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 is not generally sinful or'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.

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