Worthwhile January 3, 2020

For all the celebration and time off we have arrived here. 2020. Of the opportunities. Of the anxiety of it all! Whatever comes, let’s determine to run to Jesus and trust in him.

To kick off the year four bits worth reading as we shape what we will look like as the calendar unfolds.

First up, prayer. John Starke, a pastor in NYC, wrote a piece for The Washington Post on adding the daily routine of prayer for all of us looking for self-worth and satisfaction. His words are a good invitation to what we should take up.

Here is his conclusion: “There is much to learn about prayer, but it’s easy to get started. Begin by reading Psalms in the Bible and see how believers have prayed and what they’ve prayed for. Read a book on prayer. Find a community of faith and see how they pray and what they seek.”

“Christians often come to prayer not knowing what to say, whether because of suffering, weariness or feeling distant from God. That’s okay. God, who is our help, invites us just to be present. He tells us not to expect to be received for our many words but because we are loved.”

Read the whole thing here.

Following that, there is an older piece from Mike Brooks on For The Church on “A Revolutionary Prayer Life.” It is actually more simple than we think.

A problem many of us face in the moment we’re praying is that, if we were to pay close attention, we’d likely catch ourselves mentally processing our joys and frustrations, rather than remaining present in prayer and sharing these things with God, praising him for his faithfulness and asking him to reveal the ways in which we aren’t trusting him as we ought.

Give it a read here and let’s start using the “Dear God” more often!

Now we move into how we can work differently. Oriented toward redemptive things versus the normative increase of money or accolades.

Molly Worthen penned an essay in The New York Times early in December to process thoughts on justice and inequality finding fruitfulness in the faith and work movement afoot. It is worth looking in on and pondering how we live and work.

“Today, a different cast of evangelicals — who are more likely to be pastors, academics and small-scale entrepreneurs than titans of the business establishment — are leading the faith and work movement in new directions, because they take more seriously all the ways the Bible challenges the exploitations of our new Gilded Age. They have built a network of businesses, ministries, media organizations, conference programs, websites and more than a dozen research centers in every region of the country that focus on how Christians can turn the workplace into “a sign and foretaste of God’s coming kingdom…”

Check out Worthen’s thorough look at the faith and work movement here.

To close out the week then is a great example of this type of work. 1951 Coffee is a roaster and coffeehouse that employs refugees giving them work experience and skills as they learn life in the U.S..

“1951 Coffee Company, founded in 2015, is a non-profit specialty coffee organization that promotes the well-being of the refugee community in the United States by providing job training and employment to refugees, asylees, and special immigrant visa holders while educating the surrounding community about refugee life and issues.”

It seems to be a great model and rumor has it we will soon see one in San Diego. Check them out online.

Whether you are still struggling with resolutions or just living free, may 2020 be a grand experience of the grace of Christ. Onward!


Church as coffee…

As I was en route to this morning’s theology breakfast (at a local coffee shop) I was thinking about coffee and the way we get it as a metaphor for our churches. Here is a stab at some ideas, maybe you have some comparisons as well…

Church as Starbucks. You are exceedingly worried about the brand. The church is probably multi-site and while there are plenty of local shops already providing good coffee you want to flood the market and take your share. There are plenty of menu items so that all of your “customers” will have something they like. While there is variety in what might be ordered the one thing you are known for is your consistency. At each location the look is the same, the drinks are the same and the lingo is familiar. Relationships here are usually plastic and superficial. The “barista” might know your name but they are more concerned with providing your cup and getting you through the line. While you are known for planting locations all over the place (sometimes across the street from each other) you would never plant a location with its own branding and brewed offerings. From the same perspective you never assist the local shops that are struggling. After all, if you are not willing to create the “competition” why would you want to help it? Your CEO might write a book and be well-known, even if it is only within your stores, and your “customers” know there must be better “coffee” out there but you are more convenient and comfortable since you “know” them. This analogy could go on and on…

Church as Kuerig. This church is impersonal (even worse than Starbucks). Maybe it is more about podcast traffic than community. Each consumer is very self-focused and is rarely concerned for anyone else.  There is only enough sustenance for the individual and never any depth to the experience. This church might be the latest craze and everyone might want (to be part of) one. But this church is only good for the momentary needs of the morning, not something you would build your life around. Like Starbucks, this church is pretty standard, just add water and poof you have church. There might be some choice in what is offered but it is on the individual level and that leads to division and a sour taste.

Church as Folgers. Old. Stale. Not at all good. Need we say more?

Church as French Press. This church isn’t perfect but at least they don’t pretend to be either. It might take longer than some will wait to have a fully brewed church but it usually tastes a lot better in the end. In this church you can not hide imperfections. The truth of who the “beans” are is revealed under participation in this church. And sometimes life in this church might feel a little like a press – there is certainly pressure as you are refined together with others and the final product is usually better (if Christ has made the beans the best). There might still be some grounds in your mug but this church is bolder, more purposeful and strong. It is not as easy to clean the “press” church but when it is functioning as it was designed, it makes the best “coffee.”

This analogy could so many places. And not all of these associations are bad. Sure there are “Starbucks” churches proclaiming Christ and new life is occasionally seen at the “Folgers” church. I know though, that I want to lead a “French Press” church. It might be a lot more messy but it is so worth it… anyone want to make a pour over comparison?!