Saturday, March 22, 2014

No Starbucks here

I must admit to a real quagmire (my new favorite word) of mixed emotions as I write this.  In the 10 years worth of life's lessons and musings contained in this blog, many of you would note that Starbucks has had a place of prominence.  Many mornings, with a grande drip and a croissant and a beachside window seat, have been recorded here.  In all of the incredible things that we've experienced in our new journey of church, one thing has never been replaced ... My early morning ritual of viewing the world through the window on Alki.  Over the years I have wandered and tried other venues to change things up, but always returning eventually to watch the sun rise over the ferry's on their downtown trek across the sound.
With all of my fondness in the context of my writing, one thing cannot be shaken from the reality of the Starbucks coffee experience itself... It is sorely lacking when placed besides so many of the local venues.  Now to be fair, when we are outside of the Northwest, Starbucks is a caffeine oasis.  Their straight up brewed, even here, is still my favorite.  However, when it comes to crafting drinks and the experience that might possibly warrant the price tag, they are not even close.  For those of you not from these parts, let me explain.  Starbucks has become a place to get you through the line as quickly as possible with an acceptable cup of coffee.  Sure, you might hang around the place if there are chairs (rapidly disappearing) to be found, but the creation of your drink is not at all what it once was. By comparison, I can go to any number of local neighborhood haunts and get a full on, interact with the barista, artistic and culinary creation.  It's the difference between being made with love and made with efficiency.  They want to serve as many as possible, as decently as possible, but don't be mislead, ease and efficiency are driving the boat... Not so much in a local shop.  There is interaction, relationship, caring and the desire to see you back again.  It's community and life and experience all served with a shot or two.
And here's why it matters to me at this point in my life.  As we journey along this path of birthing a new community of Jesus followers, I can't help but run these thoughts through this filter.   I have spent 22 years in the pastoral arts and I have come to see my ministry through the lens of Starbucks.  We've been set up to serve the most people in the most efficient way possible.  Don't get me wrong, what's being presented is still good stuff.  Starbucks still has some dang good coffee.  It just seems that in many, not all, cases the heart is missing.  Certainly the relationships are suffering.  The care, the craftsmanship and the artistry are missing.  It's all about time and how to make the most people happy so they don't go somewhere else.  Eugene Peterson referred to contemporary pastors as shop keepers and after 22 years of creating, delivering, and repeating the show, I will tell you, in my own opinion of course, that he's pretty much spot on.  Now don't misread this...it is not generally sinful or heresy...it's just lacking.  The tension is that it efficiency and quantity tend to do better at paying the bills.  Relationships are a harder sell in a market driven economy.
To be fair, Starbucks did not start out worshipping at the alter of efficiency.  They were created to model relationship and experience, as was the church in its inception.  I can tell you, as a coffee loving pastoral artist from Seattle, that people can tell the difference.  They can tell it in matters of coffee as well matters of faith.  It may be good, but deep down they're really looking for best.

Thursday, March 13, 2014

Everyone's a critic

I actually found a spot to sit in the land of badge people, known outside of my neighborhood as Amazon.  A seat in a comfortable spot in the Starbucks located at ground zero is a valuable commodity.  It doesn't often happen here during business hours 6 days a week, so I'm feeling pretty fortunate.  I have Van Morrison in my headphones, wondering if any people of the badges actually know who he is, and am just spending a bit of time people watching.  Lest you think that's code for being lazy, I'm actually working.  It's a bit of a self imposed research project that all people who practice the pastoral arts need to consider a priority task.  Actually, all people who claim a relationship with Jesus need to see this as a more noble task than it tends to be considered in the contemporary church.  A bit of contextualizing wouldn't really hurt anyone.  Jesus was, after all, the master of it.  If we claim to follow him, it only makes sense that we employ some of his methods.
In the role of church planter that I currently hold, this is not luxury, it's necessity.  To know how and how not to be able to communicate within the context that I find myself is of the highest priority.
It pained me to hear this morning, once again that "conservative" people of my belief were protesting and objectionable to the upcoming release of Hollywoods latest offering for the masses hungering for spiritually centered messaging... Otherwise known as "Noah".  The objections center primarily around the thought that this movie is not necessarily "biblically" accurate.  Really?  Really??? The screenwriters apparently took some creative license with the biblical account.  Really???  I would guess that if one didn't take some kind of liberties, it would be a pretty short film.  This is probably something that my contemporaries wouldn't want you to know but I'm pretty sure a fair number of us "preacher" types have taken some sort of liberty with the text in order to communicate the truths we hold dear.  "Pay no attention to that man behind the curtain" sort of stuff.  Why?  Because good communicators and preacher types know their audiences and what will get across and what won't.
So why do we insist on running our same play book of criticism and angst when someone from Hollywood sees an opportunity ( make a movie) to communicate to a need (spiritual interest/desire) that people will actually pay to consume.
Perhaps, those of my faith need to spend less time criticizing those who are answering the call and spend a bit of time people watching, better yet listening, and investing in our own ability to communicate truth.
Now if you'll excuse me, I'm on my way to get some badges printed up for our new church.