argue, in friendly fashion, that friendliness was godly and its absence a failing. Distinguishing friendliness (not friendship) from its merely commercial, tribal, and diplomatic manifestations, I tried to show that it’s an outworking of the Golden Rule; that it takes risks, as “love casts out fear”; and that the fruit of the Spirit — love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, gentleness, self-control – “suggest a certain readiness to meet the other person in an unmistakably upbeat, conciliatory, helpful, and positive frame of mind.”
I think it showed. And maybe the juxtaposition of a plain-spoken sermon and a happy/friendly group of congregants was intriguing.
Greg Stier isn’t the first blogger to suggest that churches could learn a thing or two from Starbucks. But many leaders also offer words of warning to churches which stray too far toward the business model.
In 5 Reasons Your Church Should be Smaller, Tim Suttle reminds pastors that faithfulness, not success, is the goal of the church.
The church’s job is not to grow, multiply, or expand. The church’s job is not to take back the culture for Jesus. The church’s job is not even to survive. The church’s job is to be the church—to be the faithful people of God who organize their common life together in such a way that they image God to all creation. Sadly, most American churches do not image God so much as they image American story of bigger, better, stronger, higher, and faster.
Dr. James Emery White also gives poignant reflections in this article where he asks, do we treat the church like a family, or a store?
If church is a family, then you relate to it as a son or daughter, mother or father, brother or sister. Deeply biblical ideas, I might add. When the Bible talks about Christian community, these are the metaphors it falls back on.
If a church is a store, then you are nothing more than a consumer. There is a retail outlet and a customer, a provider and a receiver.…If it’s a store, then it’s a consumer decision. Who has the best prices? Most convenience? Quickest access?
It’s hard to find the right balance, isn’t it? There’s no reason Starbucks should hold a monopoly on success, friendliness, and quality. But at the same time, deep troubles are in store for a church which treats its members like customers, the Bible like a product to be sold, and the number of attendees the marker of success or failure.
At the end of the day, Dr. White reminds us,
Open the front door wide, to be sure, but never fail to remember that who you are at your most foundational level is “family.”
And make sure you help people become that family.
Debbie Holloway is the Family Life Editor at Crosswalk.com
Publication date: April 2, 2015