“This Place is Incredible!”

Just the other day, as I was sitting with my laptop, sipping on some black gold, doing some research for an upcoming sermon series, a woman came bursting through the doors obviously excited about what she had just experienced, saying something to the effect, “Wow! This place is incredible!  I have driven by here on many occasions, but never stopped in to see what this place was all about. But today, I decided to try you guys out for the first time, and all I can say is wow!  You can bet that I’ll be coming back here on a regular basis.”

What created such an expression of newfound joy and excitement in this woman?  Well, I wish I could say it was a church… but it wasn’t. It was the local Starbucks. Apparently this woman was quite impressed with the product, and felt compelled enough to share her good news with anyone who would care to listen!

To be honest, it made me think… and ask the question, “When was the last time anyone came bursting through the doors of our church with that kind of excitement and enthusiasm about their experience?” Unfortunately, statistics show that the American Church is in severe decline, which tells me that this is not happening as often as it should!

Now, don’t get me wrong here… I love coffee and all, which is well documented around the church that I pastor, but come on, it still does not compare to the life that God has planned for us! 

In John 10:10, check out these words from Jesus:

The thief’s purpose is to steal and kill and destroy. My purpose is to give them a rich and satisfying life. (NLT).

Why is it then that churches all over the country are serving people the Good News packaged in all kinds of religious trappings and “traditions of men,” only to produce nothing but spiritual death and apathy… ultimately causing a greater divide between the “sinner and the Savior” and ultimately alienating  ourselves from the very ones who need to hear this Good News!

Jesus spoke to this in his earthly ministry when confronted by the religious leaders of His day in Mark 7:5-8:

So the Pharisees and teachers of religious law asked him, “Why don’t your disciples follow our age-old tradition? They eat without first performing the hand-washing ceremony.”  6 Jesus replied, “You hypocrites! Isaiah was right when he prophesied about you, for he wrote,    ‘These people honor me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me. 7 Their worship is a farce, for they teach man-made ideas as commands from God.’ 8 For you ignore God’s law and substitute your own tradition.”

Interestingly enough, Starbucks mission is “to inspire and nurture the human spirit. We believe one of the most important contributions we can make is to serve as a catalyst for positive, relevant change in the communities where we do business” (see www.starbucks.com).

You see, Starbucks is selling more than just a good cup of coffee; they are also selling an experience, designed in part to impact local communities for “positive, relevant change.”

Here’s a thought… perhaps the church could learn a little something from Starbucks in how to carry out our mission to make a positive impact in the community in which it finds itself… as we set out to communicate the relevant message of Christ, and all that He has done to secure the “full life” for each and every single person within our reach. 

Who knows, perhaps in fulfilling Jesus’ mission for His Church and allowing people to have a genuine experience with God, unhindered by man-made traditions, we too just might have people bursting through our doors exclaiming, “Wow!  This place is incredible!” not necessarily because of the coffee we serve (although that certainly doesn’t hurt 😉 )… but because of the tangible Presence of the Lord that they sense when they walk through our doors!  Well, it’s just a thought…  

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