One of the most thought provoking books I read last year was Leonard Sweet's The Gospel According to Starbucks. You can read my thoughts on the book on the archive of my old weblog here: Christ and Coffee at Will at Grace. (Note, if you read that post, keep in mind it was written in the context of Corpus Christi where there is not a Starbucks on every corner.)
This book came to mind for me this morning as I was reading the oddest editorial piece I had seen in a while. One of the most prominent newspapers in America, The New York Times, was basically cajoling Starbucks to not close a location in Newark. If you follow coffee news (and I am sure everyone does) you may know that Starbucks is closing a bunch of under performing stores in America and the one on Broad Street is on the list. You can read the editorial here:
Editorial - Cold Coffee - The New York Times
So, why in the world does The New York Times care about a coffee shop in Newark? Because, as they see it, this coffee shop has had a significant impact on the community that surrounds it. They saw the coffee shop as a clear sign of resurgence in the area and an important part of the community as it was able to draw people out of their offices and onto the streets creating street traffic which creates a larger sense of community.
If you are not a Starbucks fan or have not read Sweet's book, you may think that this an awful lot to expect from a place that sells five dollar lattes. But Starbucks has created itself as more than a place that sells coffee. It is a place that sells experience and community.
So here is the question this raises in the context of the future of our conference. How many of our churches have something so important to offer our community that if they announced tomorrow that they were closing, the local paper would dedicate space to asking them not to? Why? Certainly the judgement of our ministries, activities and impact goes to God. We are not running our churches for the approval of the local paper. But if we are transforming lives and the community, you would think someone might notice.
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