My old office had a nice desk and a comfy sofa. My books lined three walls. An assistant provided helpful support and freed me from menial tasks. My office was the perfect place, I thought, to allow ideas to percolate as I prepared sermons for the 200 worshipers that gathered each week in my previous church.
That was until I moved to a new town a few years ago to “plant” a church.
Now Starbucks is my office. My desk is a small round table, and there’s no library. Baristas are my staff. In the background an irritating reggae song is playing while the guy next to me virtually shouts into his phone. Hardly the place for deep theological reflection.
But it’s the best office I’ve ever had.
In my former life I bought coffee and brought it to my office to drink alone. When I moved, the office didn’t come with me. I soon discovered that Sumatra tastes best in the company of others. Starbucks became my office of choice.
Here my office mates are as varied as coffee roasts—Latino, Hmong, Chinese, Japanese, African-American, and Caucasian. Their voices fill the coffee shop like music.
People at their best and worst come to my office. A group of mothers with babies in tow sit around a table with their mochas, the conversation charged with laughter’s caffeine. Cute little eyes peer out of the strollers.
Another person scowls like he’s drinking bitter coffee. His face says, “How dare you spoil my bad mood.”
All this was missing in my previous office. There I was insulated and isolated. Sermons came from study and research, but my Starbucks sermons are brewed from the grounds of human interaction.
I see Jesus more often at Starbucks. He drinks bold coffees and is a regular customer. Maybe it’s because the usual rules aren’t in play there. Everybody is welcome, and you can be yourself. In the Bible Jesus seems to show up a lot at parties, and Starbucks sometimes sounds like a party.
A barista breezes by with a cheerful hello. A fellow coffee drinker asks me to pray for a friend. Others want to talk about politics or philosophy or business. The conversations’ rich variety reminds me of Estima or Verona or Italian. I swirl them around in my mind and savor the flavors.
When I read about Jesus eating with his friends, I think it must have looked a lot like Starbucks: conversation, laughter, and spending time. These are the best ingredients for a good beverage — and a good sermon.